Monday, December 30, 2013

The India Hangover

The evening sun in Mumbai

You know that growing sense of badly suppressed excitement before an India trip? Well, I used to know it- what seems like but is not- ages ago. 

It used to start many months before the actual trip- when I decide the trip dates and start looking for flights. Being an obsessive spreadsheet-maker I would narrow down costs and options into a table and finally narrow down on one. You can hear my heart thump slowly, like the sound of feet before a long run. In a few weeks, however, those drums would be drowned by the din of everyday life. Deadlines, weekend plans, grocery lists.

Then, one fine day about a month before the trip, I would suddenly remember "Oh, I am going to India in a month!". Those beats would begin again faintly in the background. Slowly yet steadily growing louder.
About two weeks before the actual trip, I would realize I haven't done the gift shopping yet. And I have only one weekend. I would make a list of things to get, and kill myself running across the city in that one weekend. Sometimes, I would also be ripped off by the Amazon shipping costs. 

The next few days would be a race between me and all my to-do lists. Pending bug fix, check. Collected gift package from leasing office, check. I-20 signature- oh hell, I forgot that... and so on. And in those rare minutes I catch myself thinking, I would feel the impatience. 48 more hours to board the flight. And 26 hours after that. Why can't I be home sooner?

Then D-Day would arrive and I would do all the last minute packing and re-checking that I locked my place and finally reach the airport. Oh hell, forgot my ipod charger. But that would appear minor compared to the prospect of going home. The drums would be audible again. Playing an interesting beat, almost like a folk song. And as I feel the airplane engines rev up and leave the ground I would hear the drums being accompanied by a full blown orchestra- "I am going home." To people I love...

I call this whole process the pre-India-trip-build-up. Sometimes accompanied by the sudden sense of nostalgia, it makes me wonder if Cheran's (of "Autograph" fame) spirit is somehow haunting me..

Guess what, I don't know that feeling anymore. This time I went through the charade of spreadsheets and to-do lists and gift buying. But no drums. When I got into my flight in SFO, I fell asleep almost instantaneously.  In fact, during my layover at the London airport I was just bored and counting the minutes before I could sleep on a comfortable bed.

Not to say I was not looking forward to the India trip. With my newfound interest in photography I had huge plans of taking beautiful "bringing-out-the-colors" pictures of bangle stores and smiling old ladies with huge nose-rings. And sunsets on dusty roads and crowded markets. You get the drift. And I WAS looking forward to meeting my family and friends. Maybe the little music director in my head was on a vacation. (This reminds me of the homunculus argument! But I digress... ) But somehow, the excitement I usually have for going home was just a little dim..

(To be continued...)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tooth fairies, fantasy and dasavatharam

I know I haven't been writing for a while. Blame it on a super hectic month followed by an India trip followed by an even more hectic month and then the holiday season. Anyway, I wrote this post before leaving for India, but couldn't get around to putting it up. So here it is.. Also, hope to write about the India trip soon.. We'll see when I get around to doing that..

I read this post on Hallucinations about a conversation between 2 six year olds about tooth fairies- one girl knows they do not exist and the other doesn't. It made me wonder what I really thought about fairies and stuff when I was a kid. Very early in life, my mom told me Santa Claus was just someone I know dressed up with a fake beard. And my dad told me that the people you watch on TV are just acting (that was because I would get way too depressed seeing characters die or get hurt on TV!). I remember reading way too much Enid Blyton (I think I read everything from the Red story book to the Book of pixies) and trying to imagine that my toys could talk at night. It was fun to imagine, but even then I knew it wasn't true.

The fantastic things I truly believed in then were quite mundane. Like the fact that there is a supernatural power watching your every move and waiting to restore the balance in the world. Or that good begets good. That if you keep hoping, everything will turn out alright. They are nice to believe in as a kid. Sometimes, even as an adult. It is nice to do your part and assume that "there is somebody who made you and cares for you, and who will help you if you do the best of what you can".
But as I grew older, I decided that these ideas were as fantastic as the idea that tooth fairies exist. That the reason to do the right thing is not because you will be rewarded in the end, but because the doing is itself the reward.
Funnily though, I admit that the made up sentences(or ideas) work. Telling yourself not to give up because all that hard work has gotta pay back does give you enough confidence to last the last mile. (You see what I did there? :P) When you have been back-stabbed or are generally cynical, telling yourself that good begets good motivates you to go on doing good. So you see, even though I think these sentences are made up, I use them all the time. 

