On Cows and Poojas and Apartments

I am back, after a 10-month hiatus. I have been meaning to write some post or the other, but was just too lazy to write. But today, I just had to write; I had no choice on the topic!

About a couple of years back, when we were booking an apartment on the 18th floor of a building in a gated apartment complex, a colleague reflexly and very sincerely asked me (paraphrased)- “But what will you do for the go (cow) pooja? How will you take a cow to your apartment on the 18th floor?” I was totally nonplussed. The question was too funny and weird for me to handle. I just responded that of course we are not doing any of that business!

And then today, this email (from someone on the 10-odd-th floor) lands in my Inbox, on the mailing list of the apartment complex that I stay in (paraphrased)- “We are looking forward to perform our gruhapravesam in XYZ month. As a part of the ritual we need to perform the “Go pooja” (cow pooja). Are we allowed to bring the cow inside the campus?”  This is way too hilarious! I had no clue someone would actually, seriously think of doing something like that!

Google India Women in Engineering Award

The Google India Women in Engineering Award is entering it’s third edition. The goal of the award is to encourage, recognize and reward deserving female students in Computer Science, and to inspire them to contribute to technological advances. Cash prizes of Rs. 100000 will be awarded.

Female students pursuing Bachelors, Masters and PhD degrees in Computer Science in an Indian institution are encouraged to apply. The applications are to be submitted by 31st Oct, 2009. More details can be found at the awards’ site.

This is an excellent opportunity for female students in CS. Please get the word out and encourage eligible candidates to apply.

Surely You’re Joking, My Dear Mom

I can write tons of blogposts about conversations between son-in-law (read: Niket) and mother-in-law (read: my mom). Here’s an unforgettable gem.

MIL: I was reading “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!” the other day. Very nice book. Richard Feynman very much reminded me of you.

SIL: (Thinking: Oh dear FSM, this statement is worse than that made by any of my students. How am I supposed to respond to this?) Aloud: Aai, do you realize that you are comparing me to one of the world’s most renowned, Nobel-prize winning physicist, who is an excellent teacher and researcher. There is no way I can live up to that image.

MIL: I meant, his experiences with teaching, research, students etc reminded me of your experiences…

When I heard about this conversation, my first reaction was- exactly why did she think about N? Was it really because of his teaching, research, students etc., or was it because of his (I meant Feynman’s) fondness for topless bars? 😉

This is the typical blind admiration that is usually reserved by parents for their sons or daughters; or these days- for their sons-in-law or daughters-in-law. I can almost imagine the conversation between my mom and some other two MILs.

Random MIL-1: My SIL is so great that he has now become the President of the Friendship Cricket Club.
Random MIL-2: My SIL is so great, so great, that he has now become the President of this big company in the US.
Subject MIL (my mom): My SIL is sooo great, that he will some day win the Nobel prize!

My mom sure has a lot of expectations from my dear husband. FSM help him!

Don’t Be Dismayed At Goodbyes

When I visited the US this time around, I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of my friends from grad school had moved to the bay area. It had been three months since he joined, and I had no clue about it. In fact, it was about two years since we had last met, and I had lost touch with him for the most part. We had a few email exchanges in the last few years, and I knew when he had graduated etc. But I am not the kind of person who will keep in touch with people once they/I move on. He does keep in touch with people, but you need to be a single female for him to do that. And I don’t fall in that category 😉

We decided to meet up for dinner. And it was almost as if the two years in between had not passed at all. We did catch up on what happened during that time, but otherwise it was just the same. Our rapport was the same, I was just as comfortable talking to him about a lot of things, and so was he. It was almost as if we picked up the thread from where we had left a couple of years back. I was thrilled.

This is not the first time this has happened. It’s been the case with other friends as well; at least the ones that I am really close to. You tend to form new friends, new ties when you move to a new place, and that leaves lesser and lesser time to maintain the old friendships. Plus phone conversations are not really as informal as meeting up and chatting in person. One of the worries I had, when I moved from the US to India, was that I will lose contact with friends in the US. Thanks to my frequent trips, that has not been the case so far. But I am now sure that even if the trips are not as frequent, and even if I am not really in touch with good friends on a regular basis, when I do happen to meet them, it will be just the same.

I was reminded of a quote by Richard Bach, that I had read a long time back, that seems quite apt (although I don’t subscribe to the “after lifetimes” part, and in fact a lot of his philosophy):

Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

The Middle Link

Here’s an awesome statement made by my husband’s friend, who is a young, eligible bachelor, not particularly interested in getting married right away, and whose parents tried introducing him to a young eligible girl. He met with her a few times and they both decided things were going nowhere.

His concluding statement to his parents was: “You guys want a daughter-in-law. That girl wants parents-in-law. I am just the middle link in this requirement. Why bother me..”

Now that’s an interesting perspective on arranging a marriage!

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

This statement was hilarious, considering the context that it was made in. Here’s a snippet of a conversation between me (P), my sister S, and my husband N. S lives in the US and had called us over the weekend.

S: Hey, how are you guys doing.
P: Fine. We are just about done cooking dinner. We’ll eat now. Can I call you later, or actually, maybe over the week.
S: You guys are always busy. You don’t have time to talk to me these days.
N: Weekends are the only time we are together. We are not together over the week, like you and your husband.
S: That’s your (N and P) fault, not mine.
N: That’s a feature, not a bug!

S, N and I just burst out laughing. It was an awesome statement in a completely different context.

A Tale of Two Monkeys

I don’t know what’s with monkeys and me these days. They seem to be displaying this special affinity towards me all of a sudden. Two incidents within a span of two weeks is a bit too much for me to take.

A couple of weeks back, I had invited a few colleagues for dinner at my place. While N and I were cooking in the kitchen, I suddenly saw a monkey standing right at the door of the kitchen. We were trapped in the kitchen, with no exit route. With no prior experience at handling monkeys, I was completely psyched off. N, on the other hand, had encountered monkeys entering his office and trying to steal things. He started making some loud sounds with a pan and ladle, and managed to drive the monkey off. On the way out, the monkey managed to spoil the cucumber that we had grated for raita, and made a mess in the entire dining room.

Last week, while we were on vacation in Bali, we visited the Uluwatu temple. The temple is very beautiful, on top of a cliff right next to the ocean. There were tons of monkeys around there. We were quite careful to secure our belongings. However, the monkeys were smarter than us. Just as my attention got diverted while watching one of the tourists feed some nuts to a monkey, another monkey sneaked up behind me and snatched off my eye-glasses. Thankfully it did not scratch my eyes or face. The bananas and nuts that we offered to the monkey were not enough for it to give the glasses back to us. It just ran off down the cliff into the trees. I was left vision-less for the rest of the day, and am down to wearing contact lenses for a week now.

The positive side of the whole thing is that now I am all set for the next monkey onslaught!

Adoption by Same-Sex Couples

This weekend I landed on youtube after a very long time. The first video that I immediately felt like watching was one that I had seen quite a long time back. It’s a wonderful video that just stays on in your heart.

In the video, the adopted son of a gay couple sings this song about how proud he is of his parents, and about the love and care that they shower on him. He sings to an audience of a bunch of school kids. The song is really beautiful. And the response from the kids is amazing.

Watch the video at: Kinderen voor Kinderen song

Not surprisingly, this video is from the Netherlands. Currently adoption of children by same-sex couples is legal in less than 15 countries, the Netherlands being one of them. I very much am in support of legalizing it, and I really wish more countries were in favor as well.