Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Beginning

"Some day I shall rise and leave my friends
And seek you again through the world's far ends,
You whom I found so fair
(Touch of your hands and smell of your hair!),
My only god in the days that were.
My eager feet shall find you again,
Though the sullen years and the mark of pain
Have changed you wholly; for I shall know
(How could I forget having loved you so?),
In the sad half-light of evening,
The face that was all my sunrising.
So then at the ends of the earth I'll stand
And hold you fiercely by either hand,
And seeing your age and ashen hair
I'll curse the thing that once you were,
Because it is changed and pale and old
(Lips that were scarlet, hair that was gold!),
And I loved you before you were old and wise,
When the flame of youth was strong in your eyes,
-- And my heart is sick with memories." ~ Rupert Brooke.

This is quite the most beautiful poem I have read all of the last month. I read it last night in the ancient book of poems I bought from The Dusty Bookshelf. Do people write like this anymore? Forget writing... do people even think like this anymore? What I consider to be true romance seems to be an anachronism today. Even romantic movies are intolerably melodramatic and embrace a vulgar sort of humor. Self-expression and art is angry and violent... self-obsessed. It is stark, not mellow. The crystal spring is forgotten. The nightingales never sing anymore in any poetry. I am an anachronism too. "-- And my heart is sick with memories."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I have started to keep a diary again. When I was much younger, I kept a diary very religiously. I must have begun when I was in the 6th or 7th class when I read Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl”. Influenced by Frank, I was terribly eager to begin chronicling the events of my own life and Mummy gave me a resin-bound LIC diary so I could start writing. And though my very first diary was wrought with printed quotations from famous freedom fighters, and sepia LIC adverts were manifold in its pages, I thought it was the most beautiful and precious book in the world. It held a record of my thoughts and the manifestoes of my plans for my life when I grew up. An adolescent diary is something sacred. It holds secrets that adults might scoff at or dismiss as childishness, but to the adolescent writer, those very secrets are the planks with which is built the drawbridge that helps her cross the moat of teenage into the seemingly perfect lands and castles of an independent adulthood. Daddy still has my first few LIC diaries packed along with other relics of the same early adolescence, in a cardboard box which lies gathering dust on one of the top shelves of the back bedroom in Hyderabad. I like to open the box when I visit home, and read my cherished diaries. The pathos of those simple chronicles is quite overwhelming and evokes memories and emotions so raw that it sometimes is difficult for me to believe that so many years have passed since I wrote them.

My diary-keeping after the first few years was very sporadic and underwent a great metamorphosis. By the time I went off to Kasaragod to college, I started writing only when I felt terribly sad, or terribly inspired and poetic. For the four years I spent in Kasaragod, I journalled only in one book. It is a very melodramatic volume. In it are the stories of homesickness, lovesickness, impassioned letters to imaginary lovers, desperate rantings against the futility of my life, confessions about crushes, poems I had written, scraps of poetry or prose that touched my heart, spiritual exploration, novenas, pictures of myself and other such things that seemed to arise from the union of a Gothic heroine and a tragic Shakespearian hero. This was also the time when I first began writing to Yvon, my phantasmal alter-ego. Everything I wrote was a confession to him. I still have that diary with me. I rarely ever reread it now, but it saddens me when I do.

After I came to the US, my diary writing grew more and more abstract and intellectual. It also grew increasingly sporadic. By the time I arrived in Ames, it was practically non-existent. This blog of mine is an extension of my diaries, but it isn’t quite the same thing. I began reading “The Kenneth Williams Diaries” a couple of weeks ago, and was struck by how open and honest his diaries were – just like my first childish ones were. He chronicles not thoughts, but events. And it is a refreshing change. Inspired once again, I started on Sunday to keep a new diary. It tells the tale of who I am and what I do. It is remarkably candid. When I read it ten years from now, I wonder what I shall feel…

Monday, October 22, 2007

Project Blueberry Scone

Last night, I discovered a rather exiguous packet of blueberries languishing in my freezer. (I am not at all sure that frozen blueberries can languish. Still…). In the summer, my instinct would be to whip out a banana, some yogurt and ice, and frappe it all into a smoothie. But it was cold outside last night, and I did not want my insides to be cold as well. It took only a moment before I decided that I wanted to bake blueberry scones. Now, I am a famous baker. I like anything that is baked, or part-baked, so long as it is not too sugary – pies, pastry, vegetables, puffs, cakes, trifles, tarts, cookies, pizza, casseroles, pasticcio… If it can be popped into the oven, I will do it! But I have never experimented with scones before. I think the fact that my erstwhile scone consumption has been only at Starbucks and similarly overpriced coffee shops has prevented me from trying to bake them thus far. What hope had I of competing with Mr. Starbucks???

