the wonderful world of veena.

26 April 2011


today i woke up sweating.
today my bus almost hit a guy on a motorbike.
today a man told another man to get out of a ladies' seat.
today one of my conductors kicked a man off the bus for acting inappropriately toward a woman.
today the traffic signal in front of nimhans was broken.
today i ran into one of my old boys on the bus.
today i was playing around on wikipedia and rediscovered what a great city memphis is.
today i almost got into a fight with one of the house fathers at the boys' home.
today i finally got around to addressing the postcards that i wrote three weeks ago.
today i got to play with baby nilah.
today i found out the grizzlies are one win away from the second round of the playoffs.
today i wished desperately for the rain and wind from last week.
today i craved a fireball of freedom - hold the onions - from kwik chek.
today i renewed my obsessed with zooey deschanel's voice.
today i had a crazy desire to re-watch bones all the way from the beginning.

today was just an average tuesday.

wait.  it's still only tuesday?

25 April 2011

the pictures thus far.

I thought I would post some of the "daily" pictures that I've been taking these past few weeks.  I say "daily", because there are some days I don't get a chance to take any [I rarely leave the house on Sundays] and there are other days when I more to make up for it.  I think I'm going to try to post them more often, so it's not so many to go through, but for today there are quite a few.  Enjoy!

[out the back of the jeep on the way to Dabguli]

[this is how close together my house and another house are built. the white house is mine, the yellow is on the perpendicular street. no waste of space in India]

[some tree I found while wandering at the Boys' Home. if you have ideas on what it is, be sure to let me know]

[one of the flowering plants on Amai's terrace. the light was really nice that morning]

[auto rickshaws still in the process of being built. as seen out the window of the bus]

[the tree under which I have my chai in the morning and my lunch in the afternoon. outside the Boys' Home]

[crazy advertisement in Chamarajpet. don't look at it for too long, you'll hurt your face]

[if the footpaths don't have giant gaping holes, this is what they look like. it's safer and easier to just walk on the road]

[my reading and napping corner on nice afternoons]

[I had to take this picture quickly while walking and dealing with three bags, so I wasn't able to zoom in. I love the guy's combination of bright yellow shoes - which might be difficult to see - with a bright pink umbrella]

[this is what Magrath Road currently looks like. it's a wonder I haven't had any major disasters yet]

[one of the girls at Doddabelle school]

[this guy was hanging out at the school while the kids were rehearsing their play]

[5 years ago, when I was an intern, this was a giant gaping hole on the way from Mysore Road to Doddabelle. now it's the nicest road in the city. excuse the poor photography, my auto driver thought he was a Formula One driver]

[this was the 4th picture of this girl. in the first she looked terrified, but once I showed her the picture, she warmed up, and I was able to catch her half-smiling half-laughing]

It's been a fun project thus far.  I find myself noticing buildings and shops and signs that I'm sure have been there for years but that I have just not paid attention to before.  Here's hoping I keep up with it.

24 April 2011

the book list.

A while ago the BBC ran a list of the 100 books everyone should read in their life, claiming that most people will end up reading only 6 of them.  I can definitely say that I have read more than 6, but will not end up reading all 100 [sorry Jane Austen, but you and I just don't seem to get along].  I've been wanting for a long time to actually "write" down how many I've made it through and how many I have sitting on shelves both here and in Memphis waiting to be read.

So, without further ado, the list:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens*
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott*
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare**
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez***
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth***
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens*
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac****
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville*
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens*
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett*
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens*
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle***
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

So there we go, that brings my grand total of books read to 25.  Hmm.  Not bad, I guess, but there is definitely room for improvement.

* is for books I read or partly read in elementary & middle school.  some of them I have completed, but don't necessarily recall in their entirety, so I'll re-read them [except Moby Dick - I don't think you can pay me enough to go down that road again] before proclaiming them as "read".
** is because I've read quite a few of Shakespeare's plays [although I can't figure out why Hamlet is listed separately], but obviously not all of them.  nor all of his poems.  seriously, who has, other than serious die-hard Shakespeare scholars?
*** is for books that I own but have not yet read.
**** is because I started On the Road but then someone - I have a feeling it was my brother - "borrowed" my copy while I was in the middle of it and never returned it, and then I got distracted and haven't gotten back around to reading it again.

Honestly, I have to admit there are a few that I've not even heard of, but I think I have my hands full just trying to get through the ones that I have.

How many of these have you read?  I'm curious to know how I stack up against friends who are also avid readers.  And how many of you have re-read books you read as a child/young adult?  What has your experience been like?

20 April 2011

the flood gates opened. into my house.

Yesterday, it rained.  I was ecstatic when I saw the dark clouds approaching, because it made my house so nice and cool.  And we needed rain - I don't think it had rained since January, and it looks as though monsoon may be late this year.  Around 5.20pm the rain started.  I had almost forgotten what a beautiful sound rain makes.  I simply sat for about 10 minutes just listening to sound of it and inhaling that wonderful fresh smell.

Then the power went out.  It usually does when it rains heavily, so it wasn't much of a surprise.  I got up to have a wander around to see how badly the house was leaking [our house is very poorly constructed and has a tendency to leak in random places].  And lo and behold, I found this:

[this is the terrace door. the door on the right is the bathroom. to the right corner are the steps up to the bedroom]
 Water was gushing in from my terrace, and I had no idea why.  Our house is badly built, but I didn't remember this ever happening when Amai and Kishore lived up here.  Luckily Amai called me about something, and when I mentioned what was happening to her, she said that it had happened once before when something had gotten lodged in the drain on the terrace.  So out I ventured into the pouring rain to see if that was the case.  And wouldn't you know, it was.  One of the rods from the drying rack had fallen off and gotten stuck exactly in the drain, so the water had nowhere to go.  I got the rod out and got the water flowing out properly and got myself ready for the task of cleaning up.

[those are the steps up to the bedroom. the sandals usually sit by the terrace door but got washed all the way inside]
 First, I had to scoop as much water out as I could using the mug from my bathroom.  Luckily the floor slopes a slight bit toward the door, so I just stationed myself there and got to work.  After about half an hour, I managed to have it looking like this:

[you might not be able to tell, but trust me, there was a difference. you can also kind of see how the floor slopes]
Then I armed myself with a bucket and a towel and set to work sopping up the rest and wringing it out into the bucket.  All of which I did by the light coming in from outside, because we still didn't have power.  It came back around 7.30, by which time I was mostly done.  Once I finished cleaning up this part, I had to tackle the bathroom, which had caught some of the overflow, after which I finally had a bath myself to scrub off all of the dirt and grime.

And yet, I still won't complain about the rain, because my house was so cool that by the time I slept I actually had to cover myself with a blanket.  First time in 3 months.

19 April 2011



Alex, the Admissions Director, called me this evening.  I was thinking it was a sort of "interview" and was mentally preparing myself for such.  Turns out he was calling to find out if I was still interested and to offer me a spot for the fall!  I guess sometimes it's lucky when your house floods and you're forced to cancel plans to stay home and clean it up.  [more to come on that later]

There will be lots of details to share in the coming weeks, but for now it's only this:

the desire to be fair.

You know how everyone in the US and Europe wants to be tan?  People in India want the opposite: to be fair.

I remember growing up how jealous all my classmates and friends always were of my skin tone.  By the time we were teenagers, most of them would spend summers laying out by the pool.  In the fall and spring, they would go to the tanning salon to get ready for Homecoming court and Prom.  Now it's even easier to get a tan without even laying out or going to the tanning salon - you can simply pick up a bottle of spray tan from your neighbourhood store and apply it as you wish.

In India, the desire is not to be darker but to be fairer.  Here, fair people are considered to be more beautiful, more desirable.  Many beauty companies have "whitening" creams on offer which employ a mix of chemicals to essentially bleach the colour out of your skin.  Every time I go to the parlour to get my upper lip threaded, the ladies there always ask me if I want to get my face bleached.  Me.  Now, even though I am considered tanned in the US, I'm quite fair here in Bangalore.  But apparently there is always room to make myself even whiter.

On one hand, you can't blame people.  The society here has made it this way.  Teachers and other children in schools shun children who are dark.  There are companies that hire only fair people.  All of the famous Hindi-language actors and actresses have fair skin.  Nearly all of the models and spokespeople on television are fair and are advertising for fairness creams.  One of my favourite actors did a fairness cream ad and completely ruined my opinion of him.

I'm sure it's a combination of where I grew up and how I was raised, but I don't understand the obsession with colour - and that goes both ways.  Maybe it's because I'm quite lucky in that I tan easily but also revert rather quickly back to my original colour.  But I am of the opinion that we are all born the colour we are supposed to be, and we should embrace it.

And I really, really wish they would stop showing ads for whitening products.  It's just not natural.

15 April 2011

cheerleaders in cricket.

My entire life growing up there was one constant in cricket - no cheerleaders.  There wasn't a need for them: tests and one-day matches are too slow-moving; cheerleaders would spend more time sitting around than jumping up and down and screaming.

But now, with the inclusion of 20-over matches into the game, cheerleaders suddenly seem to be everywhere.  The first time I saw them at a match was during the T20 Championships in 2007, and I was shocked.  Cricket is usually such a staid [read: occasionally boring, even I admit] sport that to suddenly have girls jumping around half-naked cheering for fours, sixes and wickets was a bit strange.

I know it is entirely a marketing strategy, as is the entire 20-over format, really.  The inclusion of the 20-over game into cricket is a gimmick to appeal to a wider fan base; people who find the longer formats too long and boring tend to get sucked into this much shorter version with its pageantry, pomp, and - yes - dancing girls.

After the popularity of the new format skyrocketed when India won that initial T20 Championship, the IPL [Indian Premier League] was born.  Eight teams playing a round-robin format with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals.  It was a chance for players from different countries to play together in the shortest form of the game, and it was also a chance to showcase up-and-coming Indian talent.  And of course, there were cheerleaders.  But the interesting part was this: they weren't using Indians.  All but one team [Chennai Super Kings] imported their cheerleaders from abroad, particularly from the US.  Vijay Mallya, owner of United Breweries and our very own Royal Challengers Bangalore, hired the Washington Redskins girls to be the cheerleaders for Bangalore in the inaugural edition back in 2008.

The fourth edition of the IPL is now underway, and I have to be honest: even after 3 years, the sight of cheerleaders in a cricket venue is still weird to me.  To suddenly have these girls jump up on stage and prance about when someone hits a six still makes me do a double-take.  They make appearances at parties and even star in the team videos to attract new fans.  And of course they do.  Do you know how many people will go to these matches to see the cheerleaders?  It's a bit depressing, really.

I know they're going to be around for the duration now, but I can honestly say I don't think this is something I'm going to get used to.  For me, cheerleaders and cricket just don't mix.

11 April 2011

i found out the real meaning of "indian summer".

it means hot.  brutally hot.

despite having grown up in Arkansas and having spent summers in India, I am not someone who handles hot weather well.  in that respect, my brother and I are exact opposites: he was born during a snowstorm and hates cold weather; I was born on one of the hottest days of 1983 and despise the heat.  for some reason, my body tends to heat up quickly and take a long time to cool down.

I managed to survive my childhood down South in part because there were escapes from the heat.  we had air-conditioning and overhead fans, and even though the summer days were boiling, most of the evenings were at least pleasant.  but here in Bangalore, at 7pm on a Monday night, it's still 31 degrees Celsius, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  and it's stuffy.

that's hot.  at least for me.

my argument for preferring cooler to cold weather is that when it's cold, you can always add layers to keep yourself warm.  but when it's hot, there is only so much clothing you can remove before it becomes indecent.  not to mention that in India, that limit is far higher than it is in the US.

for example:
on a day such as today - a 93 degree summer day - in Memphis I would roam around town in shorts or a skirt and a thin t-shirt or tank top.  no questions asked, no funny looks, no aunties looking at me like I'm cheap.  but in Bangalore, the rules change.  if I want to travel by bus and not get more than the normal quota of funny looks [because somehow, they all know that I'm not from around here], I have to wear either a long kurta and salwar pants or jeans and a t-shirt.  essentially, I have to be covered.  and it's really not fun to already be hot and sweaty and then be jammed in a crowded bus with lots of other sweaty, smelly Indians.  so that increases my body temperature even more.

my problem is confounded by the fact that my house is an oven.  I don't have an overhead fan in my bedroom, only a standing fan, which is slowly dying from overuse.  I've had to reconfigure my sleeping arrangement -- I now sleep slightly diagonally across the bed so as to have the fan hit as much of my body as possible.  I can't open the window because of the crazy amounts of mosquitoes that would swarm in, but it wouldn't be much of a breeze anyway [it's a poorly-placed miniature window].

and despite all of this, I still contend that Bangalore has one the best climates in India.  it's at least not too humid.  I can at least walk around my neighbourhood in shorts and a t-shirt.  I still get funny looks, but most of the people around here know me and don't bother.  it still has one of the milder summers and one of the cooler "winters".  plus there's nothing better than a proper grey monsoony-day in Bangalore.

I guess maybe it wouldn't affect me so much if the evenings were at least a bit cool.  I can handle a hot day if there is a pleasant evening to look forward to.  and I can handle most things if I can at least be cool when I'm trying to sleep.

and because I'm so smart, I've managed to schedule my year so that I get to experience summer fully in India before returning to the States in July and getting to experience 2 months of summer there as well.

well planned, Veen.  really.

07 April 2011

a new project.

Now that I'm down to 3 months left in Bangalore, I've been trying to think of ways to really make these last few months memorable.  I've planned a few trips here and there [it's been 5 and a half years, and I've still not seen Pondicherry], and of course there are always lots of birthdays happening, but I wanted to do something different to remember my days by.

Today, a thought struck me.  I'm going to take one picture every day of something new, something different, something I've probably looked at 800 times but never really seen.  Not just pictures of me and my friends on our various outings, although there will be some of those, but more so pictures of everyday Bangalore life that I tend to take for granted.

I'll upload some of the better pictures as and when I can, but it definitely won't be on a daily basis.  We all know I'm not that responsible and dedicated.  But I will try to post them as often as possible.  Eventually I might make a scrapbook, depending on how the pictures turn out.  Sort of a "90 Days in the Life", or something to that effect.  We'll see.  For now I'm excited about having a new project.

Wish me luck!

01 April 2011

an all-subcontinent final.

This is what it all comes down to.  After six weeks of runs, wickets, ties, incredible wins and excruciating losses, lots of nail-biting and Old Monk-consuming, a few questionable calls, some great catches, and lots of time sat on the bean bag in front of the television, it all comes down to this.

India v Sri Lanka.  in the final.

Not only is this the first all-subcontinent [or "all-Asian", as cricinfo is calling it] final, but India and Sri Lanka are also two of the hosts of the tournament.  India's run has been much sweeter because we beat Australia in the quarterfinals and Pakistan in the semis.

Of course, all of the fair-weather fans have come out to suddenly support India's campaign to win the whole tournament for the first time since 1983 [wonder what other great thing happened that year?].  All of a sudden everyone is proudly waving their flag and trying to talk about Sachin and Yuvraj and the controversy over the bowlers as though they know what they're talking about.  And we all know how I feel about fair-weather fans.  Reminds me of the mid-90s, when I would faithfully follow the Braves from Spring Training, and everyone who couldn't care one way or the other in the middle of May jumped on the bandwagon mid-September when it was clear they were going to win the NL East by leaps and bounds.  I know bandwagon-jumping is bound to happen in every sport, but I can't help but notice this happening year after year with these two teams.  When they struggle, everyone writes them off, saying they're all hype and no substance, all talk and no walk, all aggression and no subtlety.  And they'll slowly claw their way back to the top, and then everyone is a lifelong fanatic.  Drives me nuts.

But the match.  I can't remember exactly when was the last time we played Sri Lanka, but this match throws all the previous meetings out the window.  It's in Bombay, Sachin Tendulkar's hometown, in what could very well be - depending on the outcome of the match - his last match.  Our bowlers and fielders really stepped it up in the last match, cutting the heart out of Pakistan's comeback.  But Sri Lanka have been consistent, too.  This is also going to be Muralidaran's last match, and he'll be out for blood.  And their batting has been steady, steadier than our much-hyped lineup.  Our openers and top order are fine, but somewhere along the way, we just seem to be losing the thread.  I'm hoping they can sort that out by tomorrow.

Now the big question.  Where does one watch such a match?  Unfortunately most of my friends here aren't huge cricket fans, so that rules out a house party.  Watching sports in bars here is just not the same as it is in the States, mostly because people are uninterested and don't really understand the rules.  And I don't feel like sitting and explaining how the game is played during a match like this.  So instead, I'll be watching it in Goa.  Yes, that's right.  The final has coincided with a long weekend, so Prakash and I are off to Palolem.  At the moment, I can't think of anything better.

[and yes, I realize this weekend is also the Final Four.  and that VCU has come out of one of the play-in games to make it to Houston.  I realize what an incredible accomplishment that is, and I wish I could see it, but right now, in this moment, I'm glad I'm in India to experience this.  I'll watch March Madness next year]