Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year

NB: This is one of the trams in Milan that has been decorated with lights. Its really fabulous to see it passing by at night!

It is the dawn of another year, and every year during this time, I go into a sort of panic. This is just partly because I'm getting older, but mainly because of the fact that I feel the need to press a rewind button in my head and go through the things or the lack of things I've done this year. It always makes me feel utterly unaccomplished and useless.

However, that said, I do feel as if I've come somewhere this year. Of course, I could have done so much more, but its these little things that count in the long run, right? I worked in an actual office for the first time in my life, and survived without being a complete klutz. I don't get cramps of crippling panic in my stomach when I have to phone unknown people to ask for information any more, I can successfully deal with meeting new people without making a complete fool of myself, I am not as bad with directions and navigation as I suspected myself to be, I don't mind asking people for help when I have completely and utterly lost my way (pride be damned). I can also navigate through almost any given public transport system in the world (because once you've managed to do it in Bombay, how hard can anywhere else be?). Oh, I am also super competent at filing documents, sending faxes and making databases of addresses and phone numbers of random companies on excel.

It just took just three months of office work for me to learn such important life lessons. If I ever manage to get a full time job, I just might write a book entitled 'Pearls of Office Wisdom - 101 ways to make your work life bearable and almost pleasant'.

Resolutions? I have a lots and lots of resolutions starting from: consume less chocolate, sleep for shorter hours, eat healthier food, less procrastination, more hard work, and ending with: more studying, watching less TV shows, reading more real books, learning to cook, learning to drive, being less grumpy, winning a Nobel Prize and solving the problems in the Middle East. I think it makes more sense to have a list of 'feasible' resolutions and 'infeasible' resolutions. But when I tried to do this I came to a very unpleasant conclusion, wherein I realized that most of my resolutions fell in the 'infeasible' category. So I think that it would be better if I just steered clear of resolutions this year.

So overall, I think its been a good year for me, in any case. I'm not sure what the coming year is going to bring, but I'll deal with it when it comes. When you become twenty one, you expect the universe to suddenly show you your place in the big scheme of things. Its very disappointing to note that this does not actually happen, so the only thing us lowly mortals can do is to go on living our lives and realize that its all going to fall into place eventually.

I wish everyone a super year ahead! Don't take my advice and go ahead make some resolutions :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's the Season to be Jolly

For the last few weeks, I haven't had a proper internet connection because we had to move our internet and telephone line from the old apartment to the new flat. So most of my days were spent hovering around the house with my laptop trying to find other people’s unsecured internet connections. Let me use some more space to complain about how horrid and selfish this world is. Is it actually necessary to secure your internet line? What is wrong with sharing it with lesser human beings who have internet problems, I ask you? There is one spot in my old flat that has almost fifteen different internet connections, where not even one is unsecured. Its just not fair, I tell you! People should be kinder to people in need, especially if I am the one who is in need.

Well, all this does not matter any more because I can now officially use my own internet connection in the new house without resorting to underhand internet stealing tactics. Now that we have finished moving to the new flat, I have to admit that it is beginning to grow on me. We have something that I like to call ‘the most comfortable couch in the world’. Once I sit on it, I am unable to get up from it. Its really not healthy for such comfortable furniture to be created. Its one of those low rise, new age, sofa/beds that is ridiculously comfy to sit on or sprawl over with a laptop or a book. Also, since its a relatively small apartment, the central heating actually makes the house into a tiny oven. The other day, I was happily moving around in a tank top and shorts when it was about 2°C outside.

I’m not actually sure how I’m going to manage to get any study/work done in such a comfortable environment. Of course, there are certain drawbacks I have to live with, like the fact that putting my mum and me in such close confines is a really bad idea. Luckily my dad’s here for the holidays, so its been quite nice lately. Pan’s dad hasn’t made much of an appearance on this blog, has he? Well, I should really devote a post on him one day because he is a super dad who puts up with all my childish nonsense and spoils me rotten, so I don’t have too much to complain about him (most of the times).

Milan is really beautiful for Christmas this year. I think the financial crisis has hit Italy pretty hard, and the city has taken extra efforts to make itself seem festive. The lighting and the decorations have outdone themselves, and I really ought to go out and take pictures to post them up, but I’m such a lazy, lazy human being that this is probably never going to happen.

I don’t have any elaborate plans for New Years’ Eve, but most people know what a grandma I am when it comes to parties. However, its nice to have some sort of plans once even a while, even if it just involves a dinner with school friends at someone’s house, getting drunk on champagne, inane gossiping about people we went to high school with, making home videos that no once actually remembers being on the next day, and then crawling off to sleep only to wake up with a headache the next morning. Its actually more fun than it sounds and I get to catch up with friends that I barely see once a year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What the Dickens?

