Achievements and Regrets

January 25, 2006

I had gone for my weekly walk (it’s supposed to be daily, but it sort of becomes weekly) and thinking about nothing, as one does when walking alone in the park, and I started thinking of all the things I had done that I was happy about. And one thing led to another and finally this is what resulted (in no particular order):

I’m glad that I

  • Took a break from work to go trekking in the Himalayas for 3 months
  • Finally got around to buying and riding a ‘guy’s bike’
  • Enrolled for a Master’s degree – so many years after graduation (and in a completely different subject)
  • Taught myself to whistle with two fingers in my mouth (after years of trying)
  • Learnt horse riding

    I’m glad I did not

    • Attend full-time college
    • Stay too close to family (or in-laws)
    • Stay on at KF till I lost my sanity (though it was a near thing…)

      I wish had (or I would still like to)

      • Continued learning music
      • Had kids. And dogs. (And horses. And a farmhouse outside the city. Ok, ok, getting carried away…)
      • Written a book that got published (and became a best seller in it class)
      • Learnt to sing
      • Learnt to play tennis at a younger age (I first tried when I was in my early teens – so many years wasted!)

        I wish I had not

        • Crashed the car I was driving. Twice. (Still haven’t fully recovered from those)
        • Given up the idea of studying Archaeology (just because everyone else thought it was a bad idea)
        • Been so thoroughly mal-adjusted in the US.

          The idea was to list the top 5 in each category. I’m happy to say that in two categories I could not find 5. (Ok, this has been censored a bit… that’s allowed.) This was an interesting exercise. Anyone else inclined to take a shot at it?


          January 24, 2006

          Amit is in Finland. This means, I have nobody at home to watch over me and tell me what to do and, worse still, what not to do (yes, he does, the terrible fellow). So, I can get up to more than a little mischief.

          And what better mischief to get up to than food?

          See, food is for me a perpetual source of excitement and inspiration. I looooooooooove food and I make no bones about it.

          As a small child, I learnt that only greedy, selfish, “bad” people eat alone. As I grew up, what remained of this lesson was that other people think this way. For me, eating alone stopped being a shameful activity and became a luxurious self indulgence long ago. In fact, I love to eat alone, because it means I can really linger over my food, which I love to do when I like the food, and I can eat lots, which can take a really long time. When I’m alone, I don’t have to worry either that other people are waiting for me to finish, or that they are thinking to themselves, gosh, she eats so much! Oh yes, and I don’t have to “protect” my food from advances of other, quicker eaters, which is something I HATE to do, but if I don’t do, it disappears before I can eat it!

          So anyway, I decided that since Amit was away for ever so long, I should at least treat myself to a pizza evening. So, come Sunday evening, I was almost drooling as I thought of which pizza I would order and when and how slowly I would eat it, savouring every little morsel, all by myself.

          And I did, I really did. It was rather more expensive than I expected (when did pizza become so expensive???) but it was fully worth it. Dominos, thin crust (it’s really thin!) Medium (serves 2 – I finished it! Told you I eat a lot) Meatzaa. Mmmm…

          Office Update

          January 23, 2006

          My office is the best. We all spend time planning, re-planning, re-re-planning and hardly do any work. Right now, I’m in the happy situation of waiting for somebody to send me work, and somebody – who was supposed to have sent me work last week – has informed me that they cannot send it till next week. Happy days are here again! And, in case you’re thinking that, ha! well, she’ll have double the work next week, let me tell you, here things don’t work like that. I will simply reschedule next week’s work to the following week. Or maybe a week or two after that.

          And as if that weren’t fun enough for you, there’s the added dimension of working with a team partially located in US (and other parts distributed around the globe). Typically, it goes something like this. The India tech team has a question, so someone writes an email to the US folk and then everyone packs up and goes home. The next day, there’s no reply. So everyone plays computer games and surfs the net. The following day, there’s a reply which is both incomplete and ambiguous, so someone bounces it back to the US and everyone goes home happy that progress has been made. Then comes the weekend. This is a double whammy. When it’s Friday for them, it’s Saturday for us, and no one checks mail. When we do check on Monday, it’s Sunday for them, so we don’t bother to reply.

