Friday, 26 February, 2010

Some old photos...

I was going through some of my old photo albums and found these. They were taken during my trip to Montreal in the summer of 06. I loved the city, enjoy the glimpses.


Wednesday, 24 February, 2010

Am sooo over them....

Reading yet another chick lit about late 20 something New York singles. Same story-- three girls, their sex lives, shopping, bonding with other girls, promiscuity with men, night outs and never ending rounds of martinis and cocktails, vacations in the sunny south, careers or non existence of the same and hordes of similar other familiar stuff. For the first time in my reading career I am so bored reading this, that I am surprised at myself. Come on this is a chick lit, my favourite genre (ok second fav, right after the romantic genre) and here I am bored! It is not badly written, quiet witty (discovered a singsong phrase called "pity party"), but I am so bored. These characters and all those in their periphery in the book are dysfunctional people at the best, emotionally insecure, neurotic and what not and I am actually spending time reading about them. I grumbled so much that my husband finally asked me to quit reading.

I am finally over reading these. So next time I come across a brightly lit chick lit, don't think I will go for it.

Sushi the Shop Assistant Part III...

So after being broke again, Sushi was really down in dumps. For lunch she had to actually turn her purse up side down, and collect all the coins to buy a sandwich. Man life was though! On top of this, since now Sushi could not buy any of the clothes, her job seemed less interesting. Now she was less eager to help the rich women decide what to buy, fetching and carrying seemed like a repetitive chore. The women have ceased to be glamorous, they seemed extremely self centered and often rude. Sushi sighed thinking that their mothers had not done good job raising these women, if they did, then they certainly would not be this rude! She realised what her colleagues used to bitch about.

Sushi sighed loudly to herself, folding yet another cotton shirt. These were really cute, but she knew there was no way she could buy one. So she tired to keep her mind engaged elsewhere while folding the clothes mechanically. It had been a long day, she had dealt with some really difficult women who just could not make up their minds about anything. For the first time in her life, she realized how irritating it was if someone tried a hundred different things and finally bought nothing. Not that she ever did that, she was the sort, who kept buying even when she had no money. She smiled ruefully at herself, this job has actually made her grow up. Here she was in the middle of all these goodies and she was not even feeling sad that she cannot buy them. She thought to herself, "Snow would be really proud of me if he ever knew, not that I would tell him."

Sushi's legs were aching from the high heels that the manager insisted they wear and constant moving around, she could feel a headache starting to form at the back of her head. Today it was her duty to do the final check and lock up the store. She stacked the shirts and started restocking some rather depleted shelves. Her other colleagues went out, and her manager was on the phone ordering stock. 
Sushi switched the security code from day to night alarm and decided to do a quick check of the premises before starting the lock up procedure. She was just about to switch off the light in one of the trail rooms, when she saw a part of black longish thing  peeping out from behind the stool. She bent down and pulled it out. It was a lady's wallet, made of soft black leather. She opened the wallet to see it stacked with notes and loads of cards. Taking out the driving license she saw it was one of those really difficult ladies who had come in late afternoon. She was horrible, had been downright rude and short with her and tried about a thousand different things before not buying anything. Staring at all the money inside, for one moment Sushi thought that if she just used the cash and threw away all the cards, then also all her monetary problems would be solved. While she was sitting half crouched debating what to do, her manager announced that she was off and walked out. Now Sushi was alone in the shop holding a wallet full of money.

She decided to debate about it on her way back, so she put the rescued wallet in her bag and finished locking the shop.

Our latest possession...

We were browsing in a book shop called 'The Last Book Shop'(my husband loves this name) in Jericho. They have a sale going on there. Then at the corner of the tiny shop we stumbled upon this lovely thing. It is a calender called The Long Jumping Point...where you can just pluck out the dates to reveal colours inside. So as the year goes your calender looks really colourful and bright. At one pound it was definitely a steal!

Tuesday, 23 February, 2010

Monday, 22 February, 2010

Controlling your life!