I am of the view that every person must try and read at least one obscenely large novel a year. You get bonus points if its Victorian and/or written in particularly difficult language with a lot descriptive paragraphs and long sentences that don't make sense the first time you read them. Its a good character building exercise, and gives you an immense amount of self satisfaction when you are done.

I've had some sort of an unhealthy obsession for Victorian and Edwardian literature since I was twelve. I think it started when I watched a heavily edited, cartoon version of Oliver Twist. I loved it so much that I had to read the novel. I remember it being really hard; I took such a long time to finish it and understand what was actually happening. I was scarred for life by how the real book was so different from the cartoon. Some years ago, I went through a huge Dickens phase in my life where I ended up reading Our Mutual Friend, David Copperfield and Great Expectations in a row. It was a year where I had decided that only Victorian novelists were worth reading in this world. I always go through these insane phases. There was one year I read only dystopian fiction, another where the only thing I was reading was Gothic literature.

Most of these Victorian novels look like blocks of bricks rather than books. I think Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens' longest novels (and my favourite, along with A Christmas Carol - because we all know what a sucker Pan is for Christmas stories). I had had such an overdose of Victorian literature that year that I completely gave up on it for the last two/three years. Last month, on an impulse, I started reading Bleak House. It was lying abandoned in my bookshelf for the last couple of years. Even though I was burdened with work, I started reading it on a passing whim, and it made me recall all the reasons why I fell in love with Dickens in the first place.

I revel in other peoples' misery in books, but I do love a happy ending. Also, I have a fetish for books with long and complicated plots, pitiful damsels in distress, a flawed hero with good intentions who ultimately saves the day, life threatening diseases, grotesque, over-the-top villains, and Victorian London. I do realize that this sounds like the makings of a cheap, Victorian romance, but if written well, it has the potential of becoming into a David Copperfield or a Dracula.

Of course, there are a lot of things about Dickens that I don't like, especially his penchant for oppressed, beautiful female characters and miserable, ill treated orphans who more often than not end up dead. Of course, occasionally we do come across women like Estella Havisham, (who Pip so does not deserve) but even Estella is reduced to a pitiful state by the end of the book. However, I do realize that not everyone can be as cool as Becky Sharp, and I can live with that. Dickens also has a very annoying habit of rambling and being wordy about unimportant, minor characters, but I have yet to read a novelist who can tie up a plot as neatly as him. Plus, all Dickens novels have amazing illustrations, and he has a wicked sense of humour.

Bleak House is more than 950 pages long. I'm on my last 100 pages, and I almost don't want it to get over because I've become quite attached to it. I love lugging it around the house, trying to find a comfortable, lighted spot where I can sit on the floor next to the heater and read it (on the floor because presently, we don't have any furniture in our house) I don't like reading in bed because I invariably end up falling asleep, not because the book is soporific, but because my bed is so warm and comfortable that I can't help dozing off. I know some people who actually study in bed. How they manage this feat is something quite beyond me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moving Woes

Everyone knows how much I whine, but moving house is really something worth whining about. If it wasn't a painful process already, my family, as usual, has complicated things even further.

The problem is simple enough: we (my mum and I) are moving across the street to a new flat, but my father has to move to another country for reasons regarding his job. Well, my dad actually already moved two months ago. Thus, our current household has been split up into three parts - one part that went with my dad, another part that has gone to the new flat, and the third part, which is currently in this house has but has to eventually move with us to the new flat. Also, our new apartment is quite small, so most of the stuff has actually ended up going with my father, including but not limited to MY BOOKS.

If this was not complicated enough already, this division of stuff has taken place in three different time frames. The stuff that had to go with my father went about two months ago. The things that had to go to the new flat went two weeks ago, which leaves my mum and me currently living in an almost empty household until the end of this month.

My bedroom has no study table, but a bright lamp; my living room has a table, but no lamp. My mother keeps telling me how my grandfather used to study under candle light for his exams when he was my age, and that I should try doing the same. We don't even have a fridge in this house, which has led to my mother keeping milk and other things outside on the window edge. I don't know what everyone in our apartment block thinks about us, but as my mum cleverly pointed out, we are leaving the apartment by January, so we don't have to face these people again.

Why are we not living in the new flat and why have the movers already shifted our stuff to the new apartment when we are not actually living there yet, you might ask. This is because even though Italy pretends to be an OECD nation, it is secretly worse than a number of developing countries. The company that does the transfer does not have enough people working in December, so they had to move our stuff in the last week of November. However, we can't move into the new flat because the people who are supposed to fit the sink, the bath tub and kitchen appliances are unable to do so until the last week of December.