Then, the truly amazing thing about all this is not the fact that I realized as I grew up that these ideas are made up, but how these conflicting ideas can co-exist in my head (and in the head of the kid about whom that author was writing). I can drown hours in imagination, I can tell myself confidently that it will all work out in the end. And yet I know these are just sentences I am making up. (To some people, this might smell of hypocrisy. But maybe I will write about my justification for it some other time).Anyway, that reminds me of the Tamil movie Dasavatharam. There is this conversation in the end which beautifully sums up all I have to say about the co-existence of rationality and fantasy.

The translation goes this way-
Asin: Why do you say there is no God?
Kamal: I am not saying that God does not exist. I am just saying it would be wonderful if he did.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Write your own sensational newspaper article

By now you have probably heard the outrage/mockery about the article in "The Hindu" about a false doctorate claim.

Click here to skip to article generator.

(If you haven't, it's good for you. You are possibly doing better things in life than reading stupid viral articles. Here is a recap for your benefit: A few days ago, The Hindu published an article about a boy who "has arrears in engineering, but a PhD in physics". The story went on to talk about how this person had to choose engineering because of parental pressure, and how he spends his time doing physics research and was ultimately recognized by a UC-Berkeley professor with an on-the-spot doctorate. Naturally, most people on the internet shared it because "the Indian education system is so lousy".
And then an amazing person wrote a letter to The Hindu saying most of the claims in the article were false and they shouldn't have published it without verifying them, forcing them to actually verify the claims and The Hindu had to publish a retraction. Of course, now other people shared this piece because "the Indian media is so stupid")

Meanwhile, I got inspired by Mr.Gunturi to publish some research of my own. After having read many articles in the Hindu's Education Plus and main paper, I think I can automate the process of writing an education-related piece. I already published this piece in the Brazilian Journalism Research journal and they awarded me with a honorary doctorate in journalism, even though journals do not usually confer doctorates. (It is on its way, I will update the image once I receive it.) I have also submitted some part of my research to the "Case Studies in Strategic Communication" journal of the University of South California. They accepted my paper without review because it was so awesome like that!

Having achieved all this in such a short span of time, I decided to share my knowledge with the mere mortals on the internet who usually have to do actual research before getting their doctorates.

So, here is an excerpt from my paper:
(Yes, I have cleverly not put in the actual body of the paper. Because THAT isn't important for publishing this article in a newspaper or making it viral anyway.)

Oh, and here is a mini version of my algorithm for generating a newspaper article for The Hindu education sections. Use the drop-down menus to generate your own:

Our sensational eye-grabbing title shall be:

The student's name (note the scope for diversity or emotional spin-offs here. Also scope for Shah Rukh Khan movies. These options not included in the demo.):

The student in question studies in the premiere institution called:

He was forced to pick this field of engineering,

even though he was obviously interested in a different field of research. After the achievement, he was too busy giving interviews to popular newspapers to comment, but the author still decided to claim he said something of this sort :

His/Her father who is a

has to say something like this about his achievement (with tears in his eyes):

This professor from NIT, Trichy (Yes, it's an insider joke. Sorry but it was too much of a temptation to resist)

commented something about

(Note: If some parts of the article confuse you, you might want to look at this.
Also, this piece was inspired by the Chetan Bhagat Plot generator at Coconut Chutney)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Let them be

(Statutory warning: This is one of the posts that I warned you about on the other page. Long and serious- so if you don't have the stomach for it, go eat a doughnut instead.)

The day I wrote this Today (I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago, but never got around to publishing it), I was reading an article about women and forced parenthood when I came across a line that sums up pretty much 90% of my beliefs. I suddenly realized I have never written about my core philosophy so I thought this is a good time to write it down. I am sorry if it ends up sounding like I am moralizing or advising- by the very nature of this philosophy, I can't be.

The idea is:
"People are different and need different things. Society (and we, as a part of it) should support this premise without judging them on it. But only as long as their 'needs' don't harm other human beings".

To me that much is obvious. But just to explain, think about what you would do in the following scenarios..

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The rat race of fun and the meaning of life

You can get this on a T-shirt there.

You know how people say you must live for yourself- live by your own standards, don't worry what people say, stick to your principles blah de blah. By now you probably know I am quite the supporter of that ideology. It's your life and you get only one chance at it etc.

