Thursday, August 19, 2004

Never say never

There are certain movies that I will never watch again, not because they are bad, just the opposite, they are too powerful. These movies invoke really strong emotions in me. I just saw American History X and no matter how hard I try, I cannot get the movie out of my mind. I've become a huge fan of Edward Norton. I had liked him in Fight Club, but it didn't affect me the way this one did. Another movie that had a huge impact on me was Requiem for a Dream. I remember getting mad at my brother for showing me that movie. I had to watch cartoons for sometime before going to bed. I was depressed for days thinking about what happened and how it might be true for some. To this day I get chills whenever I listen to the movie's soundtrack by Paul Oakenfold. Then there is Life is Beautiful, amazing movie, but could not bear to watch it again. I could not sleep after watching it. In the middle of the night I woke up my roommate and asked her to talk the movie through with me so I could get it out of my head. She made fun of me the next day for being a wuss.

Some other movies that I thought about for a long time after watching were Donny Darko, and Memento. I am a fan of Shymalam's movies just because I can never guess the endings. I loved Matrix and was blown away by the concept the first time I watched it. It's probably the movie I've seen the most times, but after watching the second and third sequel the effect kind of wore off.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

When every second counts

Working out does wonders for my body and mind. As my mom always says - "working out releases postivie hormones (forget the scientific term), which keep you feeling happy all day." Despite knowing the benefits of working out, the initial inertia prevents me from going to the gym on most days. I am always looking for excuses not to go. On days that I do manage to drag myself to the gym, I feel great after working out -- it gives me a high and I feel more energetic and happy. I used to enjoy running, but a skiing injury prevented me from running for past 2 years. Alternatively, I took to doing the stepper, which is so much harder. I've been going to doctors in the US for the same problem for almost 2 years and all they say is stop running. One even suggested that maybe some people aren't meant for running so I shouldn't even try. I got really discouraged after that. However, all it took was one visit to a doctor in India and the ailment got properly diagnosed. Somehow doctors in India seem so much smarter. Maybe they get to see more patients and have better experience in dealing with all sorts of symptoms. My problem was that I was suffering from osteomalacia - sever deficiency of calcium in the bones. It had been caused by my yo-yo dieting and lack of sun. I got a well-deserved scolding from the doctor, and my parents. My mom started force-feeding me calcium and my dad injected tonns of Vitamin D into my hip. One problem with having doctors as parents is over treatment. They got my brain scan done because my periods were a bit late (thankfully, everything turned out to be fine in that department).

The only problem with doing aerobic exercises in the gym is that you tend to get bored. On the plus side though, it is while working out that I mostly think of this stuff to write. One thought always occurs to me while working out in the gym. All people combined together in the gym seem to be generating so much energy, for example, weight lifters are converting so much potential energy into kinetic energy (if I remember my physics correctly). There must be a way to tap into all that energy. At the very least the gym should be made self-sustainable with it using no electrical energy. But then I see people driving around in circles, burning gas, trying to find the closest parking spot and it all seems useless.

On exercise that is never boring is swimming, which to me is the dessert of workout. Swimming does not seem like exercise to me. Perhaps I've gotten too used to constantly checking out the display of how many calories I have burnt so far; which I do check every minute, no second, actually I never take my eyes off the display. Or maybe I don't feel like I'm really burning calories because I don't sweat. Some of that Indian mentality seems to have caught on. In India I used to get really frustrated when people would not let me turn the A/C or fan on while working out because they thought that if they don't sweat the exercises are futile. It used to be so hot to begin with and with no fan, I used to suffocate. Those were not the proper conditions for working out. I wanted to knock on people's head and say, “hello, it's a simple matter of calorie burn versus intake; sweating has nothing to do with it, you dumb wits.” And here I am unconsciously working out on the same presumption.

