Saturday, July 28, 2007

Angel in the Passenger Side

This may sound really absurd to people, but I really think that every time I get into a car, I have an "angel" watching over it. Ok, I'm Hindu and we don't really have angels.

However, I've been driving since I was 16 and have never had an accident, though a number of near misses. And, even when I had a flat tire years ago and was stranded on Route 295 at 10pm, a friendly girl and her friends stopped to help us. I really feel someone's looking out for me in the car.

But, this week has been unbelievably shaky for me and my guardian is working overtime.

Saturday night: we're returning home from dinner and were driving down a residential area. Suddenly, there was a deer in front of us, frozen in place. Normally they're running across, but this one was right in the middle of the road. Fortunately, my husband deftly swerved around the deer in time. Afterwards, he said a prayer, my daughter laughed thinking this was part of the fun and I was shaking and on the verge of tears, truly grateful.

Friday afternoon: Picked up my daughter and her friend from school. A woman was coming out of shopping center lot (on my left) to make a left turn. I was going straight and I could see this woman inching forward. I kept thinking she'll stop once she see me since there were some other cars making a right into the same driveway. She started moving forward at a good speed and I honked, and swerved into the opposite lane! Thankfully no cars. Her car was so close to my side window! I shouted "You bitch!" and then remembered I had 2 little ones in the back. I quickly said, "That witch! I can't believe it!" (Next question was how did I know she was a witch)

Saturday night: we're returning home from dinner and we stopped at a red light. When it turned green, a car from the opposite direction was making a left turn INTO the oncoming traffic. We just saw white lights right near our car! Fortunately, the man stopped in time but just long enough for my husband to shout obscenities to him (then I nudged him to watch his language!)

I can't believe where these near-misses are coming from. I'm a very good driver, by the way. I'm steady and consistent - allowing my passengers to relax and repose and enjoy the drive! But, sometimes things are out of your control.

When Cup of Honesty Overflows

"Tell the truth!" "Let it out, you'll feel better" is what you hear.

But, is it always the best approach? Sometimes I think the truth is something that is best left served in measured doses.

The truth can be hurtful when said directly. I always wonder whether some things are better left unsaid and buried away. It's like in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when the ark was open. Prepare for chaos!

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.
- Mohandas K. Gandhi

A friend of mine had a confrontation with her father. She had to take some things off her chest about him and she did. However, he ended up avoiding her for some time. It was as if she took these heavy issues off her chest and gave it to him to carry. Instead of feeling lighter, she felt even more weighed down.

Another thing I have yet to see any good results is in the letter or email. "I wrote her a letter telling her exactly how I feel and what she's done to me." Yes, you feel great afterwards. Of course, the recipient gets the letter and is usually in shock and will never speak to you again. My suggestion for those folks is to write the letter, but do not mail it!

I just heard about someone who left this long, patronizing voice mail for someone. If you have something to say, don't let it be a monologue, but a conversation.

You don't have to avoid confrontations and conflicts, but do it with the intent not to hurt.

I believe in the power of words. I don't believe there is a shortage of words in the English language and if you take a moment to think before speaking, you can convey your point effectively. Sometimes it's better to say less.

I came across this last quote recently and it didn't really hit me until this week. I always had a problem with the notion of "forgive and forget." People think they've forgiven once it's been forgotten. And, one doesn't have to be a saint to let go of ill will.

To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of the vivid

knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend.
- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Friday, July 27, 2007

Camille Claudel

I watched the French film "Camille Claudel" this week and was amazed at the story. First of all, the film with gorgeous Isabel Adjani and Gerard Depardieu is intense and alive with romance and emotions. What these people do with clay makes the steamy pottery wheel scene in "Ghost" seem like a day at Color Me Mine!

The movie definitely drove me to learn more about the Camille Claudel, the artist. I love Rodin's work and will blog separately about him.