That being said, it is quite hard to actually stick to it. Especially in this day and age. (I am sure millions have said the same thing about their day and age, but anyway.) There are too many things available for us to do, travel is a lot more affordable and convenient, more activities are open to people, and above all information about everything is at your fingertip, quite literally. As an obvious consequence, there is too much of a competition to DO things.

"Oh, you went to Yosemite this weekend, I flew to this obscure mountain village and drank this amazing drink they make out of trees that only grow in that region. It's a once in a lifetime thing. Everyone must totally do it." Gone are the days when I could just watch the Sun TV Top 10 movies on Sunday morning and think that my weekend was done.

The worst part is that I didn't even realize I was caught in it till I read this article. Unknowingly, subconsciously, I had joined the rat race of "fun". Which wasn't half as much about fun as about posting your pictures on Instagram. Unknowingly I began to think of weekends as lists of things to complete and places to visit rather than plain sleeping time.

Anyway, reading that article made me realize that the things I want are really simple- like looking at the stars, taking walks in the morning, and of course, popping bubble wrap. They involve almost no money and yet are priceless. They may mean nothing to most people, but so what.

So, I decided to write this note to self, just so I don't forget: 

Remember bubble wrap. That's all there is to the meaning of life.

(Oh, and now that I have found mine, good luck finding yours! :) )

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Those kids in Besant Nagar

Eliot's beach: In all it's glory. And dirt.

(This is in reply to this post on Indian Express and will make much more sense if you read that post first. )
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be mostly humor and an alternate viewpoint, no offense to the author of the post I am replying to or any Chennai-ite. Also, I used to be a Chennai-ite myself, and am still unable to call any other city "home". I do not mean to say that Chennai is more unsafe than any other city but I disagree with the fact that it is not unsafe. Nor do I mean that Chennai is worse than any other city, just that there is more to it than the surface.

Every girl in the world ought to grow up in a city like this, one that doesn't frighten her anymore, because she is too numb by now.

For a reason that is obvious to anyone who knows me, I often say that I am from Chennai- because though I didn't always live there and wasn't even born there, I am of this city. I often say that this city belongs to me, though of course real estate agents and politicians will tell you otherwise. I imagine that I always knew these streets, that they were never new to me- which is ridiculous because they were indeed new to me when I was 3 or 4. I imagine that I've never gotten lost, that I always knew where I was going- something even more ridiculous considering I usually stumble when an interviewer asks "Where do you see yourself 5 minutes from now?"

I first came to Chennai when it was Madras (and it always shall be, to me) and I was the youngest 6-month old in the world. Of course, 5-month olds were younger than me. I grew to be young and ridiculous like only little girls can be. And young girls. And women. And men. Strike that out. I think most young people ARE ridiculous anyway. I never lived in a hostel in Madras, but you couldn't tell the difference. I was hidden away with my brother at home, where I had to be back from the playground by 7, even though the playground was visible from our balcony. Where I used to wonder why the auto-driver who dropped my friend to school made unnecessary, uncomfortably prolonged eye contact that somehow made my skin crawl, even at 7. Where my mother would panic about her daughter's safety if I returned 15 minutes late from the nearby stationery store. She never told me why, she never told herself why I guess, but Madras was still part of India.
My life was mostly between school and home, and then paatu class and home, of course escorted by someone. The one time I travelled the 500 feet between home and paatu class wearing an imported knee-length skirt that some America-settled cousin had gifted, 2 stranger aunties stopped me to advise. And one old lady actually yelled at me for being a bad girl and not following our culture, a phrase I got to hear far too often in later years. I had been 10 then.
I don't know how your friends were decided upon in those days. If you ask me, I'd say with no rhyme or reason. We played hide-and-seek and lock-and-key and paandi and an obscure game called Fruit's cut with people whose names we would forget the next day. And yet, the most unlikely of friendships would spring up between such playmates. With the intricate politics that I then thought only children are capable of.