They say weight loss is 10% exercise and 90% diet. My sister and I ate a makeshift dinner comprising of naan, butter and frozen sabjis. It tasted awful; the only thing that made it edible was my mom's homemade achaar. And to think I was cribbing when she was packing all the bottles of pickles for me. I “forgot” to declare my bottles of pickles when the immigration officer asked me if I was carrying any food. But that dinner was definitely not good for my body. My sister declared at the beginning of her summer vacation that she would be cooking regularly. She made paneer one day and delicious crepes on the second day. On the third day she weighed herself and found she had gained a couple of pounds since she moved in with me. So she decided to not eat anymore and starve us both. I rebelled and got myself Chinese takeout, and we both ended up eating the greasy Chinese food. On the days she's in a benevolent mood, she cooks up eggs, which is quite healthy. It's kind of pathetic the way I am dependent on my sister for feeding me. When she goes back to school, I'll be back to eating salad or fast food. With this diet it's a constant struggle to keep the weight off.

I read in a Desmond Morris book that it's natural to gain 3 pounds a year. And after finding a life partner the body's shape changes naturally. It was a very interesting concept. I don't remember exactly, but it was something to the effect that after you find someone, the body changes. Instead of having broad shoulders and a nice chest, men start gaining weight around the belly. In another book I read that the body keeps trying to achieve an optimal weight and will always bounce back no matter how hard we try. I'm not sure if these theories are true, regardless I choose to believe in them. It gives me a reason not to feel guilty about gaining a couple of extra pounds. Why fight nature?

Monday, August 16, 2004

Business world

I am interviewing for jobs these days and there seem to be 3 kinds of interviewers. The first is the Google type companies that only hire people with Masters, Ph.D. degrees. The second type is Microsoft like companies that ask mostly logic and analytical reasoning questions during interviews. And the third type, which is mostly small startup companies, only ask how much one knows about the particular technology they are using; the reason probably being that they want the new hires to hit the ground running. I have interviewed at companies of the second and third type (I don’t qualify for the first). I had fun solving the logic problems, however I tended to solve them more mathematically than logically. The companies of the third kind irked me. I feel that anyone can learn a particular technology after a week of reading. They should be testing to see how smart a person is and whether they have in-depth knowledge of programming concepts instead of drilling on one technology or language.

Software engineering is a male dominated profession and most of the people I interviewed with were male. I was surprised to see no Indian interviewers since the Bay Area has a lot of India technologists. The reverse flow of people moving back to India seems to be more apparent now than ever. In most companies I went to there weren't any Indians or women for that matter. Another company was exclusively white American. My previous company had people from all over the world - Russian, Israeli, Indian, American, Canadian, and Asian; moreover the engineering team had equal number of men and women. It was an exclusive combination of people; it was the best team of people I had ever worked with.

While interviewing at one company, the interviewer mentioned that they were outsourcing to New Zealand. I had to ask why not India and he said that he had tried that before but had problems. In India people would say they understood things when they really did not. I guess I could see his point, there does seem to be a more “yes, boss” attitude in India.

Besides the interviewing process, the process of negotiating a compensation package is excruciating. Whenever I'm faced with the question of my salary expectation, I always end up specifying lower than I want to. My friends always tell me that I should not sell myself short because in today's market there are little chances of getting a salary raise while at the same company. So changing jobs is the only time one can get a salary raise. One company actually had the audacity to offer me less than my last salary, especially after I had mentioned in my first interview with them that my salary expectations were between a certain range and I would not accept anything less. When I refused the offer, they tried telling me that what they had offered me was what I deserved. So according to them I was being overpaid for the last 2 years; this got me hopping mad. I read in a woman's magazine that one of the reasons women are paid less than men is that they are not aggressive while negotiating. My men friends always tell me to ask salaries that seem outrageously high to me and I never do ask for that much. My whole weekend was ruined thinking about the coming Monday when I would have to talk to all the companies and negotiate a salary.

The art of negotiating seems to be important in other aspects of life too, like friends, family and other self-imposed relationships. There is a constant struggle to get one's way in relationships. Each person feels that what he or she is saying is more reasonable. I have spent many sleepless nights thinking how my boyfriend at that time can be so callous and not understand how reasonable my demands were. Life seems to be constant arbitration- I'm getting a headache just thinking about the day ahead. The only time haggling is fun is in the Janpath market in CP (Delhi).