Camille Claudel (1865-1943) was an artist and a student and lover of Auguste Rodin. It was her entanglement with Rodin that caused her to suffer professionally and emotionally. She was overcome by paranoia, alcoholism and eventually, ended her days in an insane asylum. Interestingly enough, the asylum wanted to release her, but her brother and mother did not want her home. The movie showed she had a strong father behind her, which was not always the case in an era where women were not encouraged to pursue interests beyond the scope of marriage. He truly believed in her and pushed her to make her own name, independent of Rodin. There's some controversy on whether Rodin shaped her work or she his since their styles run similar designs.

To read more about her life, check this site for important events.
Here's another overview of her work at the Rodin Museum in Paris. (There's no need for me to reinvent the internet, is there?)

This is called "The Prayer" and it looks like it must have been an intense pleasure to sculpt. There's chaos and roughness around the face, which is surprisingly calm and composed. We have to wonder if that was how she felt -- her interior and exterior worlds in such opposition.

Another piece, called "The Gossips" led to an appropriate comment in the film.. There was a scene where she had her artwork showcased at a Salon and the patrons said the Gossips is so small, "it's like a secret that you can carry in your hand." One of the websites noted that Camille had stayed away from smaller more "feminine" sculptures and chosen the larger ones since they are more commanding and would put her on the same playing field as men.

I think I've been more taken by Camille Claudel because I love French art from that period. I've been to the Rodin museum in Paris and know her name. However, this movie brought forth the woman behind the art and she was just as fascinating and full of stories as her own work. I love Rodin's work, but I'm more than slightly annoyed at the man for what he did to her.

Anyway, I glanced through my Paris photo album looking for pictures or postcards of Rodin and/or Camille Claudel. I was surprised to find I had surreptitiously taken a photograph of Claudel's "The Waltz." I loved the movement, the strength in the arms and the entwined bodies. Quelle bonne chance!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zen to Me (Part II)

So, after I had written the previous blog, I went to dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill with colleagues.

The waitress was serving drinks to the table behind us. A glass of red wine slipped from her hands. It hit the table and splashed onto the man, who was wearing a white shirt, of course.
(of course.)

She apologized profusely and tried to clean up the mess, as the wine had fallen into the food. The man was in bit of shock at that moment and shook his head. She ran for towels and another waitress helped her. The man got up and walked to the front to get a manager.

He was a tall guy, late 20's/early 30's and he had on white shirt with a pair of perfectly faded jeans. He was there with a woman and a boy. He strode back to the table shaking his head.

When the manager came to his table, he bellowed, "Look what she did! I want all this comped! My whole night is ruined!"

The waitress was actually scared to return as long as the man and his party were still there. Other servers brought out the food for other tables. We ended up waiting quite a bit. My colleague who was facing that table whispered updates as to what the man was doing, since our backs were to him. Once that table left, the waitress came back and apologized to each table. Everyone at 3-4 tables just nodded and said they understood.

OK.. my Zen moment.

While no one particularly enjoys having red wine splashed over them (at least not in public!), was there a real reason to get that upset? She did not come to the table with the intention "Oh look at that guy! he needs to cool off a bit." Accidents happen.

Of course, like I said you don't know the baggage people are carrying - was he with a new girlfriend? were they planning to go somewhere else afterwards? will they be late now that he has to go to the mall to buy a new shirt or go back home?

Instead of receiving sympathy from other patrons, his negative energy made 4 tables and the waitstaff feel uncomfortable. If he had maintained his cool and calmly asked for the complimentary dinner, they would have definitely complied.

It's how you handle such situations that speaks volumes about you. I always remember a particular incident after college graduation. My friend Monika and I had gone to a Thai restaurant with her brother and his then-girlfriend in DC area. I was immediately impressed with the girlfriend because she had such an elegant and mature air about her, while I still had that fresh-from-the-dorm look about me.

At the restaurant, she noticed a bug in her food. She didn't scream. No "eeeewwwww!" She didn't make a fuss. She didn't call the health department to shut them down.

She said "Oh, no" quietly and showed it to her boyfriend for a second opinion. He confirmed it was so. She waved the waiter over.

"Excuse me, can you please bring me another dish. There's a bug in this one." and pointed to the plate. The waiter was shocked and immediately replaced it. She continued the conversation as normal.

She handled the situation so gracefully. I wish I could remember her name, but I remember her actions more. That's what I mean about leaving an impression.