Girls like me who were nerds and bookworms, girls who weren't. Girls who were the best pick of Antakshari teams, girls who were great at getting tenth-standard-akka-anna gossip. Boys who would pull our pigtails, boys who wouldn't. Boys who we kicked under the bench when they annoyed us, boys who kicked us back. We all became friends. We laughed together and borrowed each others' pen-pencils and boasted about our latest fancy water-bottles, not knowing that these uninhibited conversations would not last forever.
And together we learned about this city. We walked uncertain, in large groups, ran across L.B.Road not holding hands, clung to the handrails as we took the 29C, learned how to not notice what those annas were saying, though we probably would not have understood if we had listened- we just knew they weren't right. We laughed at the girls who put on Peter-accents, and learned to get scandalized about boys and girls talking. Or standing alone. Or looking at each other. We learned to denounce people who drink, people who did "only" an arts degree instead of engineering, pretty much people. We learned that being a vegetarian made you "pure" and that you must always eat well before you visit a relative, especially if they are richer. We learned the infinite acting that adults do- games against people, games against games, vicious hatred beneath benevolent smiles.
We ate whatever we wanted and some of us grew fat and hated ourselves for it. But not as much as we hated those of us who ate and did not grow fat.

We shopped for Dairy Milk and Lacto King in corner potti-kadais and begged our parents to let us go watch My Dear Kutti Chaathan by ourselves. We ended up going with 2 adults as escorts. And when a group of us decided to go watch King-Kong by the time I was 18, we knew better not to dare look at the hooting boys that would lurk in the dark of the theatres. We had been taught love was a bad thing often enough not to dare fall in love in these streets or have our hearts broken. We watched the Adyar signal's face marred with a fly-over, watched Singapore Shoppe close and thought the world was over.
We all have images in our head that only grow sweeter with time, but some that always send a chill down our spines. For me, it is the memory of my walk to Eliots which I did so often I don't know which day I am thinking of. It is possibly the time I knew I was leaving Madras to go to college. All I wanted that day was to stand at the shore, let the humid air wash over me like the water washed my feet and silently talk to the Bay of Bengal. Silence? Did I say silence? I hadn't known what it was then. Madras is never silent. The memory is still fresh and I can almost see the creepy old man walk by- and though he meant no harm, Madras had taught me to be scared of anything and anyone who was not educated, white-and-white class. He did nothing, said nothing, but the fear still tingled my spine. The chill today is not because of the man, but because of the fear I felt then. The number of times aunties worried about me walking back home after dark, the number of subtle sentences they said about school-van drivers and shopkeepers being dangerous without quite explaining how or why- nothing could frustrate a curious young happy girl more- had all instilled a nameless fear of the new in me. Something I took very long to outgrow.

I also remember the number of neighbours who judged us on wearing jeans instead of frocks or cutting my hair short. I remember the time when we were watching a cartoon movie and my friend's mother walked in during a bad scene (the cartoon bunny was kissing a cartoon girl-bunny), her anger reaching catastrophic levels as we small children cursed ourselves for not changing the channel fast enough.

Today, when I return to Madras in my head, I am happy in a way that makes sense- the city has grown and matured into Chennai. I am happy that the traffic jams are not half as bad as Bangalore or Mumbai, and happy to see the fewer uptight stares at girls in shorts. I hear people speaking Tamil and being nice to each other in their typical friendly, hypocritical way and I could burst into tears of joy. I miss the double standards and undercurrent of things never said, as much as most typical authors miss Idly and filter coffee.
I am reminded of the naive girl I once was and all the things I thankfully will never be, because I got out and saw a little of the world and learned to laugh at myself without taking offence. I wish every girl in the world could grow up in a city like this- that teaches her the complexity of human thought so early in life, that teaches her management-school-level-hypocritical-networking so early it becomes part of her system. A city that doesn't frighten her, because by now she is cautious and numb. That makes her feel like all of this, this business of life is something we will get better at deceiving.
When you are young in Madras, the sun is always shining down on you at 36-42 degrees Celcius and the sea breeze somehow always finds a way to irritate your sticky sweaty skin. It is not hard to imagine that this is how life will always be. That you will always be with your friends laughing, jam-packed in an auto and believing that what you know is the end of the world. That there always will be a cheerful, infectious syncopated beat playing in the background, along with aachaaramana maamis who are offended by their servant maid's daughter accidentally touching them, and who believe that a girl with a period is worse than a human being. That at no point in time do smiling people in colour co-ordinated outfits start dancing around us except in a movie.

That there are different ways to look at the same thing. Always.


Edit 1: After one of my friends mentioned, I realized what was not quite right about my post. I was saying "Chennai" in places where I really meant Madras. Corrected. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

That surreal stroll

In the early hours before dawn,
When the world seems to be holding its breath and
waiting, waiting with pinkish grey skies
yet more beautiful than the miracle its waiting for...