You know while writing Sushi, I suddenly realized that for each of us there are one or two aspects in our lives which are out of control. While making up stories about Sushi and her shopaholic urges, I most often giggle. I can afford to giggle because I have never been one of those mad shoppers and it is one area of my life which is strictly under control. But there are some areas which are not and which I cannot afford to laugh about.
There are phases, periods when being in control is more difficult like for example immediately after loosing a loved one or a job, a nasty break-up, recuperating from a sickness, really stressed out etc etc etc. But then on the whole, in our lives there are almost always some problem areas which remain steady. In these spheres however hard we try we just cannot be in control.
Who knows what triggers these patterns in our lives? It is very difficult to pinpoint why we started over indulging and how it became a habit hard to break. Maybe some experience or some incident or maybe we turned to shopping, eating etc etc for comfort or to hide a shame or feel less lonely or less bored and before long these become our vice! I know some people take the help of therapy to overcome these, which is not a bad idea, provided you have the money.
Let me try and jot down some of the problem areas. These are just my personal ideas and in no way am I am an expert in the field. Enjoy and maybe you could also detect some patterns in your lives.

  • Emotional needs: We, women of 21st century India are really proud of ourselves. And so we should be, we are ground breakers-- we are doing things which our mothers never imagined and doing them well too. But with so much venturing into uncharted territories, we often time get confused about our emotional needs. Mostly we tend to think that we are all powerful, non vulnerable, do not need any support. Fighting for independence or to create a name for ourselves, we often build up these images of ourselves for the world-- that we are strong, independent, feisty, take no nonsense and many more. While all this is true, it is equally true that we are human beings and like the rest of our species we need love, care and attention. We are often lonely and love crying our hearts out, but feel afraid to acknowledge this in public, lest that makes us less look strong. Because of our image we attract men who seem to think that we can take care of ourselves, they need not be involved in any way. And we let these men think in this way, it satisfies our egos, but it does leave us sad, lonely and aching for love many a times. As a result these relationships mostly do not survive and then we move onto someone else who again has no clue what we want. How secure are you in acknowledging your emotional needs? I know I wasn't till very recently and used to fall for all the wrong men. Somewhere along the line this becomes the norm and however much we rationalize, we tend to go for the wrong men or give the right men the wrong signals.  I think sometimes we even delude ourselves in thinking that we are strong  enough, when in truth we are actually not. Over the years I have seen many of my girl friends struggling with this.This is one area we need to watch out for girls.
  • Finance: With us all being financially independent, we get to do a whole lot of stuff-- shopping, indulgences, hobbies, holidays, gifts etc etc. We often disregard our parents when they urge us to save. I am including the men also in this, both my husband and brother being glaring examples of non savers. The logic is 'oh well we earn, so we can spend and money is not a priority in our lives, experiences or what money can buy are". I completely agree but even then I think that we can very easily save/put aside 10% of our salaries for emergency/rainy days/future. You never know what ugly surprise life has in store for you in which corner. I can manage my finances well and can save a part of my salary easily. Being the post office saver kind, I agree my saving would never translate into millions but they would be there when I need them. I can never understand when people complain that they do not know where their salary vanishes.  I am someone who plans for every money that I spend. But then I know many people who are really scattered when it comes to expenditure. To someone like me all it takes is a little control, but obviously to those who cannot do it, it is much more graver. I think this is one area, where our control often slips, for some perpetually, for some occasionally.
  • Eating: Ah here comes my vice. I love eating. But I do not like exercising to burn all those calories, also my hobbies are sedentary like reading, writing etc, to top it I was born in a family where hereditarily our structures are fat and short. So all these factors make me one of the fatties of this world. I know it is not good for health, neither is it in fashion. I know I should stop eating, I have identified that I eat many times cos I am feeling lonely or bored and most of these times I am not hungry. I tend to go for deep fried, quoted in sugar, crawling in calories types of food. I know I should eat salads, fruits, veggies more and more. I know, I know, I know. I try and I try and then I fail, so after sometime I try again. During all this I gain some more weight. I know all it needs is a little discipline, a little restraint. Just the kind which I apply on my spending but this is one area where my control is fragile at best and lacking most of the times. It took me a while to work this out, also this realization illuminated why no diet, or exercise regime ever works. Many of my friends suffer from this same problem, while some are extremely conscious about their eating habits and can amazingly restrain themselves. I have come a long way in that while before when I used to see a chocolate goodie all I thought about was the amazing taste when it hit my mouth, now I do spare some thoughts as to what it would do to my body. I have started playing an interesting game to myself-- every time I eat something really high in calories, I try and think which part of my body will this fat settle/ snuggle in. Believe me it automatically slows the pace of eating and also many times stops me from going for the second helping! All said and done, I do have a long way to go.
  • Shopping: This is related to spending I guess, but not totally. Shopping can wreck havoc in many people's lives. I remember the first time I read a shopaholic book. I was amazed thinking how people can shop this much. Soon I realized that there was a pattern to shopping and people who actually shop like mad least needs all that they shop. In fact I have a friend, who before when she used to feel depressed used to eat, then she controlled her eating binges and now instead goes shopping. Her philosophy is that shopping can hurt her wallet but it helps her to lift her mood. Given a choice between eating and shopping, she has chosen shopping. Again I am one of those who knows the upper permissible limit very well, sometimes I do go over it a wee bit, especially if I am in a silver shop or craft's shop. But most times my control is superb. I just do not sway. In fact in these days of tight budgeting, often I stop my husband from buying silly, not necessary stuff. I can see that it frustrates him sometimes. But I just do not see any point of spending money at a whim when that money could be spent for essentials. I know it is not the same story for everyone. Many people I know struggle to control their shopping urges and often fail.
  • Drinking/smoking: These are the known vices and most of us indulge once in a while, some of us indulge often and other everyday. In case of smoking it can be even an hourly thing. I used to smoke quiet regularly at one point, now for the last 3/4 months I have completely stopped. I was reading a book where there was a character of a beautiful aspiring model who worked out for three hours in the gym every day, almost ate nothing. I was about to get impressed when her character revealed to be addicted to smoking. Ah I thought here comes her vice. Even though she had complete control over her eating, she could not control her smoking. I wonder if cigarettes had calories, would this girl ever smoke them?
This triggers another thought. So do we need to over indulge in something or the other to be happy in our lives? We all know that the things we indulge in are often bad for our health, harm us in some way or the other. Yet we cannot stop. I do not remember our parents or our grandparents' needing external stimuli to feel happy or fulfilled? Is this the result of the new life style brought about by globalization? The more busy and stressed we are, the more we need those chocolates or the coke or that cigarette or drinks on Friday to forget the stress of the week. In fact life without these de-stressers have become kind of unimaginable!

