Wednesday, 31 July 2013

"Don't Be So Childish"

"Don't be so childish."

The words cut me like a sword. I remember who said it because it came from someone I least expected to make such a remark, but as the words themselves are more important for the current purpose than their original speaker, let's pretend I've forgotten the source.

I've had this statement thrown at me more than a few times. Most often than not, they're not meant to be hurtful, just descriptive, but at the same time slightly disapproving as I don't necessarily "act my age". That realization made me understand that they often meant "childlike", and not "childish", but the demarcations in their meanings just didn't exist in their vocabulary. (In a nutshell, childlike is seen in a more positive light, while childish behaviour is rather undesirable and immature.)


I find joy in little things. Animals literally make me squeal. I can bend over a shrub and start examining its morphology with exclamations of delight, trying to see how much of my high school knowledge I’ve retained. I love getting drenched in the rain and make it obvious. I goof. I make a fool of myself. My facial expressions are not smothered in an attempt to appear more grown up and mature.

We are expected to fit the mould, behave like everyone else does, especially as we get older. Anybody who doesn't, gets labeled various things, including "childish". It's like they want to stomp out the person's spark, their innocent and uncomplicated approach to life. I have to admit, I've not been immune to that stomping. I don't like the way I sometimes subconsciously (or consciously) control myself and my spontaneous exclamations just so I won't draw further comments of the sort. It has changed me when I'd much rather remain the same.

I spoke about this to my sister (who played a major role in this post), and she too has had similar experiences. Classmates saying she's too "innocent", being nicknamed Kung Fu Panda for her many facial expressions, even getting reprimanded by a professor for "having the facial expressions of a two year old child"! I find that last one especially hurtful and disturbing. Why do some people get bothered by a person who has an uncensored, genuine outlook and expression of life?


I believe that you have enough time to get older, and irrevocably, you will. Being young though, is irretrievably moving further and further away from us each passing day. I'd rather remain young inside for as long as I can than give in to society's guidelines on the desired and expected level of "maturity", involving perfectly controlled expressions, well-manicured conversations, zero spontaneity, poker faces and no display of authentic emotions once you cross your mid-teens.

Like I once said, unfortunately oblivious to the alternative interpretation, “One must nourish the child within oneself.”

Sunday, 28 July 2013

We've Been Robbed

There’s been a robbery in my home back in Country B. Yes, you read that right. Things have been stolen. My parents informed me that they’ve been having suspicions for a few days now, that they’ve felt like someone’s been trying to break in a few nights in a row. Being away from home, it really scares me, not just for the monetary damage it could cause, but also for the people.

A little back story now: we’re renovating. Which means, there are workers inside the house five days a week, for a relatively long time. I think it could be one (or a group) of them, for they are now familiar with the house’s construction.

I mentioned that someone’s been trying to break in, right? Well, something’s already been stolen. Somehow, strangely enough, these two incidents seem separate, yet connected. The burning question now, what has been stolen? What did those thieves take? They took chocolates. Yes, you read that right. Chocolates. See, we have a pretty good stash of exquisite chocolates stored in a small, separate fridge. We consumed them sparingly, as they’re the kind not available in Asia, these chocolates aren’t very tolerant of shipping, and we get to restock only every two years or so. And what did those bastards do? They took everything from the fridge. All the chocolates. Today, mum found some of the empty original boxes inside the house. That means it was one, or a group, of the workers currently renovating the house. It made me so furious; I was literally shaking with rage when I heard it. I do take my chocolates seriously, but this time, I was infuriated at the self-righteous manner in which they were taken, at the arrogance of exploring our fridges (and maybe cupboards too), the contemptuous way in which the empty boxes were discarded.

It might seem like something small, “just a few chocolates”, but who knows what they might nick next, or have already nicked? There’s only so much you can do to keep watch on a big group of workers at all times, and to find out who the culprit is is practically impossible.

The second incident I spoke about, of my parents feeling like someone’s been trying to break in – that isn’t connected to the chocolate robbery, but I have this foreboding that these two are related, possibly by the same person or group of people. I certainly hope nothing happens, that no one breaks in. From what I've heard, they've been lurking around for the past three nights. They sound frighteningly adamant. We do have a big ol’ Dobermann, but if the thief comes armed, I fear for his life.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Le Petit Nicolas

Last night, the whole household was unanimously craving a light, feel-good movie. We dug around in our archives and found one none of us had seen yet: the French movie “Le Petit Nicolas”.


Le Petit Nicolas is a 2009 French movie directed by Laurent Tirard based on a series of French children’s books by René Goscinny (Does the name ring a bell? Clue – Astérix!). The movie centers on the 8 year old Nicolas, his parents, his school, and his friends, and is set in the ‘50s. After learning that one of his friends has a new baby brother, Nicolas misreads his parents’ exchanges as signs that he, too, will get a baby brother soon. Having heard accounts (some real, most exaggerated) from his friends of how their own younger siblings ousted them of their spoilt only-child positions, Nicolas fears that his own future younger sibling will supplant him. What follows is Nicolas and his friends’ efforts to find the perfect way to get rid of the forthcoming baby.

