Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blog Day 2006

I decided to do this post for Blog Day 2006 as I can be officially declared to be addicted to blogs now. It all started accidentally, when I happened to run into a friend's blog. I had lost touch with this friend and so it was very nice to see that he was still writing and interesting to read a blog. So I started looking into it and one afternoon announced proudly to my better half that I created a blog (of course, that was my better half's introduction to blogs). This was less than a year ago and now I can't have enough of the wonderful world of blogs. When I go to Bloglines and don't find any new posts (which happens only very rarely), I am slightly disappointed. But then when there are a lot of posts, I can't wait to read them all (as though these are letters waiting for me to read).

Blogs have done two very important things for me. The first one is that they are keeping me abreast of the happenings in India (which I left about 12 years ago) and the second one is that they are making me read and write in Tamil (which I have not done much of). So because of these two reasons, I seem to be gravitating towards India related and Tamil blogs.

It is hard for me to pick only five interesting blogs but here are the ones that I have started reading regularly recently.

1. Within/Without by Neha Viswanathan: Neha covers a wide array of subjects from kozhukkattais to Almodovar's movies. Her writing is spunky and full of energy.

2. Mahanandi by Indira: This is the mother of all food blogs. The best food blog that I have seen so far and the recipes are easy to make (most of them at least) and they turn out pretty good. She does fusion cuisine very well and has eye-catching, mouth-watering pictures.

3. On the Urban Frontier by Josh Mogerman: This is a guy from Chicago who is staying in South India for some time and shares his experiences with the world. His views are without prejudice and makes for interesting read. I am interested in this because a few of my American friends are planning on visiting India with us next year.

4. Trailing Technology by Scott Carney: A freelance writer living in Chennai since the beginning of this year. He is participating in the Indian Autorickshaw Challenge and I am curious to see how that goes for him through his blog.

5. Tamil Valaippadhivu by Mathy Kandasamy (Tamil blog): Mathy's writings are bold and give a Canadian perspective on things. Her Tamil is simple enough for me to understand.

I do like many more blogs and read them regularly but here is my 5-list for Blog Day 2006.

Happy Blogging, everyone!

Technorati Tag for Blog Day 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Grocery Shopping

Even though grocery shopping has become a mundane activity after several years, it has had its moments. My memories of grocery shopping start with the small stores (used to be called maLigai kadai, remember?) in our neighborhood in West Mambalam. There were two competing stores, Chitra Stores and Azhagu Sundaram Stores, just a few blocks from one another. Both these stores looked the same. One can't go inside the store and look at any of their products (which seems unbelievable now but was the norm those days), but will have to stand outside the partition and tell the store employee what one wants. And then, he would weigh the 1-kg of toor dal, using a manual weighing scale, and wrap it in one of the old newspaper sheets. You had no idea if what you got was really 1-kg (and sometimes you doubted that some stores were cheating), but you just pay for the stuff you bought at the gallaa (counter, which is where the owner sat and observed all the happenings), and carry the paper packet home. The other thing I remember about these stores is the smell, which was an amalgamation of a lot of the cooking ingredients. Although both the stores were very similar in price, products and service, my dad prefered Chitra stores as he was friends with the owner. So we always shopped there, and Mr. Azhagu Sundaram knew that. One day I went to Sundaram's as Chitra Stores had not opened yet, and he gave me a hard time about our family not shopping at his store. I even thought that he may send me away without giving me that one ingredient my mom wanted for her cooking, but he is a smart businessman and would never turn away business. Since my mom did not buy groceries ahead of time, she would realize in the midst of her cooking that we don't have enough salt, and so either me or my dad will have to get it right away. Most of the times it would be me and I liked it as I would get some tips (usually 5 or 10 paisa, but still) when I brought the change back. These were the days when I went to high school. Then I went off to Coimbatore (from Chennai) to do my bachelor's degree and so did not have to do grocery shopping there.

And then I came to the US and started living in an apartment with roommates and I had to do grocery shopping. None of my roommates (nor me) had a car in the small town of Kingsville, TX, that I lived in for about six months. So one of my roommates' friends would bring his car around on friday nights (dating was not a popular concept amongst us!) and we would all go to the nearby HEB to buy our groceries. Because of the tight budget and the friend's time, we would buy only the necessary things (we would need all the roommates' buy-in as we just divided the total amount into five) and a few unnecessary ones. One such unnecessary thing was the Baker's Dozen doughnuts (HEB gives you 13!) and we always get that. Grocery shopping was just a weekly event then as none of us were very close and we did not have much money to spend.

Then I moved to Louisville, KY where I didn't have a car but got better friends. Soon after I went to Louisville, one of my department colleagues offered to take me shopping to get some household stuff. He comes driving in this boat sized car that impressed me a lot. When I got in the car, he asked me what all I needed to get. That was all I needed to bring out my list. He wasn't thrilled that my shopping list was so long but still didn't say anything but took me along. That was my lesson to let people know in advance what I wanted from them, be it time or something else.