By the way, I've gotten notes about the quotes in the previous blog. We have a corporate website that has a daily quote. Whenever I like the quote, I copy/paste it into my Quotes.txt file. So, it's great to have a handy collection that has grown over the years.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Zen to Me

I read this article by Hope Davis describing her husband as the "Zen Master" and it resonated with me.

The symbol of Yin Yang represents me and my husband well. He's the fire and energy, while I'm the cool and calm. We're similar because we're both quite energetic Pitta types. I definitely look for balance in my life between work and home obligations, friends and family, physical and mental.

Patient. That's a popular word to describe me. I really believe in choosing my battles. There's enough stress in life that you don't have to create extra. I tease a number of people around me for being "drama queens." Is it really worth that much anger or anxiety? What is the worst that could happen? What is the best? Get upset about tragic injustices, not having to stand in the longer line.

By the way, I do get angry. Recently I had an all out shouting match with a painting contractor agent. She raised her voice at me and walked out of my house. I shouted, cursed and told her never to come back. I haven't been that loud and explosive in ages! Ironically, my husband was cool at that moment and said he had a back up contractor in line.

You'll break the worry habit the day you decide you can meet and master the worse that can happen to you.
- Arnold H. Glasow, author
I've been told my blog is too positive, but I think that's me. I am quite optimistic, but then it's probably because I'm actually a pessimist. I do know the worst can happen, but I will hope for the best. I'm always *expecting* the worst and so I'm terribly excited when it doesn't happen and am grateful for every moment.

You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.
- German Proverb
If I can change a situation, I will try. If I can't change a person or a situation, then I believe I must make the changes I can -- starting with myself.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle
– Plato, philosopher
This relates to the Hope Davis article. When you meet someone, they are not coming to you with empty hands, ready to embrace you. They are carrying baggage. You can either take it from them or else hand them your baggage.

Actually the baggage metaphor is quite important. I think as people get older, we learn we have to drop those extra bags and be able to swing our arms freely.

Recently, I was extremely irritated by someone who I felt was not fulfilling an obligation. I just learned today there was a technological problem that was prohibiting this person, who was doing what was expected all along! So, I'm grateful I didn't say or do anything too drastic under anger. Until you know the whole story, you can't get angry or judge someone.

Life is full of choices.. our personal results, including happiness, depends on those choices.

(Now, I know some of you are probably saying "Get that Oprah magazine out of her hands!!" :-)

Monday, July 23, 2007


I came across an article about Beatles fans protesting the use of their songs in commercials.

One can be a purist and be offended. It’s as if someone is using the talent and genius of John and Paul as a coaster for a Starbucks mocha toffee latte. There’s also the personal connection people have to the Beatles. The song that meant so much to you during a heartbreak is now trivialized to sell diapers. It becomes a personal affront.

Mixing art and money is disturbing to some people, but I think that's been the history of art anyway. You think Michelangelo created work for free? Wasn't a lot of the art done at the request of the religious fractions done to promote religion or morals of the time?

On the other hand, one can just enjoy the metamorphosis of art and ride the wave. The other day, I saw an interviewer ask director John Waters what he thought of the new movie version of “Hairspray.” He cheered for it and said this was how art changes and grows. It’s gone from his cult movie to a Broadway show to Hollywood.

So, how is it different for "Hello Goodbye" becoming "Hello Goodbuy" for Target?

I agree with that since an artist creates the art and offers it to the world. Then, someone else is inspired by it and creates another piece of art. This is what I call “Art begets art” in another post, where my poetry was inspired by others' paintings.

I guess in order to appreciate the new versions, you have to let go of the older or else let them both enjoy the space. For example, you have Gwen Stefani’s version of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life.” Then there are songs like Juice Newton’s woeful ballad “Angel of the Morning,” which was trampled upon by Shaggy. However, that's my preference, but it was how Shaggy was inspired to transform it.

It’s not limited to western music and art. Bollywood is on a mission to remake classic movies from the 70’s and DJ’s are constantly remixing songs from the 60’s with modern beats. Again, the purists flock forward and say, “How can you remake “Don” without Amitabh? Shahrukh Khan? Give me a break!” Then, you watch it and see the spirit of the original is there, but contemporary.