          Finally, by a stroke of bad luck (but how long can you postpone the inevitable?), the issue gets resolved. Of course, no one has bothered to keep the implementer in the loop, so it takes another few days before the resolution gets implemented and several days more before it gets into the documentation (and sometimes it never does).

          The fun really begins when there are two teams working on related projects. Like someone’s working on an SDK and someone else is working on an application that runs on that SDK. So obviously, the SDK folks need to keep the application team up-to-date about what’s happening. Recently, I found that the app developers had got some information through a complicated network that had completely bypassed the SDK guys! Huh?


          January 9, 2006

          My tennis sir called me a liar! What cheek! And not once, but thrice!!!

          It was like this. He asked me to play against the wall. So I lined up and whacked the ball at the wall and it went away somewhere (the ball, not the wall, I mean) and didn’t come back to me. I tried again, with a similar result. Then, the third time I sent the ball, it came back somewhat as I expected. I whacked it again and it bounced back again. So I rallied with the wall with a modicum of success, about five shots. That’s when he called me a liar.

          According to him, a beginner cannot play with the wall so well. It’s not easy, he said. But I thought it was far easier than playing with a person. The wall is always predictable, you don’t have to wonder whether it’s going to hit the ball hard or soft or from the sweet spot or not, or with a top spin or a back spin or a sideways spin. The wall hits it back the exact same way every time.

          Anyway, I tried to explain to tennis sir that playing with the wall was a question of timing, rhythm, nothing else. And though I’m a beginner at tennis (I tried to assure him) I do understand rhythm because rhythm has to do with music and music I have long experience of. Playing music, I mean, with others, in a group, in a strict beat. He looked a little fazed and very far from convinced.

          Oh well. That’s what you get for playing well. Next time I’ll be sure to play badly for a while.

          Dinner with a Sting

          January 5, 2006

          Q: When is a dinner out not just a dinner out? If you said, when it is a celebration, you would be right, but, there’s another answer too. When it is a sting operation.

          Let me explain.

          A friend has a friend who has a restaurant. The restaurant (which shall remain un-named) is run by a manager. The friend’s friend (i.e. the owner) suspects that the manager is cheating him, by generating hand-written bills for some customers and pocketing the cash.

          Enter the Dreadful Duo. (That’s Amit and me, in case you were wondering.) Go have dinner there and collect a bill, the friend instructed us. And keep your eyes open while you’re there (not that I usually dine with my eyes shut) and see what kinds of bills other customers get.

          Act 1 Scene 2: The Dreadful Duo enter the restaurant, eyes open, senses on high alert. We seated ourselves strategically in this charming little restaurant and craned our necks this way and that to see what kinds of bills other diners were getting. Then we thought we might appear a bit suspicious ourselves, so we indulged in muted conversations and, instead of craning our necks, let our eyes roll around in every direction, sneakily. If the restaurant had served alcohol, people might have thought us a little drunk. Since it only served fresh lime soda, I wonder what they thought.

          At any rate, they must have thought us more than a bit strange because, whenever a waiter approached or passed us, Amit would kick me on the shin to warn me to shut up (if I happened to be speculating on the nature of the bill, which I mostly was). And whenever a table had apparently finished their meal, Amit would stare fixedly in their direction until they were presented with a bill and then he would all but get up and go stand behind the host to see whether it was hand-written or not.

          All our observations (and while we dined, we caught a glimpse of a grand total of two bills!) led us to conclude that computer-generated bills were being presented, hence indicating that everything was above board and that the friend’s friend was being unjustly suspicious.

          Then came our turn. The waiter approached with the bill. He delicately (but tactlessly) placed the folder in front of me. Then he withdrew. With bated breath, Amit watched as I opened the folder. Fully aware of the tension, I slowly lifted the flap and saw: Rs 245. Ok, that’s not too bad, I thought (the food was actually rather good). And then I realized I was supposed to be looking at the bill, not the amount (a rather difficult thing to do, I should tell you; you must try it some day).

          It was hand-written.

          With some difficulty I restrained Amit from pouncing on the manager there and then. Calmly, I paid up. Should we tip? Why, asked Amit, they’re pocketing the entire bill amount anyway. Good point.

          Feeling rather smug with the indisputible success of our sting operation, we headed home.

