Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Directions for 2011

For 2010, I had come back from India and resolved to lead a life of more simplicity. I shouldn't complicate my life with more tasks and more material items. Looking back at this year, I haven't achieved the simplicity that I imagined, but taken smaller steps. As of now, we only have one activity on the weekends, and we're not trekking to dance lessons we don't enjoy. On the career forefront, it hasn't become any simpler.

If there was one word for 2010, I'd have to say "Family". We had a big family wedding and got to see lots of cousins and reconnected after so many years. There really is a common bond that links us all together even if we are separated. There was a powerful moment this year when my cousins came over and mentioned it was my aunt's death anniversary. I had no idea and suggested we go to our local temple. We stood there in a temple in PA remembering my aunt - her daughter from Canada, her daughter and son from India with their spouses, and her sister (my mom) from NJ. All of us were drawn together that day.

I was reading O magazine, and came across 3 words "Joy, Honesty and Meaning". That's what I want for the 2011.

I want to find joy in all I do. Being with my family and close friends, we can find joy. It's always there if we open our eyes.

I want the honesty to be with myself and with others. There's such a masquerade of emotions and attitudes. At this point, I'm ready to call people out on their actions.

Our lives need to have meaning. Of course this often means one needs to make changes and know exactly what they want in order for it to be meaningful.

It's not about the destination, but the journey.

Book Review 2010

All year I've been reading books and have been dying to write reviews for my site. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to carve out that time. Therefore, here's everything in one post.

The Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman. I had just come back from India in January and Ru's book helped me sustain the beauty of the Subcontinent for a bit longer. Her story takes place in Sri Lanka and is so beautifully written. She captures the simplicity of life in India, which was what I missed upon my return; her book illustrated that life so well. "Disobedient Girl" has two stories that run in parallel, but then merge at the end so well. I didn't expect to cry so fiercely at the end! Dammit, I cried for days just thinking of one critical scene because I fell in love with the characters. I was frustrated with the unfairness of life and fate. No, this is not one of your 'oppressed third-world women" books. It's a book about women who are friends, mothers, and daughters. It's about finding your own path when you've been dealt a hand without a choice. It's about secrets that control you.

It's been a year now since I read it, but it's so unexpected and I missed the characters when I closed the book. That's when you know they've truly come alive.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - It took me some time to get to this book, though I was listening to every Junot Diaz interview on NPR. I was definitely intrigued when he talked about his immigrant experience coming to the US when he was 6 and not understanding English. He applied that experience to the novel - forcing the reader not to understand what was being spoken in Spanish. When I read it, I got it! There was a scene where the daughter said the last thing she heard was the mother say XYZ. Unless you know Spanish, you don't know what happened.

Not  only is the story brillant and characters so real, I have a connection with Junot Diaz. He was spot on with his description of Rutgers University campus and lifestyle from late 80's/early 90's. I had to research and learned he was an English major at Rutgers the same time I was. Therefore, we could have taken a class together! (OK, fine, it may have been the Shakespeare with 200 people in it). As a reader, I connected to this book beyond the main story, and admired his writing even more. I actually got frustrated because I couldn't visualize Douglass library, though I practically lived there.

Downhome Anthology edited by Susie Mee - This is an amazing collection of short stories written by southern American women. I had pulled this collection off the library shelves because I didn't know what I wanted to read. This book has known writers such as Flannery O'Conner, Zora Neal Hurston, Dorothy Allison and other writers that were new to me. The book is sectioned out and deals with issues such as family, marriage, relationships. Stories are so honest and real, talking about the good and the difficult parts of the southern memory - race, gender, economical status.

I've actually wondered if I was a southern woman in my past life. I'm absolutely fascinated by the south and find the culture so exotic, but familiar. I once wrote a short story in the voice of white southern characters, which is crazy since I'm an Indian-American from northeastern US! Aren't you supposed to write about what you know?

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica - I had heard about this website and found the book on the clearance table. The first page grabbed me because it said waiters don't just bring food to your table - they have to be food allergy specialists, sommeliers, amateur chefs, etc. I've never been a waitress, though I have done a short gig at McDonald's as my first job. Then I decided I would never work in food industry again. Ever.

His writing is not that polished and at times I was a bit suprise an editor let him get away with awkward phrases. He's a blogger who kept an anonymous account of life as a waiter, which led him to a book deal.

However, it's great book just to give you an insight into the restaurant business. It's interesting to read about the expectations we have of our own dining experiences.