After three days, I am finally connected to the internet once again. More pertinently, I am still off mobile phone because I decided not to activate international roaming and am not yet in India. When I arrived in Paris a week ago, I felt lost. I know the city well, speak its language, and yet, I felt totally cut off from the rest of the world. Arriving as I did on Saturday night, I had no time to go check with Orange on why the France sim card I was carrying would not work. And Paris being Paris, everything is closed on Sunday. Yes…I mean everything. Even supermarkets and pharmacies! This basically meant that I went all of Saturday and Sunday without a working mobile phone connection. Work started in full swing on Monday and I realized that I would have no time at all to go get a mobile connection.

After feeling slightly out-of-touch for a few days, I settled in. I realized I got by perfectly well without a working mobile connection, and with limited internet access. I came to enjoy the small things like observing people while having dinner, carrying on a conversation without obsessing about who is texting me or tweeting to me. After a very long time, I realized that some things in life can only be enjoyed if we cut ourselves off, at least momentarily, from the world wide web and from mobile telephony. Without the constant buzz of my wifi-enabled, EDGE-connected smartphone, I realized I was actually noticing more of the world that I ever have over the past year.

The point here is not to decry the use of mobile phones or mobile internet. I would be guilty of that addiction myself. But somehow, I got the impression that by staying connected with friends on every network possible (BlackBerry, What’s App, Twitter, GTalk, text AND FB), we deny ourselves the joys of a real meeting. What can be so urgent that we feel the need to tell the world through FB or Twitter about a beautiful pebble beach, even before we have fully taken in that experience ourselves? Really? What are we running away from? Are we so insecure with ourselves that we feel the need to connect with others 24/7? Or is it peer pressure? Or am I just overreacting? I know that this temporary absence from the web and from telephone was forced. Left to myself, I would never have cut myself off voluntarily from the internet or my phone. But now that I know what it feels like, maybe I should do this one day in a month. Just maybe!

The groom-hunting saga – Episodes 2/3

Following up from where we left off, I was left alone for almost 10 months after the PG1 debacle. Not that my parents slowed down, or gave up on their search. It was because finding an intelligent, decent-looking, educated man over 5 feet and 9 inches of height was getting a tad difficult. So difficult that my hypothesis that all good-looking and intelligent men were married, taken or gay, was turning out to be a truism.  Finally, after some persuasion by a good Samaritan who called himself my friend, I did the unthinkable. I joined one of those zillion matrimonial websites that promise to get you an ideal partner before you can say Czechoslovakia. I should have been wary of such claims especially since the country doesn’t exist anymore, but I fell for the gimmick and signed up. Maybe it was the friend’s influence or maybe someone had spiked my drink.

To cut a long story short, I “expressed interest” at one of the profiles I found, and strangely enough, the guy accepted! After a few short conversations over phone, we decided to meet. It was almost as if God had decided that my over-indulgence in five-star hotels needed to be punished and our first meeting was at the beach, over some sundal and kadalai. What better way to meet a potential fiancé than to put…er…I mean eat…some kadalai, huh? The meeting lasted 3 hours, during which we both had a good measure of fun talking, eating sundal and discussing life. It almost seemed like this was the man! And then…poooooof! The guy simply disappeared! No signs of acknowledging my existence, or even bothering with a rejection slip! He just vanished. Fed up of the dilly-dallying, I called him one day and asked him where things where things were going. He apologized profusely for being distracted and asked to meet again…ok! Now, I thought I would at least KNOW what the hell was happening. During our second meeting at some random coffee shop, he was equally sweet and charming and yet seemed to hesitate about taking a decision. Baffled, I asked him what was wrong. And bingo…that was it!! The…physics…no no…the chemistry was missing. And here I was thinking marriage was all about sociology and biology! And with that ended the saga of the one potential groom I actually liked!! Sigh…tough luck!

Not long after, there materialized another guy (PG3), this time through the parents, who seemed perfect by all standards. Several phone calls, conversations, parents coming home on a bride-seeing visit later, he promised to come to Chennai from Bangalore and meet me. And true to his word, he did. It was only that he had missed telling me a minor detail about himself, so minor that it could scarcely be noticed; that he had an incurable problem with his leg that prevented him from walking properly. You see, amidst the conversations about career, house, car, family and grandchildren, he figured it wasn’t so important to tell me what to expect when seeing him. Ah…the minor details!

PG4 is a specimen that deserves a much longer and more details than the others…I will save that for another post, another day. Until then, sayonara!

The groom-hunting saga – Episode 1

So, I am finally overcoming inertia to write this much-in-demand (ok ok…can’t you let a girl flatter herself?) post on my groom-hunting saga. So…where do I start? Ah…I know just the way to do it!

Circa July 2009

After extensive discussions on the whys and the wherefores of their darling daughter having so much fun, the parents decided it was time to find an appropriate scapegoat for me to get hitched to. Of course, they were delighted to have been afforded the opportunity to indulge in this exercise, like all other Indian parents. Had they known then that this exercise would turn out to be unending, they might have been a little less excited about the whole affair. Then, one day, mummy dearest sat me down to ask me what kind of man I wanted. She might as well have asked me to calculate the distance between the earth and Alpha Centauri to the 16th decimal. That might have been easier than to explain what kind of man I really wanted. How on earth a girl is supposed to answer THAT question without sounding superficial, materialistic, indifferent or plain inappropriate is anybody’s guess. Add to the fact that men don’t really come pre-configured to specifications, and you have a rather difficult situation. Come to think of it, it would be rather convenient if we were able to configure men to specifications, like buying a laptop on the DELL site. Tall, dark, handsome, knows to cook, doesn’t mind earning less than wife, will do the dishes…but anyway, I digress.