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Home away from home

Recently on my way back from India, I had a strange experience. In India any white person would draw a lot of attention. But when I changed flights at Munich to come to the US, I realized that I was the only Indian left on the flight. Suddenly I was in the minority and the one being stared at. I felt as if my every action was being observed; it was quite discomfiting. The fact that I had just left home became all too apparent.

I have lived in the US for quite a few years now, but I do not remember having felt that way before, and on landing in SFO I realized why. At the airport there were as many Asians/Indians as white and nobody gave me a second glance. I felt as if I was at home at again. San Francisco/Bay Area has now become a second home for me. In fact maybe more than Delhi is now, this is where my job, my friends, my life is. I am completely independent and am familiar with how things work here. It would be hard to move back and start over. But this debate goes on in my mind continuously. Back in Bay Area everything seemed mundane and all too familiar. The excitement level had gone down a couple of notches, so I went out seeking excitement – I went partying the very night I landed. I met almost all my friends, who welcomed me back warmly with hugs and I regaled them with exciting tales of my trip to India. I decided that I wanted to move to New York just because living in Bay Area seemed too comfortable. A friend of mine thinks it is scary that I find comfort boring.

The first time I saw TV after coming back, Aishwarya Rai came on TV in a commercial for Godrej Hair Color; for a minute I was completely disoriented as to where I was – India or US? My apartment complex is full of all desi couples, which makes me feel safe, but I seem to be the only single girl around. But that is something I’ve learnt to live with. In Bay Area the ratio of men to women is seriously skewed. One of the reasons could be the IT industry, which is largely dominated by men. Another reason could have something to do with SF being the gay capital of world (I seem to picking up on the American terminology according to which anything that’s the best in US automatically becomes the best the world. For example, such and such team is the best football team in the world; hmm… but no one else in the world plays American football???) .

Last night I went to a party where Turkish girls were belly-dancing to Indian bhangra, which I thought was quite amazing. I never heard any bhangra at the clubs I went out to in India. At the club there were Turkish, Indian, American, and Asian people amongst others, dancing together to world music. I was definitely not a minority; in fact no single ethnicity was in majority. At my previous work I was one of the only two Indians working in the company, but I had Asian, Canadian, Israeli, and Russian coworkers. Here I am completely comfortable and it feels like home away from home. But then maybe I don’t want to be “at home” at this stage in my life.

Pretty please!

Today, my sister refused to go swimming with me in the afternoon reasoning that it’s not good for her complexion. I taunted her – “how shallow can you be?” and she retorted, “I’m twenty and go to college so I need to look good.” But then I got thinking -- how important are looks?

On most days I just wear jeans and a sweatshirt with no make-up; then there are days when I feel like wearing a skirt or tank top and putting some make up on. It’s a whole different experience on the days when I do dress up – people smile at me more (not only men, but women too), open the door for me more often, everyone is politer than usual and I generally find it easier to get things done. It makes me wonder about the significance of looks in our society today.

When it comes to interviewing for jobs, looks make a huge difference. The other day I was talking to a friend whose company I had applied at and he said I had a good chance of getting the job as long as I looked good to them. The reason was that it was more of a customer-facing job than pure development. He told me that they were discussing a prospective employee they had interviewed and thought he was a good candidate because he had dressed well with a shirt/tie, and had the latest hairstyle. Another friend of mine was lamenting the other day that her sister is unable to find a job because she is fat. I didn’t believe her and said that it makes no difference, but she insisted that people equate obesity with laziness.

At a party- which consisted of mainly single girls in their mid to late twenties - the topic, invariably, shifted to men. We started discussing our dating experiences and how hard it was to find the “right” guy. And one girl commented – beautiful women don’t have any dearth of men to date.

The importance of looking good does not only pertain to the U. S. but I felt the same applied in India too, if not more so. Not that I’m complaining – I got my way easily when I got stuck at the airport in Delhi. My travel agent had messed up and somehow my booking for the flight got cancelled. The person attending to the issue wouldn’t give me a seat reasoning the flight was almost fully booked; so, I asked for the manager. The manager took one look at me and said, “Yeah, give her a seat on the flight”.