I walk along this solitary lane,
the moon glowing away on one side
and the light breaking at the horizon,
listening silently to my heart's music..

I think of the beautiful moments in my life,
Catching the sunset on the silent shore
Chasing the moonlight till my eyes sore
People. Places. Words. And some more.

I think of you and the long conversations
The world that seems rosy in your presence
Flowers, spring, rainbows, sunshine.
And yet all we have are our thoughts
And that precious space where your mind meets mine.

I'm half asleep, the air's a tad cold.
But I walk on, with your ideas like a hand to hold.
Trying to preserve this moment in my head
To look back on a day when we shall be old;

I know on that day we shall not remember
We shall walk on- just another couple
vanishing in the anonymity of life-
dying but not dying, like a piece of ember.

The jarring noise of familiarity
Would choke that space we treasure now
And then we would wonder how
we ever thought we knew love.

Yes, some day we shall grow old
and the magic will be gone
The flowers would droop, the rainbows will vanish
And it would be dawn.

But maybe it doesn't matter
that this treasured moment doesn't last-
We may forget and we may breed contempt
We may move out of the past-

Just to know I had this minute
- this sacred moment before dawn
when I was waiting in excited pleasure
contentment. joy. desire.

That life had given me this one instant
that the ennui cannot snatch away
That I could feel the magic of love
the idealistic romance that poets say

Just to know I had this minute
it does not matter what price the future demands
Just to have known this surreal headiness
it does not matter that there will be dawns..

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Oh, I have too much work yaar!"

It's unbelievable that exactly a year ago, I was battling 3 courses for grade, 1 on unregistered audit and an RA. And one of the graded courses had 2 sections, both of which I attended because the lectures had a different emphasis in each. So you see why I said battling. Though I still found time to ping some friends, watch Jon Stewart almost regularly and Skype for an hour in the morning and night on an average, life was mostly a long unending race of deadlines and GNU debug.. 

Admittedly, I didn't do a thesis. Maybe I should have. 

In contrast, life today is a breeze. A cakewalk. "Plum" as we used to call it in third grade.

Now you might think I am boasting. I am not.*  I brought this up because now that I am back on a job, I hear people say "Oh I have too much work yaar" or "I am too busy" more often.  Oh, wait. I meant people saying this more often, unjustifiably. Especially in response to innocuous greetings like "Hey! What's up?" (When some grad students said this, it was an understatement. When people at my office say this, I know it's something bigger than hyperbole.) Let me explain.

Most industry jobs are not particularly killing. You use your brain alright, but (unless you are in a research division or a startup) they don't need you to key in more than 40 hours per week. (Even 40 is a lot, but at least that's what you are paid for.) Nor are they rocket science. 
In fact, they are mostly easy and just challenging enough to keep you interested- BY DESIGN. Think about it. If your job were super-complicated and you decided to quit, your company will have to shut down. That almost never happens. And it doesn't happen because companies are DESIGNED to be successful even if a few (not all) of their best employees leave. So, while this might hurt or be bitter- the job you (and I) are doing is very much normal, unsophisticated and anyone with an average intelligence can be trained to do it.

This being the case, why do people often say they have too much work? Mostly because everyone else does it. It seems like if you said you didn't have much work, people would think you are slacking off. It is the same reason people pretend to be looking at an xterm every time you walk into their office. It's mostly just a way to up themselves. (Of course, someone might say they are too busy just to avoid you, but that's for another day.) 

So, when I hear someone say "they have too much to do" every single workday, if I were to believe them, I'd infer one of the following:
  1. They are lousy at their job and need too much time to do it.
  2. They are very unproductive and need too much time to finish their work because they are wasting their time on useless tasks and facebook, but somehow counting it as "work".
  3. They are very inefficient and solve problems in roundabout manners, thus taking more time.
  4. They are very poor at organizing their work and do not know how to find time for other things.
  5. They are losers who do not have an active enough brain to have a work-life balance.

Ok. Like everything else, there are exceptions. There are "crunch-time"s (and "dungeons" in Intel parlance) when you really are "busy". And there are the few of you who actually have enough career growth to show for your work. But as I said, they are 'exceptions'. "Wait", you say, "What if I love my job so much I want to do nothing else?". Well, you almost had me stumped there, but no. If you love your job AND work too hard AND didn't grow it's time you worked on your soft skills. Did I mention organization?
So, with no offence to anyone who ever said this to me- if you cannot find time to take a break or eat lunch or talk to your friends in the weekend because "you have too much work", a) remember what you said makes me think much lesser of you b) you are probably wasting your time and/or are in the wrong job.