Barely a month after I agreed to an arranged marriage (yes, I did protest, if you must know), the mater came to me with the profile and photo of a potential groom. I was hitting the panic button at the idea of being married, and yet desperately wanted to like him. The guy in question, let’s call him Potential Groom No.1 (PG1) for convenience’s sake, was quite good-looking. He had an impressive enough profile for me to agree to meet him. I took his phone number and he already had mine. I can’t remember now if it was he who called or me, but over a telephonic conversation, we determined (electronically) that electronic means of communication could prove to be dicey and decided to meet.

Owing perhaps to my upper middle-class upbringing, which taught me that food is five-star hotels is strictly restricted to conferences and parties for which others would pay I was surprised when he suggested we meet at one that was barely 5 minutes from my office. I agreed, for want of a better reason to say no. Those who know me also know I am a punctuality-Nazi. Keeping to my usual habit of arriving anywhere 5 minutes ahead of time, I was not very happy at realizing that PG1 was with clients, having chosen to squeeze in some last-minute meeting between the previous meeting with clients and the meeting with me. I ended up waiting a good 10 minutes, each minute grating on my nerves more than the previous. I would probably have been happier knowing he was stuck in traffic or something. In hindsight, the fact that he put his stupid client meeting (at 7.00 PM, if I may add) ahead of meeting me, should have given me a heads-up. But, let’s just say I can be dense when it comes to such things. In hindsight again, I suspect that he probably scheduled that client meeting just to make sure he billed the coffee off to the office; middle-class upbringing and all that, you know?

The meeting got off to a pleasant start, despite by slight annoyance at being made to wait. After the mandatory disclaimers that this was not something we were comfortable with, we got down to the nitty-gritty of discussing likes and dislikes. He asked me about my interests, and true to my nature, I spoke for about 3 minutes (yes…I am sure it was only 3 minutes) about my blog. He listened with an intelligent and interested look in his eyes. When I finished, I asked him about his. And this was when I realized that he could out-talk me in any talkathon! And he ONLY talked about work. About how his multi-billion dollar bank gave out multi-billion dollar loans to multi-billion dollar companies and about how loans were sometimes syndicated and so on. At this juncture, it becomes necessary to point out that seven years of university education, along with several hours of 8 AM classes on Macroeconomics and Economics of Defense (in peak winter with sub-zero temperatures) have helped me master the art of sleeping with my eyes wide open, and with an interested and intelligent look on my face. And yes, I do realize that this is probably exactly was HE was doing during my three-minute talk on my blog as well! And I admit that this is exactly what I did the fifth time he mentioned his multi-billion dollar bank with multi-billion dollar clients!

Now, this should give you a fair idea about where this was headed. After about an hour and 15 minutes, an hour and 12 minutes of which he monopolized talking about his damned bank, we decided to end the meeting. I might still have subjected myself to one more round of negotiations had he not said anything beyond good night that evening. But, he chose to damn himself and said, “Nice to have met you. And to be honest, I like you. And am ok with you as well. You can tell your parents. But, I am not sure I want to get MARRIED to you.”

Erm…what he was suggesting is anybody’s guess. But I decided I couldn’t live with a lifetime of discussing loans, syndicated loans, corporate financing, mergers, joint ventures and acquisitions. I have enough of that at work, me thinks! So adieu to PG1! Now, I realize that we’re through with just one potential groom and many more to come. So, will sign-off here and continue this saga with episode 2! Until then, ciao!

Thoughts…Mumbai meri jaan!

I was in Mumbai a few days ago…and thoughts crowded around in my brain demanding expression. There is nothing vaguely coherent about these thoughts and so, I will put it down in bullet point. Just so that I can get the thoughts out of my brain!

  • Everyone in Mumbai seems to know exactly where they’re going, what they’re doing. And they do all this in ONE BIG HURRY! I wondered why life was so fast-paced that one hardly had any time to pause and reflect. The price we pay for living in a metro perhaps?
  • Traffic is truly insane. Only Bangalore can be worse! It took me close to 2 hours to go from Nariman Point to the airport! And my colleague tells me it’s a good day and that traffic is not that bad! Jeez!
  • Every pedestrian seems to wait on the side of the road until the light turns green for the vehicles, and then tries to cross the road. If they want to kill themselves, they just need to throw themselves under the train. Isn’t that easier?
  • The heat almost killed me the other day! It was unbearable and the traffic just made it worse! Getting into the Trident Nariman Point an hour ahead of the scheduled meeting was the best decision I took! And coming from Chennai, if I felt the heat was so bad, it really must have been bad!
  • On the positive side, people really don’t care what you do, how you’re dressed and who you’re with. The last time I was there  in 2004, and also this time a few days ago, I felt more secure in Mumbai than I have in Chennai in all the 26 years I have spent here.
  • Another positive, the Mumbai airport is phenomenal. People tell me the Hyderabad one is better, but if it is anything like this, I am happy. I thought I would have to skip dinner as I got to the airport around 8. But, quite a lot of choice and plenty of stalls. Nice one! In fact, I liked it better than Paris. Less confusing.
  • And finally, the view from Trident Nariman point almost made the traffic jams worth the effort. The bay looks breathtakingly beautiful. Here is a twitpic of a few days ago!