Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Am Nobody

A friend of mine who seems to be rather amused at how private a person I am, sent me one of Emily Dickinson's poems that he thought fits me. I was amused at first that he would think me as reclusive as the narrator of the poem appears to be. But on reflection, I think my friend was right. I am nobody. Who are you?

"I am nobody. Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there's a pair of us.
Don't tell - they'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody,
How public - like a frog -
To tell your name the livelong June
To an admiring bog." ~Emily Dickinson

P.S. Am off to Kansas for the long weekend. :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Car - Finally!

I have at long last purchased a new car. In fact, the purchase was made some days ago, but I am only just posting it because I have only just finished all the required paperwork and documentation, got my registration plates, and the rest of the whole rigmarole.

After spending three tedious months of a car-free life, which was often very inconvenient, I have finally become the proud owner of a rather hardy, beautiful red 2002 Nissan Altima. I regret to say that it wasn't really love at first sight for me. The car is neither flashy nor handsome, and does not scream "sexy stallion". It looks and behaves very much like a faithful, dependable, strong, "sturdy steed". But the more I ride it, the more my love for it grows. And, I am finally mobile again. :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It Rains...

At 8:50 this morning, I left home to walk to the bus stop, where I would board a bus which would take me to campus to do my work for the day. It had rained a lot last night, and I expected the sky to be clear of clouds, the sun to be shining and the humidity to rise. But I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the weather was actually far more clement than I had expected it to be. It was what most people call a "dreary, gloomy day". But those are the days I love the most. My idea of fabulous weather is a cloudy, cold-ish, wet and windy day. Iowa does not very often have such beautiful weather. And when it does happen, it does not last long. It didn't today, and the sun is shining bright now, but this morning was glorious. I seriously considered calling in sick and taking the morning off to walk through the wet grass and feel the wind on my face.

Years ago, when I still lived at home in Hyderabad, if you got up really really early in the morning during the Monsoon, you could experience weather very similar to the weather this morning in Ames. It would have to be before six o'clock in the morning, before the sunlight has started to directly fall on the earth. I rarely got up that early, but when I did, I would sneak off to the terrace, which for some reason, my mother did not encourage. I think she might have been afraid that I would catch a chill, and she preferred me to drink my hot cup of Horlicks and get down to the business of ploughing through my books, for she is a great believer in the power of early morning study. But as often as I could in the months of July and early August, I would sneak off to the terrace. I would walk barefoot on the damp concrete, and imagine I was treading on damp sand on some faraway seashore. Here and there on the terrace where there were tiny depressions, water from the night's rain would collect, and I would splash my feet in this water, feeling how cold it was. Since our terrace was much more open then, and not surrounded by larger buildings, the wind used to move freely, and I used to close my eyes and walk around the terrace relishing the blowing of the gentle breeze on my damp feet. I would let my hair out and let the wind blow in it and feel it also on my arms and my cheeks.

And I always stopped to look at the four tall Ashoka trees that the people who lived across the street from us had growing in their front yard. I love Ashoka trees... there is something romantic about them. I think it might be the memory of my childhood... there were so many of them growing on my school premises, alongside the silvery-green Eucalyptus, the enormous, rooty Banyans, the completely foul prickly Ber shrubs and a lone giant of a Mango tree that never ever in my memory yielded any mangoes. I felt bonded to my neighbors' Ashoka trees. I would also circle the terrace stopping religiously every time to smell the curry-leaf tree that daddy had tended since its infancy, to look at the Tulsi growing in Raju uncle's backyard, see if the roses had bloomed in the backyard of the mean-spirited lady who lived behind our house, and to survey the asbestos that roofed the little preschool that stood behind our house, because some little scamps always managed to throw things high enough to land on the roof... it was a water-bottle sometimes, or a damp origami airplane, or a flower, some half-eaten fruit, or a handkerchief... it was different each time, and grippingly interesting to me. I would stay then for another twenty minutes or so before the sun really rose and the day showed all indications of bending to his will and growing hot. Then I would return reluctantly to my cup of Horlicks and my books.

There is an age right at the onset of adolescence when every such tangible sensation seems hopelessly and completely absolute. When one is a child, one feels and learns so much, but it is done, I think, in the spirit of learning about the world. As a young adolescent, one experiences the same things, but feels anew because one does so in the spirit of rediscovering a new, budding, lovely person within oneself. It is during such a beautiful era in my life that I woke to the pleasures of wet, windy, cloudy mornings. And I believe that it is because I experienced such mornings in such tremendously absolute glory, that I still long and yearn for weather like that. I think I could be an old old woman, and I would still feel young, and fresh and joyful on mornings such as these. That is such a delicious thought!

I remember a poem by Longfellow that tells of rainy days, in quite a different context, but nevertheless calls them dreary.

"The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary."

But I think such a day is beautiful!