Now those of you who I forgot to ping/respond to, forget I ever wrote this post! :P And I was being busy. I said busy.

Edit 1: It's sometimes haunting when you find someone else wrote almost exactly the same thing you did, and worse, around the same time. Few days after I wrote this, I found an HBR post which is along the same lines as this post here.
* I know too many people who can do too much more with their time, I am almost humiliated when I list this because this is all I did with my time.
**Numbers based on hardware/semiconductor industry. Might vary a lot based on your line of work and country of work.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The bittersweet lingering of filter coffee in my tongue
and the incessant noises of a hot humid Indian city
are all I remember of our first meeting-
the other memories washed away
by the dirt and grime
of daily life.

For long I had not noticed you enough
to even take you for granted.
But unknowingly I searched
for you in song after
song, in vain.

And many years later, our love rediscovered
you stood before me like Lord Krishna*-
your innumerable faces glowing
with inexplicable grace.

I had thought you were a mere construct,
To force order in the random, to impose
the strict boredom of regularity.

But now I stand before your infinite greatness
unbounded by notes but binding.

Today, I discover you as the universe-enveloping



  1. This poem is about my discovery of the beauty of raga(m)s in Carnatic music. Of course, I am treating the concept of raga(m) as one entity here, which might be arguable. But in tribute to her beauty (or should I say their?), I have tried a new rhythm/meter :)
  2. I dedicate this poem to the many many teachers who have tried to force some essence of music into my unrelenting head. Especially one of them who taught me enough to inspire this poem and who played a major part in my experience of the beauty I just mentioned. Thank you!
  3. *The reference to Lord Krishna is the scene where he takes vishwaroopa(m) in front of Arjuna on the battlefield.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The damned little cheat (Part 3 of 3)

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2)

“What about her husband? I thought you said she married for love?”, I said.

“Well, I guess they had changed by then. Grown just so slightly apart. Or maybe grown too comfortable with each other. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt.” There, MY theory. I see it all the time, in every marriage. I don’t know why it is not obvious to people somehow.

“Anyway”, she continued, “she could not bear to remain without telling him. But, if she could tell, what would she say? ‘Hi, I am married, but I like you’? What would he think about her? What if he said- no, he didn’t want to ruin her marriage? How would she ever be able to work with him again? And what if he didn’t? Would she continue to love a man who was ok with cheating on someone? And what if it magically worked out? Wouldn’t it hurt her reputation?

Even if he understood, what would everyone else think? And how would that ruin the careful image of dignity and respect she had created around herself through these many years? It was not just the question of a woman who ended her marriage. It was the question of the manager who was most probable to become the VP in the next 5 years who would fall in the eyes of her colleagues to the level of a cheating woman. An adulteress. Or if all went well, a divorcee. Was she even ready for that possibility?

She didn’t know. But whenever she saw him, she forgot all her doubts. When he joked and she saw that smile, her brain seemed to melt. And all she ever wanted was to tell him. Nothing more. Just tell him. And hear him say he loves her too.

And then it happened. Yesterday, he told her he likes her, and would she join him for dinner?”

“What? He knew she was married and still wanted to see her?”

“Oh, I don’t think he knows. She has this thing that wedding rings and other such symbols are signs of bondage of the woman to the man. It’s an idea I also agree with. Why should women display prehistoric symbols of their slavery to their husbands? And why should women announce to the world they are married? It’s a personal thing.”

“But husbands wear their wedding rings too...”

“Not in all cultures. Anyway, I agree with her idea. Though, of course, at this point you might think it was just to make her situation convenient. It wasn’t.” 
And as if she realized she was speaking irrationally, she moved on quickly. 

“Anyway, I guess he didn’t know. And she told him that this was a tricky situation and she needs time to think it over. So what do you think she should do? Remember she loves him deeply. And he loves her too.”

“I still stick to my answer”

She looked up at me, “You know where this story is going, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. That woman is not someone else, right? It is your own story and you didn’t want to say it in first person. But I repeat- she should refuse”

“You are right about it being my story. But don’t you have any pity for someone in my position? Don’t you think I deserve to live with the man I truly love?”