The movie is shot from the perspective of the young Nicolas. I liked that there is neither an attempt to make it appeal to adults through an exaggerated child’s perspective, nor a version of how adults like to think children see the word. The humour is subtle and understated. It isn’t a loud, slapstick comedy, there are no painfully obvious jokes, and the characters go about their business with complete earnestness. The movie transports us for a short while into the world of these kids, with their firm, albeit inaccurate, beliefs, their untouched perspective of adult behavior, and their innocent shenanigans.

The acting by the whole cast is commendable. I liked that every character is well-developed. Each person has a well-defined personality, story and conduct. The visuals are not overwhelming, with understated beauty, and are very naturalistic. I liked that they let children be children, and not what we want them or would like them to be.

If you are looking for a subtly humourous, light, engaging, beautiful movie to be watched with the whole family, I highly recommend Le Petit Nicolas. I honestly have nothing negative to say about this well-made gem.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A Lesbian Wedding

Last month, this happened:


I recently saw this article making its rounds on Facebook, and was sucked in the moment I clicked the link. There is so much happiness. So many beautiful photos. Such a mixture of cultures. So much love.


An Indian-American inter-racial lesbian wedding, a celebration of love cutting through so many traditional stereotypes and prejudices.


My favourite part? Both brides’ families supported them and attended the wedding.What makes that even more amazing is that Indian culture is rather traditional and conservative, especially in this front.


I also liked that they got both: the beautiful Indian bridal wear, and the traditional white wedding dress. 

See more of Shannon and Seema’s wedding here.

What do you think about same-sex marriages? Do you think they’re wrong? Or does everyone deserve their chance at love?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Can I See Your ID, Please?

Growing (and especially looking) older is a delicate subject, more so for women. Since coming to Country A, however, I noticed a commendable increase in the number of times I've been mistaken as being younger. Sometimes it works against me, like the time I was asked to produce an identity card when I wanted to buy mulled wine at a Christmas stand.


Not that I have anything against being judged to be younger than I am (heck, I like it!), but it was a little embarrassing, holding up the queue and having to show my ID to buy alcohol, in front of so many people.  Note that here, you need to be above 16 to buy alcohol. Nobody else was asked to show their ID.

Sometimes, it works in my favour; just this week, I was issued a "child pass" when I went to a museum. The lady at the counter realized her mistake when I told her my age, but she let me use that cheaper ticket anyway. Maybe I should mention that I wasn't alone; my sister, who's older than me by a year, was issued a child pass as well! 

I don't think we both have some amazing genetic quality which makes us look younger, although that would have been awesome. No, I think it could be because of the way we're attired, and the way we behave. I have mentioned before that I grew up for the most part in an Asian country, where the culture and society are extremely different from Western countries. That too, it wasn't a big city we lived in. All that does seem to influence this age confusion. I reckon we both dress, look and act like a couple of slightly shy teenagers, by European big city standards. 

Ironically, in Country B, I was often asked if I'm the elder of the two of us. One very embarrassing situation stands out - when I was 19 or 20, I visited my sister at her student hostel for the first time. One of her friends asked her if I'm........ wait for it........................her mother!!

That's just... just... 


Being mistaken as the mother of a 20+ year old college girl whilst still a teenager is not really a compliment. Anyway, right now, we're both mistaken to be "teenies" very often, and it doesn't bother us. All I can say is, I hope this "mistaken as younger" thing carries on for a good half century more ;)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Book Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox Maggie O'Farrell

I read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox quite a while ago, and finally decided to review it. I saw the book at my aunt's place when I went visiting. The title intrigued me so; I just had to bring it home with me!


“In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.

Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she's still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

A gothic, intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox will haunt you long past its final page.”

This novel is difficult to review without giving away major details of the plot. The story centers on three women: Iris, her grandmother Kitty, and her great aunt Esme. Iris gets an unexpected phone call, informing her that her hitherto unknown great aunt, Esme, will be released from the psychiatric institution she has been locked away for over sixty years. Not knowing what Esme’s condition is, and having neither seen, nor heard of her, Iris is unsure at first on whether she should take Esme in. The story unfolds through the narrative voices of the three women it centers on.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox did as it promised: it got me mulling over the story for days after I’d turned the last page. The book is written from the perspective of all the three women – Esme, Iris and Kitty. The rapid shifts in perspective and era took a little time getting used to, but it was a pleasant challenge keeping up with the narrative. I enjoyed the drama, the descriptions and the different eras. The author Maggie O’Farrell does a great job in subtly describing the horrors of bygone times, how women were expected to behave in a way society deemed appropriate, and were punished for daring to be different. Esme refused to stick to the mould society expected her to fit, expressed her opinions a bit too strongly for her family’s liking, and showed a strength which was discouraged in women during her time. This eventually led to her being institutionalized, tagged as “mentally unstable”, and committed to an asylum for the biggest part of her life.