Monday, August 20, 2007

School Has Begun

It is Monday morning, 10:26am. The Fall semester of 2007 has begin. I already am too exhausted and ticked off to even write about it. I look out of the window, and the campus seems to be overflowing with students, many of whom hold little maps in their hands and are busy trying to navigate their course through central campus. I envy them their enthusiasm and excitement, but am also irritated at them for the same reasons and my inability to understand how I don't seem to be experiencing any of that joy. I'm rather crabby this morning!

However, I had an extremely excellent weekend. The annual Iowa Malayalee Onam celebration was this Saturday. It was fun, and the dinner afterward is always smashing. But all that aside, I feel like I am growing stagnant. I don't mean to, it is just happening. I sound so cynical... I blame it on the starting of the semester. But all life death does end and each day dies with sleep. So maybe I'll wake up tomorrow, and be grinning like the Cheshire cat. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Half-Year Ago...

My baby is six months old!!!! I began this blog on Valentines' Day this year. I meant to have posted a congratulatory message to myself on its half-year anniversary, but have been too caught up with other things to do so. Since it is only a message to myself, I can forgive myself for the belatedness of it, and all is well. I have two other blogs, which did not make it past their infancy. One of them have two posts, which I still believe are my most beautiful. The other has about five. But my baby blog has 48 posts, and I intend to keep writing. It has a happy name, and a doting creator. It shall survive, and indeed thrive!!!

Another gruesome semester has begun. It doesn't start until Monday really, but I have either been getting trained or training others 8-4 every day since last Thursday, and have a pretty good feel of what the semester is going to be like. I can't decide if I am happy or sad, but thankfully those are not the only two emotions that I am able to experience. I am sure that what I feel is going to hover between those two extremes. But I am very very optimistic, and I am sure that it will be a wonderfully enjoyable semester.

This past week I attended two training workshops. One on seeing clients with substance abuse issues, and the other one on clients struggling with eating disorders. I must say that though I had anticipated these to be intense, deep issues, I was not prepared for how intense and sad they would be. One activity especially cut right through me and I couldn't stop sobbing (yes... sobbing, not just crying tears). Those of you who know me know that I rarely weep. It was so very powerful an activity that I amazed myself by being almost unable to participate in the discussion afterwards. I learnt a lot about myself even though I don't think I have either substance abuse or eating disorder issues. That is what I love about this profession... I get paid to understand and learn about myself. What other job will give you that? I must remember this when I am angry about how long my thesis is taking to get completed.

I haven't been reading much because I am too busy to do so. But I have been making a little time to read a few poems when I can. I bought a book of Yeats' poetry at a garage sale, and am working my way through it now. I read a sweet little poem in it the other day. It's called To a Child Dancing in the Wind.

"Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?" ~ Yeats

The poem is reminiscent of my sweet, carefree childhood, and indeed of all the monstrous horrors of the onset of adulthood. I feel like that now, you know. Not entirely carefree... I think by the time you enter teenage, that blind faith in life is lost. But there are flashes in time when everyone returns to a more innocent place. I return there sometimes... it cannot be controlled; and you cannot will yourself to return. It happens suddenly, and just as soon is past. But when it does, I want to dance in the wind too!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mandana Jones

I have started to watch a new series: Bad Girls. It is exactly like watching Oz: except the prison is located in the UK, the characters have British accents, it is a women’s prison, and everyone is catty, not violent. Oz, was of course a much better produced show, most characters were better developed and the whole thing had a much more finished feel. But just like there was incredible chemistry on Oz between Toby and my Chrissy, this show has a sideline love story between one of the prisoners Nikki, and the wing governor Helen, played brilliantly by Mandana Jones and Simone Lahbib. A beautiful, sweet, terribly heart wrenching love story. Unfortunately, only the first series of this show is available in the US. It’s a terrible pity because there are six more seasons which I have no idea when I will get to watch.

But today’s post is about Mandana Jones who plays Nikki - the beautiful, strong prisoner with a heart of gold, and unshakable loyalty to those she loves. Mandana Jones’ character Nikki is possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen on the screen. While my Chrissy’s love on Oz was laced with cruelty, hers is love that is nothing but beautiful. Here’s a picture of Nikki looking at Helen lovingly.

I’ve joined her fan following. She’s also going to be my first female blog sweetheart. :-) She is beautiful!! See her here in a video from YouTube.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Flattered and Outraged

I don't know whether to be flattered or enraged. Somebody has claimed my blog as their homepage on their profile. Click here to view the profile.

He or she has not directly claimed that the blog is his or hers though it seems like the obvious implication. Neither has he or she asked me for my permission, which is what my first instinct would be to do. I don't even know if this infringes any copyright laws. It most probably doesn't. My first reaction was shock and disbelief laced with anger. On second thoughts, I was quite flattered. If someone wants to claim my blog as their homepage, they must think it rather good. I am still swinging back and forth between these two extremes. So if you are this person, "How dare you??? And thank you very much!"