But in any case, I assured myself that I could do it, and out came the flour. I had no butter, so I used some light margarine trying desperately not to be deterred by the rather ominous label on the packet: “Not recommended for baking or frying”. I wasn’t sure if it was baking powder or baking soda that I needed to add, so I popped in a little of each. I added some sugar, though nearly not as much as I ought to have done. In went an egg, some milk and the blueberries. Now I am sensible enough to know that for making scones, the dough needs to be pliable, like it would be for making a chapatti. But unfortunately what I had was a large sticky mess! Also, the blueberries had insisted on lending their indomitable hue the gooey mixture. So, I ended up with large blue blobs on my baking sheet instead of beautiful triangular pieces of dough. I knew then that my scones would not be perfect.

After about fifteen minutes of baking, I discovered that my project had yielded eight wonderfully fluffy part-muffin, part-biscuit, part-bagel like objects. They also were enormous, so I cut each one in half. They weren’t the perfect scones at all! I have concluded that next time I need graham flour, fewer blueberries, more sugar, real butter and maybe a dash of nutmeg. Be that as it may, I now have a week’s worth of “blueberry breakfast things” in my fridge. I had the first installment this morning with tea. It was delicious. :)

Here are some pictures:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


A friend of mine sent me an offline message: “Why do you get drunk and announce it to the whole world?” I assume he is referring to my post, Nachtgold. Contrast this with another friend who consults me on what wine he ought to pair with what food, and tells me that he thinks it is brilliant that I am an authority on wine (FYI- I am not! He just thinks I am because I know a bit more about wine than he does). Another friend actually called me “a woman of culture”, not purely based on my knowledge of wines… other things as well, and I was most immensely flattered. What a world of conflicting messages we live in! But in any case, I was thinking as I wondered how to respond to this person: what do I say to someone who doesn't understand drinking which is not extreme? That drinking can be a means of exquisite pleasure and not merely a method of entering rather expediently into oblivion? That women might drink too and enjoy it, and that alcohol isn't an accessory that only helps enhance and display machismo? That temperance is possible when one raises a glass to one's mouth? In the end, I decided not to justify, since I had no need to. I merely told Jacob that I did not get "drunk", I enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner, that I wasn't apologetic or ashamed and that I had no need to be.

Anyone who knows me, knows fairly well enough that provoking me in any such way only leads to rebellion. Ergo, I have decided to start a new section on my blog called "Wine of the Week". I consume about a bottle of wine a week, about a glass of it every alternate day. My preference tends to be for full-bodied sweet wines, but I will take recommendations if anyone has any. I intend to describe the wine I am currently drinking and post my opinion of it. Please do not go by the comments I post - I don't know as much about wine and wine drinking as I would like to, and am hardly a wine connoisseur. Also, since I am only an impoverished grad student, the wines I showcase will tend to be representative of the "cheap" or "clearance" aisles. I might splurge once in a while and decide to treat myself, but that will probably be the exception and not the rule. So, enjoy vicariously through me!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Boring Sunday Afternoon

I wrote this Sunday afternoon, and thought I’d post it today:

It is raining. And cold. And very reminiscent of the fist lines of Jane Eyre, one of my favorite Victorian romances. “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. …The cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question.” I long to be out of doors, but the rain prevents it. Much as I love the sensations of the rain: watching the glittering raindrops, listening to the pitter-patter sound, and smelling the newly wet earth, it does have the infernal disadvantage of preventing any outdoor activity. There isn’t much outdoor activity going on in Ames over the weekend, but I should have liked to take a walk or go for a drive and be able to look on nature’s beauties unhindered by the grey shroud of rain and mist.