My stuff is sprawled around three houses and two continents, and I have no idea where anything is anymore. I sent more than 90% of my books and DVDs with my dad, yet I find myself with two huge cartons filled with books and another two filled with university textbooks with absolutely no space to keep them anywhere. My mother is understandably livid. I keep finding things that I had tucked away years ago randomly turning up, and am unable to find things that I was using less than a week ago. I never even realized that I owned so many things, and I haven't even started sorting out my clothes yet.

In other news, I have an important presentation and an exam on the SAME day next week. Additionally, I also have exams all through January and partly through February; you know those life changing, final year, end of semester university exams that your future depends on? Yes, those kind! I also have to give the GRE in March, and have a lot more things in between that I'm avoiding thinking about right now.

My mum and dad are behaving like lovesick teenagers, and it has stopped being cute after the first week. I wake up to my mum talking to my dad, and go to bed while listening to my mum talking to my dad. They have such scintillating discussions on topics ranging from the freshness of fruit sold in supermarkets in the respective nations of their abode to curtain measurements for the new flat. Its so domestic, and would have been adorable if I didn't have to live with it all the time and listen to how country X has fresher and more variety of apples than country Y.

Its snowing today, and this has cheered me up! Milan is such an odd city. We haven't got any snow for the last four years, and then suddenly it snows twice in less than a month. Of course, its not real snow; its more of a sludgy, makes-you-slip-while-walking kind of snow, but I'm not complaining. Plus, I'm at home right now drinking tea and listening to Christmas music on my itunes, that I have way too much of on my hard drive. Its hard to be grumpy when you have Frosty, the Snowman playing loudly in the background.

Monday, December 01, 2008

And it continues...

Once the drama is over, we have to face the backlash, namely in the form of politicians. Maybe I'm too cynical for my own good or maybe I've just learnt from the bad experiences I've had from the governments in my own country, but I don't have any faith in politicians. When you see the so called leaders of your country making statements like, "minor incidents do happen in big cities" you need to take a step back and think about what has gone wrong. This morning, I just found out that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra went to survey the damage done inside the Taj with his son, who is a Bollywood actor and a film director (who specializes in making crime movies). Ram Gopal Varma claims that they just happened to be there, and it was not a planned visit, as if I or the rest of the country are going to believe this pitiful excuse.

I know that these people have resigned, but that isn't going to help, is it? Its not like we have anyone else who can do the job better. I don't see how the Congress is going to be re-elected into Maharashtra or India this way. So who are we left with? The Shiv Sena? Yes, all we need in this mess is a neo-radical, racist, militant (and I'm running out of adjectives to describe them) organization to lead us. Why don't we start going around, and burning the city down ourselves instead of waiting for them to do it for us? We just don't have anyone we can depend on, which is weird because you would think there would be a lot of people in the nation to choose from.

The problem in India (and well, the rest of the world) is that we seem to be unable to produce able politicians. Its not that we are lacking intelligent people. I mean, there are one billion of us out there, so by just taking probability into account we have ended up with a lot of smart, capable people. The problem is none of these intelligent, capable people want to deal with politics, and a part of me doesn't even blame them for this. So all we are left with are the likes of Narendra Modi and L.K Advani, and even someone with my limited knowledge and feigned indifference to politics can see this is never going to take us towards development.

Mind you, I'm not one of those people who likes to sit at home and complain about how they don't support either side and are not going to vote. I dislike the people that refrain from voting because even if you don't support either side, you need to make a some sort of a decision. Sitting at home, complaining and writing angy blog posts about how you hate everyone is not going solve anything. Either you vote for someone else or you take charge yourself, stand for elections and do things the right way, which is something no one is willing to do. Voting is a right, no its a privilege given to you in a democracy, and its your duty as a citizen of your country to exercise it.

If all this wasn't bad enough, we just like to pull out our trump card in situations like these and blame Pakistan. Lets just ignore the fact that you are unable to pay attention to all the warnings that you've received about some sort of an attack that was going to take place, unable to control and guard the borders of your own country, and blame another country who is in a pretty shit shape by themselves and really doesn't need you to bring them down any further. I'm not saying that Pakistan is or is not responsible for what has happened, I think that we should first sort out our deficiencies before putting all the blame on someone else. Pak bashing is and will always used to appease the nation when its angry, but this should really stop because its not a solution to our problems.

All I want is someone to tell me that they have messed up and that they are going to try their best in the future to make sure this is not going to happen again. Why is this so hard to do?