    Sunday, 21 February, 2010

    Sushi the Shop Assistant Part II...

    Carrying the burgundy dress carefully packed in a plastic wrap, Sushi went home with a heavy heart. While coming back she came across a lovely pair of shoes which were made just for this dress in that newly opened fancy shoe shop. The shoes cost a little less than two hundred quids. Sushi's feet were aching to get inside the shop and try the shoes. They looked so lovely and enticing, almost inviting her to try them on. But Sushi resisted and went to her car. All the way she kept thinking about those shoes and how lovely they would look with this dress. But then she remembered her dire economic situation and sighing heavily came way from the shop window. She was feeling to be the most deprived and unfortunate being on earth that evening.

    Home was empty, Snow must be out somewhere listening to some boring lecture or studying in the library. Sushi went to her bedroom, flung herself on her bed and bawled her heart out. 

    Oh the shoes....oh this dress....oh why did God not give her more money? Why why why....there were so many rich people all around her...why could not God make her one of them? Life is so unfair...why could she not be born with loads of money...why could her husband not be a millionaire....she did not have a lot of expectations in life...all she wanted was to live happily and shop now and then....life was so bloody unfair... Oh how would she spend this month without any money? And it was a 31 days month...its March....she found February with its 28 days long enough, March would be hell.She hated her life, she hated March, who asked March to have 31 long days. Oh God no money, which meant no shopping. How would she live like that for a whole month?  Snow would not give her any money as well. No one, just about no one loved her.

    She just about finished bawling when Snow came home. He found her with face streaked with tears and make-up smeared all over the face, hair super messed and her dress utterly crumpled. She looked like she has been in an accident. Seeing her like this he got frightened and asked with concern "Sushi hon what is wrong?"

    Seeing the concern and love on Snow's face, all of Sushi's problems cam crashing back and she started crying again. Snow kept asking her what was wrong, getting no answer, he started asking so did she meet with an accident, but her car seemed alright, no; was she fired? no; did she have a fight with anyone? no; did someone say something bad to her? no; was she sick? no....out of desperation Snow asked was she crying because he was  home late? Sushi remembered feeling unloved and said "Yes. You do not love me anyone."

    Knowing from experience that trying to talk to her logically will not get him anywhere, so he tried to calm her down. After much weeping, Sushi did calm down. In order to cheer her up Snow suggested dinner outside. Throughout dinner Sushi kept thinking whether she should tell Snow about the financial mess she was in. She was just about to attack the big ice cream sundae when Snow said "Sushi  I am mostly preoccupied, lost in my work. I know that I mostly leave you to your own devices. But I am so happy the way you are doing this job and managing your life. Always remember that I love you very very much and am very proud of you."