Esme’s story is told in a seemingly casual, mostly disjointed way. The horrible crime committed against her, the wasting away of her life, the people who were the reason behind it, the immense, shocking truths which emerge, and ultimately Esme’s revenge for her lost years and the injustice done to her, are the focal point of the novel. One can’t help but feel for Esme. It is only towards the end that the whole story with its many narratives comes together like the pieces of a complex puzzle and reveals the complete picture. At parts, there is an ambiguity in the narration, which leaves the reader guessing what exactly happened. Many questions are left unanswered, which only the subtlest hints and my own imagination could piece together. This very quality is what left me pondering over the book long after finishing it.

The one major qualm I have is that the side-stories and -characters aren’t well developed. The beginnings of the side stories are promising, but do not deliver. I didn’t care much for the storyline happening in the present. Thankfully, it is just a minor part of the novel. Also, I can’t honestly say I am satisfied with the ending, neither am I smitten by the writing style.

Apart from that, the novel is haunting, shocking, complex and compelling. It forced me to reflect on what I’d read, trying to find answers, trying to make connections, and trying to understand. There are a few drawbacks, but I’d still recommend this book for everything else it offers. And it offers a lot.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Let's Talk About Se... Coffee

I had small a cup of coffee today. Once a week, or once a fortnight, is as much as I’ll have.  I am by no means the kind who says:

There have been times I used to drink coffee every morning, just before rushing off to college, until I realized it wasn’t doing me any good, and that I was doing it just out of habit, and not out of preference. I took a snap decision and went cold turkey on it…and spent the next two weeks sleeping in class till my body adjusted back to running normally and learnt to not depend on coffee to stay awake. I had no other withdrawal symptoms, thankfully.

And there was also this time, again during college, when I’d make myself a cup of coffee at night (!) with the hopes that it would help me stay awake longer to study, or to work on that assignment which needed to be submitted, or something similar. I soon realized it wasn’t doing much in way of giving me the focus I needed, after catching myself fall asleep on top of my books within minutes of finishing the beverage.


That was when my aunt suggested eating oranges instead, and boy, after just two oranges, I got a kick so strong, I was buzzing. Who knew you could get high on oranges!


Anyway, I don’t have an easy relationship with coffee. I love the way it smells. Like, love it! I love coffee cake too; it’s one of my favourites. As well as coffee ice cream. But drinking coffee? I find that it almost always leaves me disappointed (same story with today’s café noir). To me, the taste doesn’t live up to the aroma. I’ll be happy just sniffing the air while that pot’s brewing.


What’s up with society’s obsession with coffee? 


I personally feel that this “coffee culture” is over the top. And it’s not just coffee per se, it’s the caffeine. A few years ago, there were very few caffeinated drinks. And now? There are too many kinds of energy drinks to count. Why do people need so many energy drinks? I know I grew up just fine without them, but today’s teens and pre-teens chug these sugary caffeinated aerated drinks down like it’s their life’s elixir. It’s an addiction society’s creating and encouraging.

What really got to me, though, was when I saw this new (rather, new-to-me) bottled drink, SH2OCK. Which, they say, is plain water containing caffeine. Seriously??? Have we become so addicted to this drug that we need it in water as well?

I get that coffee photos look gorgeous. 

I get that latte art is beautiful. 

 I get that coffee jokes are funny.


What I don’t get is this extreme addiction. This coffee culture. This caffeine-fueled society. The status symbol coffee has reached. The level of idolization. The cult following. And most of all, the myriad energy drinks.

Almost all offices have a coffee machine. Why don’t they have hot chocolate machines as well?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Woof Woof

I’ve mentioned this before – I am a complete animal person. I can’t seem to restrain myself when I come across a cat or a dog. I immediately start cooing and blathering. And if I can’t coo out loud, like at a very crowded public place, I coo in my mind.

I recently came across this picture, and couldn’t help but agree with it. It is completely true of me.

Mmm… no, maybe not quite true. In my case, I sometimes even avoid making eye-contact when I encounter someone, let alone say “Hey”. Talking to people sometimes is uncomfortable. Unless I’m really close with them, that is. You have to think of what to say, of what not to say, if what you’ve said is okay, try to remember what the person’s name was and what he’s doing, and of course, answer their endless questions about what you're doing with your life right now… Given the choice, I’d rather spend my time cuddling and cooing with an animal as opposed to pretending to hold a conversation with a person I hardly know (or a person I wish I didn’t).

I think I was a dog in my last life.

A German Shepherd.

Yes. That’s got to be the answer.

Oh, and that title? That's in my native language.