My male friends have no compunctions about taking advantage of this phenomenon and always send me off to interact with people whenever we’re stuck in a dicey situation. Not that I’m gorgeous or anything, but I have an inherent advantage being an Indian girl with a dark complexion in California. In India however, I lose the edge and am just an average looking woman. I need to make more effort towards looking good. I find myself applying make-up almost everyday and wearing the clothes I would only wear when going out here in U.S.

I ran out of contact lenses and cannot order new ones because I'm uninsured. I don't have a job right now and am too lazy to get my own health insurance so I'll be wearing glasses for a while now. It is going to be a different experience; hopefully it won't ruin my chances of getting a new job.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Backed up

It feels like I spent the whole day in my car today. I was going to pick up my brother from his school and got stuck in traffic. Since I am jobless nowadays, the traffic did not bother me as much as it used to. Time loses its importance when there are no deadlines to meet, office hours to complete or meetings to attend. Hence, the stress associated with being stuck in traffic is reduced. However one does tend to get bored after a while and the sun starts bothering the eyes. The saviors during those hours stuck in my car were cell phone conversations, NPR, and car stickers. Yeah, I know talking on the phone while driving is dangerous and is justly illegal in India. But it is still legal in US to talk on the phone while driving, maybe because it hurts Corporate America (the cell phone companies) if the law making it illegal gets passed. After exhausting the list of people I could call during working hours to have a meaningless conversation, I turned on the radio. NPR was playing a hilarious comedy show from New York (I tried searching for a link to the program on their website, but had no luck). Here’s one of the jokes – “Why doesn’t Iraq have any Wal-Mart’s? Because they are all Targets.” What I most enjoyed during my two hours in backed up traffic were the car stickers. Two of the funniest stickers I read were “More trees, less Bush” and “Good wine needs no Bush.” Recently I was shopping for tattoos on Haight Street with some friends when one of my friends noticed a t-shirt in the window of a shop saying, “America needs to shave its Bush.” This was embossed on a picture of Bush looking really dumb. My friend bought one and said she would wear it to work; I still need to ask her what reaction she got from her coworkers. It’s good to see people displaying such anti-Bush sentiment on their cars and clothes. I asked a friend if we could do the same in India and he responded gravely – “ you would be dead the next day if you tried to pull of anything of the sort.”

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Indian in America = smart, smelly, sentimental suck-up?

Last weekend I ended up watching two movies about Indian stereotypes in America - Flavors and Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle. I liked both movies, but thought Harold and Kumar was funnier. I enjoyed Kumar's role as the cool and carefree guy who leads his friend Harold to seek juicy burgers, marijuana, girls and other forms of pleasure. In the movie, Kumar is portrayed as a smart guy who is being pressured by his dad to get into medical school, but he intentionally keeps messing up his interviews. This led to one of the funniest moments in the movie where he gets a call on his cell phone during an interview and he quips - "No, I'm not doing anything important. I can talk...” By the end of the movie Kumar realizes that he should not mess up his interviews just so he does not confirm to the Indian stereotype. If he has the brains and talent to become a doctor, he would become one. I appreciated this transformation of views, probably because I conform to the stereotype of being an Indian software developer. In fact this is one of the few things I did not like about Flavors. It depicted Software Engineering as a thankless job in which Indians suck up to the boss.

The movie Flavors also shows a housewife who gets married and comes to US. My heart went out for the housewife stuck at home bored all day. A lot of my Indian friends went to India to get married. I feel bad for the girls who come here and sit at home all day with no life or friends of their own. All my friends are nice guys though, and spend the entire weekend making up for the weekdays by taking their wives out to nice restaurants and local tourist spots.

My sister is listening to a program on NPR about Michael Moore's movie - Fahrenheit 9/11. She asks me if one of my Indian friends is pro-Bush. This friend of mine is Republican. The fact that she's Indian and politically Republican challenges the stereotype that all Indians are Democrats, hence prompting my sister's question about my friend’s stance on the Bush administration. And I muse, "how can any aware person be pro-Bush, especially one of my friends?"

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

eXTReMe Tracker