The other benefit of these remakes is the rebirth. It lives on in a different capacity. If it weren't for 2001 Space Odyssey, would today's generation recognize Beethoven's 9th Symphony?

True art evolves, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Indigo Girls Lyrics

This song gives me chills.

The lyrics are powerful, but it's the soul in her voice that hits me deeply.

Georgia O'Keeffe's Red Canna seems to perfectly visualize the emotions this song evokes - external passions, inner glows, softness and vulnerablity, but strength and anger.


Artist Name: Indigo Girls
Song Name:
Blood and Fire

I have spent nights with matches and knives,
Leaning over ledges, only two flights up.
Cutting my heart, burning my soul.
Nothing left to hold,
Nothing left but, blood and fire.

You have spent nights, thinking of me,
Missing my arms, but you needed to leave.
Leaving my cuts, leaving my burns,
Hoping I'd learn.
Blood and fire

Are too much for these restless arms to hold.
And my nights of desire are calling me,
Back to your fold.

And I am calling you, calling you from 10,000 miles away
Won't you wet my fire with your love, babe?

I am looking for someone, who can take as much as I give,
Give back as much as I need,
And still have the will to live.

I am intense, I am in need,
I am in pain, I am in love.
I feel forsaken, like the things I gave away.

Blood and fire
Are too much for these restless arms to hold.
And my nights of desire are calling me,
Back to your fold.

And I am calling you, calling you from 10,000 miles away
Won't you wet my fire with your love, babe?

I am intense, I am in need, I am in pain, I am in love.
I am intense, I am in need, I am in pain, I am in love.
I am intense, I am in need, I am in pain, I am in love.

Blood and fire
Are too much for these restless arms to hold.
And my nights of desire are calling me,
Back to your fold.

And I am calling you, calling you from 10,000 miles away
Won't you wet my fire with your love, babe?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review: Science of Sleep

We liked Michael Gondry's “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I’m loving Gael Garcia Bernal in "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Motorcycle Diaries."

So, what happened here? Honestly, I went to sleep.

Parallel Synchronized Randomness (PSR). Bernal’s character Stephane lives in a world of wake and sleep. He believes his neighbor Stephanie is picking up parts of his dreams, which is the PSR concept. The movie starts well, but then gets weirder. Some parts are fun, but bringing the story together is difficult. One site called it a romantic comedy, but I felt it was more about rejection - act of wanting and rejecting and hoping.

And if you’re like me and woke up in the middle of the movie, it’s confusing whether you’re dreaming or Stephane is dreaming or awake.

I liked Charlotte Gainsbourg who was in "Jane Eyre” with William Hurt. There’s something odd, appealing and endearing about her. I don't think anyone else would have been better suited for such a complex character. We really see only what Stephane sees/dreams about Stephanie.

I watched the DVD features on the making of this movie and it confused me even more. There is so much work involved in making a movie. There were intricate animated scenes that were shot separately and merged into the story. It was apparent these demanded extensive work to create and film.

The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are pretty good for this movie, so we have to wonder what we don't get. I remember my dreams pretty well, so maybe that's why I was confused? Mine make more sense? Can someone make a movie about mine next?

Maybe we're thinking too hard and should just let our subconscious roll with it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Food TV, Disney and Travel are our default channels. If only Raven or Hannah Montana cooked up meals in 30 minutes on a boat in Indonesia, we could consolidate into one default! We also watch a lot of the offbeat shows like “The Manic Organic” (a new one I just caught the other day), Anthony Bourdain’s travels and this Zimmerman guy who eats anything that had a face (bugs, iguanas, cow skin).

We liked Emeril before he became “Emeril Live!” That program is so over the top because of the audience and the band. However, I have to chuckle when he puts “extra garlic” or “let’s add some more butter and olive oil.” The audience goes nuts! They start cheering! I don’t get that. It’s as if he’s giving them permission to enjoy the foods that are banned. Butter is bad for you, oil is bad for you, garlic keeps away vampires, chocolate is bad for you, etc. And, the way he says "Oh yeah, baby" is so seductive, too.