Once I made some friends, once-a-week grocery shopping became a social event. We would all meet at one person's house and have dinner and then go to the neighboring state of Indiana as there was a store called Bigg's there, that we liked. Again, this happened mostly during friday evenings, even though some of us (ahem ahem) had started dating by then. I used to like these times as it was a good way of bonding and exchanging ideas about cooking and groceries and other things.

Tom Petty reminds me of another grocery shopping adventure. One of our friends drove two of us to Bigg's (where else) one evening and we got delayed for some reason. So we got our groceries and then got pizza and Killian's Irish Red and came to my place. We played Tom Petty and had dinner and just talked about stuff. It was nothing special but still lingers in my heart, for some reason.

And then, of course, there were times when I could not find anybody to give me a ride and so walked to the nearby Kroger. At these times, I buy only necessary things but since milk is one necessity, it was hard and heavy while coming back. But this didn't happen very often.

Now of course, I have a car and can buy groceries anytime anywhere, without having to worry about whom should I ask this time or how heavy the bags will be. But I still fondly remember those days when grocery shopping was a social event.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Yin Yang of House-hunting (and Life)

We will get to the part about house-hunting in a short while (or long while depending on where this wandering mind of mine goes). But first of all, I want to know what it is with dogs (or at least our dog, Kutti) and thunder. We had a bit of strong thunderstorms this afternoon and she was so scared that she was trembling the whole time. She wanted to cuddle so much that it was very touching but then even though I like our dog and cuddling, there is only so long I can do that, right? Anyway, I went and searched for dogs and thunder and found that the best way to "desensitize" a dog to thunder (or fireworks) is to record the sound and play it repeatedly (starting at a low volume, mind you) over a period of several days. Now that is one advice that I am not going to follow as there is only so long I can cuddle with Kutti. The storms passed and it cleared up some and so we went for a walk. Everything looks cleaner and greener after rain (I just love it) and I even got to see a rainbow.

One more thing before we get to the house-hunting part (only one more, I promise). I am glad that Blogger has introduced labels but then I am also not happy about it. Here's why. I labeled my posts today and realized that I don't (can't) have one for Books. I used to be an avid reader of books (mostly fiction) but that is in the past now. There are several reasons (read excuses) for my not reading books anymore but I am still disappointed. A little less TV and blog-reading might steer me towards books but I am not sure when that will happen. But till then, my goal would be to post enough to create a label called Books.

Ok, now we come to the house-hunting part. We went house-hunting (they don't call it hunting for no reason) two weeks ago, as we are moving to Houston, Texas in September. When we woke up one hot and muggy monday morning, our mission was to find a house in the next four days. That seemed daunting and possible depending on the time of day. We were prepared to do that as we had done extensive searches on the internet and created several lists (what else would two engineers do?!). So we go look at about five houses that monday morning, with our realtor. We didn't like any of them. Needless to say, we were quite upset. We discussed strategies and alternatives till it was time to go look at more houses.

By the end of the first day, our realtor had a better understanding of what we liked and didn't like. So the rest of the hunting was better. We drove by some houses on our list to find that we couldn't live in that neighborhood or the color was a turn-off and that made the house hopping a bit easy. We saw about 20 houses in two days, but then depending on whether it was before or after lunch, I remember different things about them. When we went to look at houses after lunch, I had a hard time leaving the bedroom as my inclination was to take a nap. But luckily, my more rational half took notes on all the houses we saw (hey, I took some too).

On the third day, we decided that we can't keep up with 10 houses a day. But by then, we had a good idea of what we wanted and what we can get (sometimes, that helps). We cherry picked a few more houses to see. Finally, we had two houses that we really liked. Unfortunately, we didn't get our first pick. Fortunately, we got our second pick. But the whole process was exciting and frustrating at different times (just like life). So now all that is left is to move there and start the next chapter in our lives.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dear God

Ammani has a My Dear letter writing event that is one of a kind. Following is what I sent for that.

Dear God,

Hope you get this letter as I am not sure about your existence and don't know your address. I used to visit you in the temples and sing bhajans at school when I was growing up. Then there was a period when I thought you didn't exist and stopped them. But now, I am not sure whether you exist or not. So many people believe in you (although in different names and forms) and that makes me wonder. When I see people of different denominations fight over a piece of land in your name, I think that you would not let people die, if you were around. But then people die and you don't do anything about it and so I think that you are not there. Then there are things like the beautiful sunrise, perfect snow flake and colorful flowers that make me think that somebody has created these with a good plan. And so I wonder.

If you are there, I have a few requests for you. Stop innocent people from being killed through acts of violence, kids getting killed because of their parent's actions and dogs getting killed because of a totalitarian regime. Tell people that you are only one and all human beings are really created equal regardless of how they look, speak or act. Make good people live longer and don't let anybody suffer through old age on their own. And finally, make ice-cream and cheesecake good for us.

If I get a reply from you, I will know that I was wrong all this time. But if I don't get a reply, I will continue wondering this way, till I see any or all of the above requests taken care of.


Wondering Agnostic