    Looking at Snow's eager face, Sushi knew that for once she could not dump her problems on him. She sat up a little straighter, Snow proud of her. Wow that made her feel good.

    Coming back home, Sushi sat down to plan how to get out of the mess.
    • Ask parents for help, she had asked them for help numerous times and never bothered to return any money ever, she felt a little guilty, swallowed hard several times and kept parents on the back burner for the time being;
    • Ask her friends, but they were just like her, always in debt, credit card bills pending...they would be of no help;
    • Ask Snow-- no longer possible, ever since he had said she was managing so well that she made him proud, she cannot, just cannot make him less proud of her;
    • Take another job-- but where would she get the time to do another job? As it is she is tired enough doing this one!
    • Play Lotto-- but that means spending more money and she may not win, not a good idea in present circumstances;
    • Sell the new dress-- aw but she had not even worn it, no bad idea!
    • Sell some of the inappropriate clothes from her closet. A little lump came to her throat at the thought of selling off her precious clothes but that seemed like the perfect solution.
    So next day during her lunch hours Sushi went to the thrift shop next door to inquire about selling her clothes. The man there was very helpful, he handed her their rate card and asked her to get the clothes, they would finalize once they saw the condition of the clothes. So Sushi spent the whole evening sorting her clothes and deciding which ones to sell off. To her surprise there were quiet a few stuff that she had hardly ever worn. Sushi even contemplated selling her new burgundy dress. But it looked so lovely, she sat with it for a long time, stroking the fine silk and then tried it on. Oh she was stunned at her own reflection, she looked totally different in that dress. Sushi decided to keep the dress. Next morning Snow was surprised to see Sushi dragging two huge laundry bags, she explained that some of her clothes needed alteration.

    The man at the thrift shop was very happy to see Sushi's clothes. There were in good condition and would not need any major darning, just a little ironing and they would be as good as new. He was touching them with his big fat hand in a funny way. To hurry things up, Sushi decided to be brisk and businesslike. After going through all her clothes, the man quoted a figure which was so low that Sushi automatically started repacking her clothes. Seeing her pack her clothes, the man doubled his price, Sushi realized that a bargain was needed. Now what this man did not know was that Sushi was a bargain queen and she expertly got down to the business. She has been buying clothes forever and it was not possible to short charge her over clothes. Finally the man parted with much more money than he intended and Sushi emerged triumphant from the shop. Sushi calculated that with this money, if she spent it cleverly, she could stretch a month.

    Immediately after coming out, she saw some lovely ear rings in the opposite shop. Sushi went near them, they were lovely chandelier ear rings, glittering in the light and beckoning her in. She looked at the price tag, they were not that expensive. It was true that she did not wear ear rings, but once in a while it would look great. Before she could think of anything else, Sushi was in the shop, checking out the ear rings and loving them. Seeing her hesitate the girl at the counter even offered a discount. That settled it, Sushi marched out with the new ear rings in her hand.

    That evening, Snow reminded her that it was her turn to do the grocery, also she needed to pay some of her credit card bills to keep the card. So next day almost all of Sushi's money went doing the chores.

    Dear God it was the fourth day of the month and she was completely broke twice over!

    Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

    Food...

    Sunday, 14 February, 2010

    Sushi the shop assistant...

    In case you guys were wondering where Sushi is...oh well the last few weeks Sushi has been rather down in the dumps. You would realize why once you hear what happened...

    One day soon after the New Year's, Sushi bursting with the fervor of a bag full of  new resolutions had applied for a temporary position as an assistant sales manager in one of the many boutiques she frequently frequents. Much to her delight she got the job and the best part was that she was entitled to a 20% discount on any purchase she made due to her employee status!

    Sushi made extra effort to dress nicely for her job. Gone were the days of  hot pink, sequined track pants. This was a posh place and she dressed in mauves, lilacs and beiges to fit in.  She was  extremely good with the clients  and could discuss clothes with the women for hours, happily suggesting them stuff to wear, carrying and fetching for them. While other girls often grumbled about this and gossiped about their clients, Sushi loved doing it all. She felt like she was in clothes heaven. She marveled at the capacity of some of the women to spend money. They literally spend thousands without the slightest hesitation. Sushi  often indulged in a little self pity when witnessing such extravagance but then she  immediately perked up thinking of the special privileges she enjoyed as an employee.  She was in a state of sublime pleasure as she got to check out the clothes as soon as they arrived and could put aside for herself the best of the lot. And the best bit was while shopping she did not have to worry about her pending credit card bill because the shop owed her salary so they simply kept an account of how much she was spending and said they would adjust it against her salary.