I have to wonder what my paternal grandmother, Sushila Ba, would have said if she were here. She was a simple woman from a small town in Gujarat. She was married in her early teens to a good Brahmin family that owned land. Her husband was a farmer and she raised six children, though she had more pregnancies.

Though she wore a widow’s white sari when I knew her, she figuratively wore the pants in the family! She ruled the house and her word was final, even her husband knew. My father said she had a sharp memory and an equally sharp tongue. Had she lived and been educated today, she would’ve been very successful in corporate litigation.

Anyway, I remember when she came to visit when I was 13. She would watch American TV, though she didn’t understand English. She would laugh at the commercials.

“How can they eat plain rice” as she watched Uncle Ben’s commercial.

During the Campbell’s Soup commercials she’d say, “Watch him. He’ll take a bite. Now he’ll show his teeth! Haha.. What’s there to get so excited about? That useless dummy!”

The Gujarati phrase, “show his teeth” was a favorite phrase of hers to say someone is smiling. She had the small town dialect, which added to it.

Anyway, food is very important in the Gujarati household. We show love through food, we show hospitality through food, we find comfort and camaraderie through food. Gujaratis are known for having the most sensually indulgent food – fried, sweet, spicy, and creative – there’s a perfect food for every occasion and time. Plus, overabundance and a varied selection are the foundation of the Gujarati meal.

(Note: to prove how much love there is in our homes, diabetes is rampant in both family lines!)

So, if Sushila Ba was watching Emeril, she would yell back at him. I know it.

“What spice? How can you do that? You simply put garlic. Is that it? Arre oh, Bhai-sahib, at least put some ginger and mirchi in. What is this?”

She would probably turn to me and say, “This food won’t have any swaad. How can it? He added nothing to it.”

Then she would probably break into a story about what they ate at the last wedding party and how many Brahmins they had to serve for good luck. And, how far guests travelled to come. Then, she would turn back to the TV and continue her critique.

“Why does he keep dancing? What’s wrong with these people? Just sitting there watching him cook? Then clapping? Useless people.”


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Review: The Tiger and the Snow

We watched Roberto Benigni's 2005 film "The Tiger and the Snow" and have mixed reactions to this. He tried to use elements of "Life is Beautiful" set against the Holocaust back drop with the Iraq war. It's set in March 2003, right before the US invasion of Baghdad.

The romantic story is just wonderful. Do Italians and French filmmakers have the patent on capturing romance? Benigni plays Attilio, a professor of poetry. His lines about poetry (albeit in translation) and the importance of finding perfect words is beautiful and deeply resonated with me. The love of his life Vittoria (Nicoletta Braschi) is so gorgeous and alluring, but mysterious.

Vittoria goes to Baghdad and gets hurt, just as the city is being bombed. Attilo is called there by Faud (French actor Jean Reno), an Iraqi colleague. After that, I don't really understand what happened to the movie.

There's a lot of goofy incidents, such as riding on a camel. There were some Charlie Chaplin-esque scenes such as the one where he accidentally ends up in a mine field and doesn't understand what people are telling him. He ends up dancing his way out of the field. There's Attilo on a motorcycle strapped with Red Cross medicines and being mistaken for a suicide bomber by check point soldiers. There's Attilo getting caught in a detention camp. There was a lot of crazy incidents that were unnecessary and unbelievable. Unbelievable in the sense that it can happen, yes..but to one man, not really.

The idea is that he's so light hearted and infatuated that he doesn't notice all this. This was a similar element to "Life is Beautiful". There are a few dream sequences and the scene at the end is confusing whether it is real or not.

One nice quote was "You have to lie down to see the sky," which he told his class and literally lay down on the floor to demonstrate.

So, the romantic story is great, but we had to fast forward through the goofier parts of the Iraq sequences.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July!

As an second generation Indian-American, I am really proud and appreciative of life in the US and all the freedoms offered. I get angry at Americans who take the benefits of our lives for granted. You just have to pause to think of how many people all over the world are struggling, dreaming and working hard to come to the US. So many risk their lives to step upon American ground.