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Two Weeks

I can tell that this is going to be a painfully long post. I have to catch up for the past few weeks when I have been either busy or away. I went to help Nisha move apartments and settle in. School starts in two weeks’ time, and starting next week, I have a million demands on my time. I have decided not to see individual clients next semester, and will probably know two weeks into the semester that this was a miserably stupid decision, but it will be too late by then. It breaks my heart to think that I have actually decided this. My clients are a huge chunk of the reason why I am happy. But my mind is made up. This will give me more time to work on my infernal thesis. In a week’s time, Ames will be filled to the brim with new blood. All the young collegiates will start filing in. When my friends Anand and Aarti visited me last year the weekend before classes started, we happened to drive through Welch Avenue at 2:00am. They were still reeling from the shock of seeing the sheer number of people out on the street days later (or so they told me). In any case, there will be tens of thousands of people returning to town in a week’s time. That should be fun. Ames looks miserably deserted at the moment.

And sad news: I am completely and utterly broke!!!! A whole summer of no pay, compounded by moving and traveling costs, has left me on the verge of bankruptcy. But nil desperandum!!! I am learning to husband my resources very very carefully. I was amazed at the amount of supplies I had in my pantry. I have resolved to eat at home for a whole month. And since my wholehearted horror for engaging in anything culinary probably lays the biggest claim on my purse, this should see me through to the end of September. I actually am a very good cook (modestly blush), I just am lazy. Also, no more travel for the next month. Come October, I hope my coffers will start filling again.

While I was in Manhattan, Nisha who knows how much I love books, took me to a second-hand bookstore rather endearingly christened “The Dusty Bookshelf”. I, cannot begin to describe what an absolutely amazing experience the place was. I of course was charmed, and confined myself to the classic literature and poetry sections which spanned all of four shelves in an aisle and a half, but which nevertheless afforded me about five or six hours of absolute delight. I was particularly fascinated by the really old books, some of which were printed in the early 1900’s. Nisha, who would much rather have spent the time shopping at the mall, in her usual selfless way resigned herself to being satisfied in my happiness and resolved to help me choose my books. In a few minutes time, she had deciphered that my preference seemed to be for the older books, and she proceeded to interrupt my blissful browsing with recommendations of tattered hardcovers that she called “pre-historic books”. She kept this up for over an hour, because it clearly amused her to see me try to stifle my impatience, when I finally lost my composure, and calling her a complete and utter nuisance packed her off to her beloved crime and fantasy section with a strict decree that she not return to disturb me unless she wished to be lynched.

In any case, I ended up buying five beautiful pre-owned books, two of which are of particular note. One was a beautiful copy of FitzGerald’s “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, which was put out circa 1920 (the internet gave varying dates: 1910 – 1934, the book gives no date). It is a very ornate book, with mounted pictures and gilt designs all over, in salmon and gold hardcover with a gold and black dust jacket. The book looks valuable. I checked up on it, and different sources on the internet price it varying between $22 and $650, both of which are more than I paid for it, so I am happy. But I plan on keeping, and not selling it. I’ll take pictures of it and upload them when I get the chance. The second book is a collection of the works of Rupert Brooke. The book was published in 1915, the year Brooke died in the Aegean on his way to Gallipoli. There was a small note-card, yellowed with age, placed in the book written beautifully in black ink. It read, “Hope Brooke is still your favorite. ~ John.” I have built beautiful fantasies surrounding the note, none of which are probably even remotely true. But it adds to the romance of the whole thing. Reading poetry from a book that is almost a hundred years old is more touching and beautiful than reading the same verses from a mass market paperback. The books also smell divine – old and musty. I told Nisha that the books smelt like our old library at school. She smelt them and agreed. The old library will have to be a topic for another day, save to say that there were two aisles at the very back of the library which were my own personal domain, and indeed I never saw anyone else other than the librarian even venture in that direction. These two aisles held books that I loved to read. And they were very ancient, and smelt and felt exactly like all old books do, like my copy of Brooke does.

Now to a more philosophical line of thought: I strongly believe that when one reads a book, one projects oneself onto the book. One lives through the hero or heroine, mentally speaks the dialogues, imagines the ambience of the scenes, feels everything that the characters feel. One turns the book into a very vivid and personal experience. This, in my opinion, is why people who read a book and then watch a film adaptation of the book, often find the visual lacking – because it is someone’s else’s imagination, someone else’s experience. But I digress – people project themselves onto the book. And every person has one or a few books which define his own being – authors who think, feel and believe what the person himself does. For me until now, these books have been the Katy trilogy (the boon of my childhood), and Rebecca (my adolescent fantasy). And now, I can say with absolute certainty and without a shadow of doubt, that even more than these dear books, the book that defines my adult thought and set of beliefs is Samuel Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh”. Mr. Butler is me! Me, a few centuries ago. I think everything he thinks. I believe everything he believes. If I were to write an epistle on what I think a life should and should not be, it would look like a rather shameless copy of his beautiful novel. He even jokes in the wry, sarcastic way that I think is hilarious. I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I know that this is what I am. Even if this makes me sound like a rather soi-disant Mr. Butler, I still revel in the stinging insult. There is so much more I want to say, but this post is long enough, and I will do so later.