    But sadly at the end of the month when she was expecting a nice pay check with some deductions, all she got was a further bill. Not only all her salary had gone into paying for her clothes, she still had to pay about a thousand quid more. Looking at the bill Sushi swallowed hard and remembered her conversation with Snow just two days back. 

    She was going out in yet another new dress, when Snow noticed it and said    "Isn't this another new dress? I think this is the 6th or 7th new thing you have worn since you joined that shop! Also you seem to be picking up new shoes and other stuff as well"....

    Sushi had felt a moment's irritation at Snow's observation. Really he never noticed enough to compliment her but certainly did so to tick her off. But instead of snapping at him and starting a fight, she decided to be gracious. It suited her new 'career girl' image!

    So she smiled benignly at him and said: " Yes darling! Isn't it lovely? How smart of you to notice! Oh I love the colour and the way the fabric drapes my body..." She twirled around for his benefit and asked "So how do I look honey?"

    Snow (noncommittal as ever): " Hmmmm...these kind of look expensive....how on the earth will you pay for them? You know your credit card bills are pending..."

    Sushi: "Oh darling...don't you worry...I am a working girl now...not only will I pay for these clothes myself... but I will also pay off the credit card..."

    Snow: " Ok..." (grudgingly) and gone back to whatever he was reading.

    Sushi blew Snow a kiss and smartly walked out of the house. Ever since she had joined the boutique there was a spring in her step, she felt more confident and smarter. While sashaying out she thought to herself "Oh Snow can be such a fuss pot and a worrier to boot. Really he forgets that I am a mature, grown up woman, with an income of my own." She tossed her hair with her new found confidence and drove off.

    Now looking at the bill she swallowed hard and tried to check the items. Oh dash it all, almost every day she had taken something home and worn it the very next day to the shop. She loved it when the clients marveled at her dresses and the shop manager complimented her and the other girls made jealous faces. She could not understand why the other girls never picked up anything from there. Now it dawned on her that the clothes were way too expensive to afford on their salaries.

    But how to pay this off. Oh well she could always arrange to adjust this bill with her next month's salary. But then how on earth will this month go? In a fit of generousness she had asked Snow to discontinue her monthly allowance and also promised to do the grocery. On a thoughtful mode Sushi went off for lunch. In a fit of economy Sushi went to Mac Donald's and temporarily forgot her woes in Mac Chicken, fries and nuggets.

    Sushi came back to the shop burping like a child, happily sucking her Diet Coke, when the manager handed her  a dress.

    Sushi: "Oh what is this?"

    Manager: "Oh Sushi the evening dress you sent to alter...I must say the  burgundy silk would look great on you (ever the saleswoman)...are you planning to wear this somewhere special, dear?" This lady had managed the boutique for years, yet she never bought any of her clothes from there. Sushi secretly thought that she was extremely tight fisted, who could do with some nice clothes. But she was a good boss and always complimented Sushi, so they had got along fine.

    Sushi's heart sank a little lower and food happy till two seconds ago settled at the pit of her stomach and started making ugly sounds. Oh she had forgotten all about this dress. A fantasy in burgundy silk...when it had come, Sushi had held it in her hand and fallen instantly in love with it. She could visualize herself looking lovely in it, dancing the night away in arms of dashing young men in some posh ball. Even Snow complementing her! Impulsively she had booked one for herself and sent it for alteration....the dress must look as if it was tailor made for her!  It all came back to Sushi in a slow motion, much like a horror film, the situation similar to  when the heroine realises that the villain has corned her and there is just about no one to help her. Oh dear oh, the dress was very expensive (it  could easily feed a small nation of people) and in her bankrupt state it was astronomically expensive and worst of all she had nowhere to wear it to. Should she try and sell it off? But to whom and how? It had been altered to fit her. Briskly cutting into Sushi's contemplation, the manager handed her a fresh bill, hardly aware that she had triggered a huge economic crisis in Sushi's life!

    Patience folks....to be continued...

    Happy Valentine's Day :)



    Wednesday, 10 February, 2010

    Snowy Oxford...

     First week of January bought heavy snow all over the UK. In Oxford there was continous snowfall for more than 2/3 days. So much so that life almost came to a standstill-- schools shut down, libraries and shops started closing early, food was disappearing fast from the shelves of grocery stores and people were generally staying at home, drinking hot chocolate. Some photos taken during this time.