Now I had to tell her my reason. It was going to be weird, but still.

“In fact, for the very fact that you love him so much you shouldn’t break your marriage to be with him. You shouldn’t let a love like that come to the sorry end that it definitely will, once you get married to this new guy, if it even lasts that long."I paused and looked up to see her reaction. Not much surprise.
"Besides, you might have noticed it is unfair to the husband?”, I said still looking at her.

Yes, her- the woman opposite my table. The woman I have been married to for the last five years, and have been cheating on for the last two, but never once thought of breaking the marriage.

It WAS unfair to the husband...


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The damned little cheat (Part 2 of 3)

(I know I said I will put this up in 2 days, but I got busy over the weekend so could put it up only now. Sorry about that! The concluding part will be up on Wednesday for sure. :)
Continued from Part 1.. )

“I mean you can tell me whatever it is. I won’t use it.”

“So tell me one thing- have you ever been in intense passionate love?”

I tried to play safe here- “Of course, lady. With a woman who to me is the most beautiful on Earth. But go on”.

“No, what if you found the love of your life, your soul-mate now? And you know you are committed to someone else?”

Ha, that one’s a toughie. Saying I would go after my love would put me in bad light. Saying I wouldn't was plain untrue and she would probably realize it. Stick to generalizations, I told myself. “That’s easy.  Well, I think of it as a contract I made. I might hate it, but I gotta stick with it.”

That was partly true, by the way. Underneath all my cynicism and general negativity, I had some old-fashioned ideas about sticking around even if you hate it. Though my reason was different. I believe that the legitimacy of something kills its pleasure. You see those young couples madly in love? See them after 20 years of living with each other. A sulking couple worrying about their children’s college tuition. You see, the charm of intense love always dies in a marriage. The passion gets lost in the grocery lists and sorting the laundry. It rusts and cobwebs grow over it- and the love dies so slowly you don’t know until it’s too late. So late that it doesn't even get the burial it so deserved. My take is: if you ever find the love of your life and want to keep it alive, don’t marry the person. The distance nourishes the tree of love and lets it grow.

Of course, I wasn't going to tell her that. That would have been very weird.

“Ah well. You are playing it safe, aren't you? So be it. Let me tell you a story...

There is this woman I know. She is about my age and is a project manager like me. One of the youngest managers. And you know how much that says for a woman. Very smart, works very hard. Tries her best not to let men misunderstand her.  And I can tell you how tricky THAT is. Oh, and she is married too. Just like me. She fell in love with this man- a very nice man he is, and they got married five years ago. So far so good.

About 2 months earlier, this young analyst joined her team as a new team manager. Smart guy, lots of fun to be with, very witty, very ethical. Extremely talented too. And single. I think he looks ok, but you know how people start looking good to you the more you know them. As you might guess, she started liking him.

It started as a simple appreciation of him as a person, but then it grew with every minute of his presence around her. And of course, as her direct report, he had to spend a good amount of time around her, alone. With his every smile, every word, the air between them became more electric. She started spending hours waiting for the minutes when she would meet him. She spent whole evenings just imagining that somehow things would work between them. She started trying to find excuses to talk to him. Her whole life began to revolve around his every action. There were times when she thought her heart would explode with the amount of passion she was feeling. And yet, she couldn't tell him.

She didn't know if he felt anything for her. Of course, he respected her and liked her. They got along pretty well and hung out many times as co-workers. Their chemistry was very good, but it was just a work chemistry. There was a line which both of them were afraid to cross. Sometimes, though, she thought he liked her. You know how some actions can acquire meaning depending on how you look at them.. A simple compliment can seem like a sudden outburst of his love which he dare not express, when it might really only be a simple compliment. When he didn't say much, she would think he was aloof and trying to avoid her because he couldn't stop himself from liking her. And then again, she would think ‘what if he really wants to avoid me?’

I don’t know if you have ever felt that kind of love, most people haven’t. But she was really going crazy about him.”

In her own words, 'It is a feeling whose magnitude can not be fettered by the shackles of a mere word- feeling. The phrase 'driving one crazy' makes so much sense now. Because I AM going crazy. It was like being permanently drunk. Except that I haven't even touched alcohol. I want to tell someone, anyone about it, and yet I can't. Nobody would understand. And worse still, they would think badly of me.'"

I was getting bored of this description. What the hell, I thought. She was in love. Period.

(To be concluded..)