As a nation of immigrants, there is something definitely different in the American vein - more risk-takers, more dreamers who actually climb over the walls that confine. This has lead to our success as a country of entrepreneurs, industrialists and artists, just to name a few.

Today, however, I'm feeling more than saddened by the Bush administration. The corruption, secrecy, lack of integrity and value of basic human rights is rampant. Bush is ignoring the checks and balances that are the foundation of this government. Yesterday's clemency toward Scooter Libby just infuriated me. I don't know when history has seen such a man blatantly abuse the powers of his office.


I've removed the actual text I had previously posted and just linking to Declaration of Independence here.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

When You're Off Broadway..

We had an absolutely agenda-free day in NYC to do whatever we wanted. We considered going to a Broadway show since it's been so long. However, getting knocked over by long-weekend tourists in Times Square and standing in line at TKTS did not seem so desirable on a hot day. Plus, ticket prices are so exorbitant that there's no real discount(at least in our mind) for all the hassle.

Instead, with an open mind, a Village Voice and a cell phone, we planned our evening. We sat comfortably on a park bench near a fountain. After considering jazz and comedy clubs, I spotted "The House of Bernarda Alba" under theater listing.

I was immediately excited because I had a seen this performance on PBS a few years ago. It was gripping and well-written story by Federico Garcia Lorca.

The Manhattan Theatre Source in Greenwich Village is a small theatre organization run by volunteers. We were able to get tickets for $18 and nabbed the first row. This meant the "stage" was actually the floor in front of us. (If any of the first row folks stretched their legs, they would've tripped an actor and turned it into an interactive performance!). The theater was cold, which was surprising and the audience was quite snug as it was sold-out final performance. The set design was simple, but gave the air of authenticity of a Spanish house.

Here's a great review of the show and here's an analysis of the story itself. So it seems almost futile for me to even write about it! (I liked the wiki one actually because it discusses the themes and symbols of the story).

I will say that when Joy Franz, who played the dictatorial matriarch, was standing in front of us, we felt her power. You didn't want her to see you because you feared her! Everyone acted phenomenally, bringing each character forth in her own individuality. With the final scene, I was on the verge of tears. Then, Bernardo shouts "Silencio!" and the lights fall. I was still stunned.

We were in awe of the talent of these actors. It's a difficult art and one must have that natural ability and passion to do it. I've worked with actors on a film project years ago and I was impressed with the skills required. These were aspiring actors and they were incredible. So, I can only imagine what it must be like to see De Niro or Streep work!

Anyway, we were so happy we went off the beaten path and found something so enjoyable. Then, we needed a great dinner in the city of restaurants.

We were walking around, reading menus in the windows and not sure what we wanted. While we were walking, we noticed Ciao Stella on Sullivan Street. An older Italian woman who saw us read the menu told us we should come in. She was with a customer who encouraged us as well.

"They have a singer," he said pointing to a tall, young Asian woman on a cell phone. She smiled back at us while listening to her phone.

"She's on break now. She plays jazz." they told us. "Piano and sings, too" when we asked further.

We said, "OK, we're just walking now. We'll come back."

Two elderly men sitting at the outdoor table with their wine glasses nodded to us. "Is good. You should come," rolled one man in an Italian accent. They probably planted themselves there every Saturday night. We just smiled and nodded back.

I peeked inside and saw the rustic European style walls. Shadows flickered from the candles. It reminded me of the set design of the play. Huh. Interesting.

They have live jazz.

Four strangers told us we should go in. How many more signs do we need to know we should go?

So, we did. And, we had a good and simple Italian dinner with a good Merlot. The menu was pretty standard, nothing fancy. We're not at Iron Chef Mario Batali's or anything. Yet, it was flavorful and satisfying. It was a great experience in an intimate setting -- the singer joking and taking our requests; talking to patrons across the tables; our waiter was a bello Italiano, too!

By the way, I found a review of Ciao Stella and it seems they chime with me!

It's definitely easier to follow the general path of Broadway show and dinner in the theater district. But, staying open and subject to change is great once in a while.