I have nothing very special going on this weekend. I usually have something going on… but all my friends seem to be very preoccupied this weekend. I went to a talk and book reading by an Indian author, Kaveri Nambisan. The lady is terribly multi-talented and is a rural surgeon as well as being an author. Truth be told, I was dreading the affair and wished most sincerely that I could get out of it. But she happens to be a relative of a friend, and Jose uncle, who has read some of her books, was most enthusiastic in campaigning for her. So out of loyalty to these dear friends I agreed to go. I was fully prepared for a boring afternoon listening to an author I had never read and never intended to. But I was very pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of the lady, and her completely unassuming presentation. I actually enjoyed myself immensely, and was glad that I had decided to go. So much for the silly assumptions I make!

But once I came back home wet and cold, there wasn’t much else to do other than read and watch telly. I don’t venture out half as often as I would like to, but I simply cannot understand why I feel the compelling urge to burst out onto nature’s glories when doing so simply isn’t a very feasible option. I am bored out of my wits. I wonder if things might have been different had I lived in a larger city. I expect the rain would have made things most awfully dirty, rather than pretty as it does Ames; but there might have been the advantage of having more things to do, and more people to do it with. But I shall strive and be the optimist. And watch some more telly…

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open Wednesdays

I have been neglecting my darling blog, and myself too, these past few weeks. Once mid-semester rolls around, things tend to get hectic. I was grading... and finishing up research. Things to do... things to do...

In any case, I have two interesting updates re: me to report. Firstly, I have FINALLY finished every last scrap of statistical analysis that I need to do for my thesis. I am resolved never again to do any Structural Equation Modeling, which is a relief in a way, but also a terrible pity because I think I have become fairly proficient with it now. In any case, it is a very bothersome statistical procedure and I am glad to be rid of it. Now I will write my paper, make my tables and defend it in November. On less thing to worry about on Wednesday mornings. YAHOOO!!!! The second update is that last night I finally finished co-facilitating my first ever group of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder. I will continue to do my two Thursday BPD groups, but the end of the STEPPS group means that my Wednesday evenings will be free too. Twenty weeks of harrowingly long Wednesdays are ended in the same week! It is absolute bliss. :-)

My sister sent me a link to this rather cute website.
Check it out
. My song is Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell". I had never heard of it before. Personally, I think it is a rather silly song. But I shall never forget it now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Resolution

For the first time in several years, I have held on to and achieved a New Year's resolution. Though I know very well that I am lazy and not disposed at all to adhere to any resolutions I have ever made (shape up, act more lady-like, keep in touch with friends, make new friends, learn a new language, learn to play an instrument... the list is endless), I persist every New Year's Eve in creating a long list of virtues I must adopt, talents I must polish, tasks I must accomplish and so on. Year after year I have tried in earnest to stick to these resolutions, and year after year I have found myself wanting in the will-power and drive it takes to take any of these resolutions to fruition.

True to form, this New Year's Eve I sat down and resolved to be the epitome of perfection. The subtle and charming woman I have always wanted to be. The woman whose intelligence shines forth with such brilliance that the rest of the world looks incredibly like a confrerie of idiots. The supermodel. The kind, giving, unassuming Madonna. The woman of infinite variety. Charming plans all, but ones that I had no hope of ever living to see come true. One resolution that I made, that I have been making for the last ten years without fail, and without doubt of absolute failure was that I would read at least one book a month... twelve books in the whole year. This was one resolution that I always bitterly regretted having to give up because reading is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I just had not gotten around to reading as much either because I was too busy or because I was too lazy, and very probably both.

I set out this year, like the rest of the decade resolving to read, and not doubting that I would not. On New Year's Day, I began the year's reading with Kamala Das' My Story. And I haven't stopped. I haven't read nearly as much as I would have liked to, but I have crossed the target I set for myself. I've read thirteen books this year and am simultaneously reading two more. I hope to get at least seventeen done by New Year's Eve this year. It might not seem much to anyone else, but to me this is momentous. 'Tis the set of the soul, that determines the goal...

"One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife."

~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox