the wonderful world of veena.

27 December 2012

30 thursdays: 30 favourite memories of 2012.

2012 certainly had its ups and downs, but as I think back on the year as a whole, I am reminded once again of how blessed I am and of what a great year I had overall. You'll find the highlights from my year below.

30 favourite memories of 2012 [in no particular order]:
  1. Catherine and Drew's wedding weekend extravaganza.
  2. Walker and Joe's wedding weekend extravaganza.
  3. best friend Mindy's visit to the Rock.
  4. seeing Arkansas win the Cotton Bowl [the lone positive highlight of Arkansas football in 2012].
  5. getting to see Chipper Jones play one last time.
  6. seeing the sun rise over the Himalayas.
  7. Catherine's bachelorette weekend in Miami.
  8. running my first 10k and surviving.
  9. spending Spring Break with the Mann siblings in London and Paris.
  10. exploring Kathmandu with the Jackalope.
  11. enjoying the wonders of ferris wheels, Stuck on a Truck, and deep fried Snickers bars at Toad Suck Daze with Dylan and Katie.
  12. bungee jumping in Nepal.
  13. Tom Petty and Regina Spektor concert.
  14. seeing Manganiyar Seduction, Big Scary, Jinja Safari, Bombay Bicycle Club and Delhi Sultanate [among others] at NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  15. introducing my brother to Bangalore.
  16. San Francisco weekend with Miriam and Dave and Chris and Christina.
  17. hanging out with the Peanut.
  18. meeting President Clinton.
  19. working on a project with Room to Read.
  20. exploring Bombay as an adult.
  21. being welcomed into the Rajbhandari family in Pokhara for 5 days.
  22. a new kind of family Christmas.
  23. my night as an extra on an ad shoot in Bombay.
  24. Goa weekend with the full jing-bang.
  25. seeing the lights of the Kathmandu Valley.
  26. the Veena and Sastri Biere Club Extravaganza of 2012.
  27. Coorg road trip with Shonali and Sanjeev.
  28. Friday adventures with the Erbach girls.
  29. lazy Sundays with Ang and Banj.
  30. half the year in the States, half the year on the subcontinent, with visits to London, Paris, and Nepal thrown in for good measure. I'd say that's a pretty good year.
I am trying to choose my 30 favourite pictures from the year for next week's final 2012 wrap-up, but it's proving to be a difficult task. We'll see how well I can pull it off between now and then.

Until then, hope everyone has a wonderful end to 2012 and a great start to 2013!

20 December 2012

30 thursdays: 30 christmas wishes.

It's hard to believe that Christmas is right around the corner, not just because this year has flown by, but also because it's still 30C / 85F degrees outside, and I am walking around in shorts. I'm trying to get myself into the Christmas spirit by watching my movies and listening to my music, but it's not going to be quite the same as it was last year.

For this week's installment, I would like to share with you my 30 Christmas wishes. Some are real things that I want, and some are idealistic things that I hope will happen one day during my lifetime. I'll allow you to figure out for yourself which is which.

30 Christmas wishes:
  1. the ability to beam myself places.
  2. equal education for all.
  3. a bottle of Gentleman Jack.
  4. a date with Ryan Gosling. or Clay Matthews. I'm not picky.
  5. a weekend getaway to the hills.
  6. to finally be able to unpack my suitcases.
  7. movie marathon day.
  8. 8 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
  9. 2 cans of Dr Pepper.
  10. a Senor Huey from Huey's; a Fireball of Freedom from Kwik Chek; fried chicken from Gus'; a #2 on wheat from Lenny's; any sub from Fino's; a pulled pork sandwich on Texas Toast with beans and fries from BBQ Shop; ribs from Rendezvous; bbq nachos and home chips with extra jalapenos from Central BBQ; and a cupcake from Muddy's to top it all off.
  11. a Clay Matthews jersey.
  12. one month of no responsibilities so I can travel without having to worry about assignments and emails and submissions and deadlines.
  13. to start running again. [yes, I realize this is more on me than anything else. I'm working on it. reuniting with my running shoes next week!]
  14. to have all of my friends in one place to celebrate together.
  15. a gift card to Barnes & Noble so I can download all the books on my to-read list.
  16. to go to a Packers game at Lambeau Field.
  17. Old Navy to open in India.
  18. a proper massage and facial.
  19. one day of "cold" weather in Bombay. one day. I don't think it's too much to ask.
  20. the Packers to win the Super Bowl and / or the Grizzlies to win the NBA Championship.
  21. to get IRB approval for my Capstone.
  22. to be able to convince one person in Bombay to partake in "24 hours of A Christmas Story" with me on Christmas Eve.
  23. to go two full days without having to even look at a spreadsheet.
  24. a gift voucher for a photography class in Bombay.
  25. to find my favourite lost earring.
  26. a good cutting of the hairs that doesn't cost a bomb. know of a good barber in Bombay? send him my way.
  27. my mother's spaghetti and homemade meatballs.
  28. to wake up and suddenly have a clean and furnished house.
  29. to play in the rain. [it's never going to snow here, so I'm hoping for rain instead]
  30. a hippopotamus.
I realize my list is completely scattered and random and rambling, but that's a bit like how my life has been for the last month or so, so it kind of fits. I don't really need anything for Christmas, but it wouldn't be Christmas without a little list for Santa to peruse.

Merry Christmas [5 days early] to all, and to all a good day / night!

18 December 2012

"is your heart really in it?"

The other night a good friend and I were generally chatting about a multitude of things, and eventually our conversation turned to work and the work-life balance. After a few minutes, he finally asked me about the work I am doing here in Bombay and said, "Honestly, is your heart really in it?" We had been discussing the craziness of the previous few weeks, and his question stumped me.

Is my heart really in it?

My gut reaction is to say, "Yes, obviously my heart is in the work that I'm doing." But then I sat for a minute and processed the question and had to admit, both to him and to myself, that it really hasn't been. That's not to say that I've not been doing my work, because I have. I believe very deeply in following through on work once I've given my word. But have I maybe slacked a bit here and there and not been as productive as I could have been? And to that I have to answer a resounding yes. Part of it is that I don't have regular work hours at the moment; part of it is that I didn't have my own place until last night [couch-surfing for 4 weeks, while enjoyable, is extremely exhausting]; and part of it is that I got swept up by the city and all it has to offer, by the multitude of friends to meet and catch up with, and by the number of people who have been in and out of town since I arrived 4 weeks ago.

So I decided to re-evaluate a few things and to re-prioritize my time. I came to Bombay to work on a project and to gain experience with an organization here, and while having friends in town and having so many things to do has been great, it's also been a distraction from why I'm really here. Now that I finally have a house and my work is picking up, hopefully all the rest will fall into place. Even though I can generally set my own working hours, I want to complete my work before 6pm whenever possible so that I don't end up working until 11pm like I did one night last week. Essentially, the slacking stops now.

And yes, I realize this is easier said than done. But I have to start somewhere.
Wish me luck.

14 December 2012

30 thursdays: 30 reasons I love living in Bombay.

I know I've been in Bombay just under 4 weeks, but I am once again infatuated with the city. As a child I loved flying into and out of Bombay when we visited India in the summers, and I will forever associate that initial smell of Bombay with my childhood. I am now getting to explore the city as an adult and am falling in love with it all over again. I'm sure the luster will wear off in a few weeks, so I shall share the reasons for my infatuation while they are still fresh in my mind.

And just in case you need to get in the Bombay mood to read this, my favourite passage from Shantaram that so perfectly sums up the city for me:

The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport. ... I know now that it's the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it's the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It's the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. It's the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. ... But whenever I return to Bombay, now, it's my first sense of the city - that smell, above all things - that welcomes me and tells me I've come home.
[thank you, Gregory David Roberts, for putting my memories into words]

and now, 30 reasons I love living in Bombay:
  1. being able to dress how I want to dress. it's such a freedom to be able to walk around in shorts or short skirts without getting stared at or told that you're dressed indecently. I for one cannot wear jeans when it's 30 / 85 degrees outside.
  2. being near the sea. it's so nice to live close to the water again. I grew up on the banks of the Mississippi, went to boarding school overlooking the Tennessee, and did my undergrad near the Mississippi again. last year I saw the Arkansas River on a daily basis and never before realized how much I crave living near water of some kind.
  3. re-connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. in the last few years a number of my friends have shifted to Bombay for one reason or another, which means that there is an awesome group of people to hang out with and to introduce me to other fun people. being such a big city, it's really nice to have a solid group of people who are looking out for me and who are always up for a drink or who offer a couch or bed while Saranya and I sort out a place to stay. in addition, I keep finding out that various friends-of-friends are here, and they are all also always up for wandering the city together.
  4. restaurants and pubs that stay open until 1am. no more last orders at 10.20pm for this girl.
  5. the auto drivers. they don't try to rip me off [even with the accent and horrible attempts at speaking Hindi], they will almost always agree to take me where I need to go [main exceptions are when traveling from west-to-east or vice versa], they're honest with the meter, and they never crib about giving change.
  6. the availability of autos at any time of day or night. 11.45pm and you need to get from Bandra to Andheri? no problem. and if they drop you by 11.59, they won't ask for extra fare.
  7. navigating the local trains. it can become a bit crazy if you're not careful, but generally it's a fun adventure and is super cheap. those 30km from Andheri to Churchgate? it'll cost you about rs.30. you can't beat that.
  8. being able to walk home from a club by myself at 1am [to be fair, it was about 500m from door-to-door, but it was such a feeling of freedom].
  9. the never-ending variety of restaurants and pubs to visit. I have to admit, going to the same 4 places over and over in Bangalore can be a bit mind-frying, and although I've already been to both Toto's and Woodside numerous times in the short time that I've been here, I've also been to a number of other places. there is no shortage of places to eat or drink in this city.
  10. the possibility of random celebrity sightings. I've not seen any major ones as yet, but last week we ran into a guy Kirti had worked with on Talaash. that was pretty cool.
  11. the variety of restaurants that will deliver any kind of cuisine right to your doorstep at any time of day or night. craving butter chicken at midnight? I know a guy who will get it to you in about half an hour, and you don't even have to set foot outside. it's amazing.
  12. in the same vein, the shops that will deliver everything from vegetables to bread and eggs to alcohol to cigarettes to whatever-your-heart-desires whenever you want it. while it encourages a bit of laziness, it's also nice to not have to go to eight different places to pick up all the things you need.
  13. board game night. I've not been able to go as yet, but it sounds super fun. and I generally just love that there are events like this constantly happening.
  14. learning my way around a new city. it's always a bit intimidating at first, especially with a city as spread out and as complicated as Bombay, but I'm slowly getting there. I have pretty much memorized the route from Andheri to Bandra, and my navigational skills will only improve once Saranya and I shift to our place in Lower Parel [this weekend, fingers crossed!].
  15. the influx of visitors. one of Norten's friends was here a few weeks ago, Sastri came to town last weekend, Manas was here over the week, Nithya is heading here this weekend, and Shonali is coming for an extended stay in Jan. on top of that, there's always the possibility Rob will head down here for a weekend at some point, my mum is coming in mid-Jan, and hopefully Alex will show his pretty face around the end of Jan. with all of these fun happenings, it's a wonder I get any work done. it seems like there's always someone in Bombay for something or the other, and thus far it's been super fun.
  16. movies, movies, everywhere. there's something about living in India's Film City - and hanging out with people who work for production companies, probably - that really makes you want to go to the cinema, and in Bombay, there's always one right around the corner. this is an awesome time of the year as well, as there are a ton of English and Hindi releases coming out in the next few weeks, so let's see how many I can fit in while I'm in the city.
  17. men who respect the ladies' cars on the local trains. it's so nice to not have to kick men out of designated ladies' seats. while I might feel nostalgic for it from time-to-time, I would much rather have it this way.
  18. becoming a regular in less than a month. the shopkeepers in Andheri recognize me, the watchmen at Kishor Darshan salute me and have full conversations with me [that I don't understand] whenever I'm coming and going, and the guys at Toto's already know my order. that kind of recognition always makes a new place feel that much more like home.
  19. double-decker bus sightings. when my brother and I were kids, we used to have competitions to see who could spot the most number of double-decker buses whenever we were traveling around the city [as you can imagine, there aren't a whole lot of double-deckers in Helena, AR]. the city has been phasing them out a bit over the years, so it's much more rare to see one today than it was 20 years ago, and I always get a little thrill whenever I manage to spot one on the road.
  20. vada pav. it's unlike anything you've ever tried before.
  21. being able to walk places. for being such a large, spread-out city, Bombay is surprisingly walkable. I know I've been lucky in that many of the places I've gone have been in close proximity to railway stations or to friends' houses, but it's still really nice to be able to walk from time-to-time and not being wholly reliant on autos to get me places. thank you, Google Maps, for helping me find my way around [no, I've not updated my OS on my phone. just heard Apple has gone back to Google Maps, so maybe I'll get around to doing that one of these days]
  22. getting to do things I'd never be able to do anywhere else. a few weeks ago, I was an extra at an ad shoot in town. it was kind of a pipe dream, and it definitely would not have happened anywhere else. and I'm sure there will be a few more random opportunities that crop up between now and February.
  23. finding affordable housing. everyone will tell you that Bombay is an expensive city to live in, and it's true. through sheer good luck, Saranya managed to find a place to stay in a nice area for a very reasonable price, and I am so thankful. housing was very likely going to be my greatest expense during my stay here, but I think I might be able to use that money for other ventures instead, which is awesome.
  24. getting to work with a new organization. so far I have helped Sujaya develop an evaluation test for their centers and have administered said test in one of the centers. we are also working on computerizing the test and will be administering it in another center next week. it's been really interesting getting to see how another organization is run, meeting all the people who work and volunteer with them, and working on a new project.
  25. playing tourist. Bombay's got a ton of interesting sights to visit, and I am looking forward to exploring as many of them as possible between now and mid-Feb.
  26. the overall safety of the city. after my two weeks in Delhi in October, I was feeling a bit hesitant about coming to Bombay, but the cities are worlds apart. I feel safer here than even in Bangalore at times, which is a really nice feeling.
  27. street food at 1 in the morning. it really is awesome.
  28. neighbours who don't complain - overly much - about noise. yes, we've gotten a few complaints about loud music, but it was warranted on those nights [and those neighbours are a bit obnoxious anyway]. for the most part we've had music on nearly every night without hearing a peep from the neighbours. when you're living practically on top of each other, it's nice to give each other a little space like that.
  29. the general atmosphere. I felt myself becoming very lazy in Bangalore; it's very easy to do so when you've lived in a place for a certain amount of time and start to feel like you've seen and done nearly everything. but in Bombay, there's always something happening, and knowing that I'm only here for a few months encourages me to get out and see and do as much as I can in the time that I have allotted. it's led to a number of sleepless nights, sure, but it's worth it to know that I'm living these months to the max.
  30. finally fulfilling a childhood dream. from the time I was a child, I have wanted to spend an extended amount of time in Bombay. that desire has only grown as I've gotten older, and for the past few years I've really been wanting to spend some time here as an adult, and finally I have made it happen and am literally living my dream.
It's a fantastic city, to be sure, and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience it at some point in their lives.

05 December 2012

veena's 20 greatest sports movies of all time.

Well I was obviously not going to pass this one up. I can never get enough of sports movies, so whenever someone posts their opinion on the greatest sports movies of all time, I am always ready with a list of my own. While I concur with a number of the movies on this particular list, I will admit that I've not seen all of them. Also, it's not that I don't necessarily agree with some of the choices, it's more that there are others I have on my personal list that do not appear on this one. So, without further ado, here are what I think are the 20 greatest sports movies ever. Agree with me, judge me, do what you want. This is strictly my opinion.

In no particular order other than these are the order in which they popped into my head:
  1. The Natural
  2. Field of Dreams
  3. Miracle
  4. Rudy
  5. Friday Night Lights
  6. Rocky
  7. Raging Bull
  8. Hoosiers
  9. Coach Carter
  10. Remember the Titans
  11. Moneyball
  12. The Mighty Ducks
  13. A League of Their Own
  14. The Sandlot
  15. Hoop Dreams
  16. Glory Road
  17. Bull Durham
  18. The Bad News Bears [the original. obviously]
  19. Major League
  20. Brian's Song
And now I'm in the mood for a sports movie marathon. Who's in?

04 December 2012

the best big brother in the world.

It's that time of year again, the day where I get to brag about how I have the best big brother in the history of big brothers.

That's right, folks: today is brother bear's birthday, so please join me in wishing him the happiest of days.

For those of you who don't know, my brother is my hero, my idol, my partner-in-crime, the one who taught me to play sports, the one who taught me to climb stairs, the one who looks after my fantasy basketball team when I don't have regular access to the interwebs, the one who knows all of my dirty secrets and for some reason loves me anyway. He has always been and continues to be my rock, my biggest supporter and my greatest critic, my strength, and the person I turn to whenever I need a comforting word or a kick in the ass. He doesn't give himself enough credit, but he is smarter and works harder than most people I know. From the cute little boy in the pictures below, he has grown into a handsome, smart, generous, loving, funny, kind man, and I am so incredibly lucky to be able to call him my big brother.

He can drive me crazy sometimes, but in all the years I've known him, he's never let me down.
So Happy Birthday, brother bear! I hope this next year is the best one yet.
[for anyone in the Bombay area, we'll be celebrating with scotch in his honour tonight. come join]

01 December 2012

december already?

I suddenly looked up this morning [ok, afternoon, by the time I rolled out of bed] and realized that it's the 1st of December. My brother's birthday month, the final buildup to Christmas, the last month of the year. And I thought back to the beginning of the year, when I said I don't make yearly resolutions but would set myself monthly goals over the course of the year. And lo and behold, my attention got diverted from even that, and I lost track of that once I was back on the subcontinent.

So here I am, attempting to wrap up the year in style by setting myself a few goals to close out 2012. It's been a crazy roller coaster of a year, and I think having a few goals for the final month will put me in a good frame of mind to enter 2013. They are as follows:

get into a proper routine. my first few weeks in Bombay have been a mish-mash of going out, meeting friends, meetings with my Capstone supervisor, traversing the city, moving from couch to couch, and generally having a good time and sleeping very little. while it's been a blast, I have not had a proper routine in nearly 2 months, and it's taking its toll. I need to get myself back into a routine of working during normal hours and not going out every night and - most importantly - sleeping an adequate number of hours each night, especially during the week. my project should be solidifying soon, which will help, and I think the novelty of being in a new city and meeting friends every day will wear off soon, so that will get my mind straightened out again. we shall see.

begin exercising in some capacity. my running shoes are currently stranded in Bangalore, and I won't be able to get them until either the end of this month or the beginning of January, so I won't be able to run again for a while, but I do want to at least start walking or something a few times a week. no exercise has also been a big contributor to my all-over-the-place lifestyle, and I hope picking that up again will help settle my mind.

read for 20 minutes every day. I was in such a good reading routine while I was in Nepal and Delhi, but I got out of it the last few weeks in Bangalore because I was in and out of town so much. I've not really gotten back into the habit since being in Bombay [read the above regarding going out every night], and I really miss it. I don't care if it's in the morning, on the train to work, or before I sleep; all I know is I want and need to get back into the habit of reading every day.

So those are my goals for December. My thinking is that ending the year by focusing on myself will start the new year off on a good foot and make 2013 a kickass year.

Wish me luck.