          Dropping Stitches

          January 2, 2006

          Amit has long had a conviction that someone, somewhere should knit him a sweater. For years he has carried around a gigantic chip on his (gigantic) shoulder that there have been very few people – to be precise, only one – willing to undertake this (gigantic) task. No, it wasn’t me. It was his favourite aunt who attempted this – once and only once. Much to his chagrin, I was smarter that that, and this was an undertaking I had managed to sidestep for the many years we had known each other, by insisting that he obtain sufficient quantities of wool in order for me to do this. For all these years I slept easy in the knowledge that he would never take the initiative to do this. And so it was.

          Until the last day of our vacation in Leh, when we suddenly wandered across a wool shop. And there my luck ran out as we quickly bought enormous volumes of wool in the tangled state.

          I postponed the inevitable by a couple of months by lugging my backpacks around the deserted mountainous regions of Ladakh on various treks, but eventually money and time ran out and I had to return to Bangalore and face the mountains of wool awaiting my attention.

          Turning the tangled mass of sheep’s hair into two dozen balls of yarn was a full time occupation for the next four weeks. With this entertaining activity completed, it was time to get down to work. I put needle and wool together and spent the next four months clicking away with only a few breaks for meals and the occasional toilet break. That apart, I knitted and knitted and knitted. After some time, it began to look as though I might grow roots at my customary place on the diwan in front of the TV. Roots spread over with a brilliant maroon knitted blanket to boot.

          TV became a great ally. Without the constant companionship of Friends and Sienfeld (not to mention Desperate Housewives) I doubt I could ever have finished the blessed garment.

          But finish I did, albeit only just in time for Amit’s impending departure to colder climes. I spent New Year’s Day sewing the various pieces together.

          Now, you know Amit’s size and the simple reality is that you cannot really get a pattern that caters to his giant proportions. So all this time I had been struggling along with a measuring tape and periodic checks against the live specimen. Let me tell you that in my younger days I had a LOT of experience knitting. In one memorable year, I actually put together as many as seven adult-size sweaters in one winter. But that was then, and then was about 20 years ago. Oh, all right, it was about 15 years ago, what difference? Anyway, by now I had only a very rudimentary idea of the various techniques required in making a full-fledged sweater.

          So in a way it should not have been surprising how it turned out. Here’s what became of it:

          I had forgotten to shape the neck, so instead of a graceful circle, there was an enormous, gaping, empty square for the head to go into. In an effort to block this, I had tried to put together a spacious turtle neck, but ran out of patience knitting in circles and stopped at the turtle’s belly. The result was that, when turned over, the neck formed a half lapel-like collar, sort of like a Chinese collar that wants to grow into a chrysanthemum.

          The front and back were enormously long and wide and looked rather as though they were made to fit two Amits simultaneously.

          The drop shoulders dropped so much they came almost to his elbows.

          The sleeves were too long, but mercifully the cuffs were a bit too tight, so they didn’t slide down over his hands.

          Unfortunately and mysteriously, one sleeve was both longer and wider than the other. This is mysterious because sleeves are usually quite easy to do. You start with a certain number of stitches and then you keep increasing stitches every so many rows until you end up with a certain length and width. As long as you increase stitches regularly, nothing should really go long. But somehow I had managed to make one sleeve longer and broader, despite (and I checked this, twice) starting and ending with the same number of stitches.

          The result was that the longer/broader sleeve fell in great loops and jowls between Amit’s armpit and chest like the face of a St Bernard’s.

          Overall, the sweater looked distinctly funny.

          I have never seen anyone slide from being pleased as punch to being utterly outraged in so short a time. Within seconds indignant exclamations were bursting forth from Amit who was now looking like an enraged (and asymmetrical) bull in a red garment that pretty much defied description. As I could restrain myself from laughing hysterically at the sight, he turned to headquarters for sympathy.

          My mother, when contacted by phone, proved to be extremely helpful. She suggested that Amit contort various parts of his anatomy to make them fit the sweater. Alternatively, he could hide the sweater under a substantial jacket.

          I stopped laughing long enough to assure Amit that I would try “something” to remedy the worst of the defects over the next few days. I’m really not sure that anything short of extreme surgery can straighten out the misshapen creature, but I’m working on it.

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