Friday, May 28, 2010

I raise a toast to my BFF

I made the move to Chennai when I was going to start 7th grade. Till then I lived in a small town in Tamilnadu with a lot of history and a promising future, but the present was just meh…I was very excited at the very idea of being in Chennai, bigger city, more things to do, new place, new friends, etc. etc.

So here I was, dressed in civil clothes and getting dropped by my brother for my first day at school. I was super nervous but my bro helped me out big deal. He told me to relax and enjoy my new school. I stepped into the building with trepidation.

As soon as my brother took me outside the classroom a very bubbly girl ran up to me and held my hands and took me over to a desk in the front row. There was her bag, and two empty places. I sat down, obviously enjoying the attention of everyone in the class but not sure what to do next. The girl introduced herself to me as Madhumathi. She had tons of questions for me and I answered them all in one word. And before she could be done with her questions another girl walked in.

This other new girl was pretty and obviously Miss M had to escort her to her new spot in the class…next to mine. She sat down and went through a similar grilling from M. I had heard all I needed to hear and was pretty content with the information. Since the new girl had not heard my part of the grilling she was itching to ask me questions. We were the only two girls in the class dressed in civvies.

This is how the conversation took place:

K: Hi, my name is K, what is yours?
A: A.
K: I just moved to Madras from Bombay, how about you?
A: I am from Trichy.
K: Where do you live?
A: Anna Nagar.
K: I am from Nungambakkam.
A: Oh.
K: How do you get to school?
A: Brother drops me.
K: I take the bus.
A: Oh.
K: Have you always been in CBSE?
A: Yes.
K: Not me.
A: Ok.

And so on. K got really mad at me. She was upset that I did not want to converse with her. In her mind she made up that I was a snob and decided not to talk to me at all.

Then came our language class. I knew for sure that I would do Hindi for second language and Sanskrit for third, the same as I was doing in Trichy but K had no idea what to do. She was freaking out and she sought my help again:
K: What do I do? In Bombay we did not have this kind of choice.
A: Your call. I am taking Hindi second language and Sanskrit as my third.
K: But I have never done Sanskrit before.
A: It is not that difficult.
K: So you think I should do what you are doing?
A: I don’t know
K: What do I do?
A: Ask your mother.
K: But I have to study and not her. What do I do?
A: I am going to my Hindi class. Bye

And 21 years later…we are still the best of friends. I don’t know what I would have done on those so many nights when I felt down or when I was super elated and had to share the news with someone. I even remember how she laughed her guts out when I introduced her to my then boyfriend and told me that he looks ugly and that I should have better taste in men. I was super mad but looking back, oh how very true, not only did he look ugly but he was a jerk also.

I remember the days when we would have Rs.100 in our pocket and we would do budgeting for the day. Rs. 50 for lunch at Mathura, we will have one malai kofta and one fried rice divided between us and then we will spend Rs. 50 going and watching a movie. We never planned for contingencies. So many a times we have pushed our TVS 50 3-4 kilometers to get home after we ran out of gas or when we got a flat. All the troubled times of growing up we had laughed at our own silliness but we still never planned for later. It was always about NOW.

We were together in many of those accidents that I have written here, and here. She is also mentioned here

I love my best friend forever…there was only one dream we had after I left that school in ninth grade…we wanted to go to the same college, did not happen. We wanted to go to the same Univ. in US, did not happen. We wanted to live and work in the same city, has not happened…and one day I hope it will…if she was close to me, I can conquer the world, at least we always felt we did.

I can write on and on...but am going to stop here...and think of those days bygone...ah! what a wondrous time! I really hope Babs will have a fun childhood like we did, innocent, exciting and adventurous!


Monday, May 24, 2010


There is a Bangladeshi family who lives in the same complex as mine. They are our ONLY friendly neighbor in a complex of hundred apartments. I am not kidding you when I say that. There are people in the complex who do not even smile at me, who run away as soon as they see us, and then there are others who ask me after seeing me everyday for three years, if I have just moved in. I gave up after the three years to make friends. Now, I do not care. I love this apartment because it comes with tons of perks that I would hate to trade and I really do not care about the neighbors because I have friends, good friends who will help me when I need it. So anyway the point was...

The Bangladeshi aunty H and her husband A had moved here only two years ago. The thing is, the house they live in now was owned by their son B but two years ago he passed away in a car accident very close to home. So H and A moved here in an attempt to sell the apartment that no one wanted to buy because of the brill economy. Now they have decided to keep the apartment and let their college going grand daughter to live. Three weeks ago I saw H aunty outside getting off someones car. 

She asked me if she could spend the night with us. She just wanted to sleep and nothing else. I muttered a sure and asked her what happened. She told me that A uncle had been admitted in the hospital and she tried to sleep alone the previous night and she could not sleep at all and was super scared especially since this was the first time for her to live alone after he son passed away. I told her that this would be a non-issue and she was welcome anytime. She spent two nights with us. Very non-intervening she was. She came in and slept and woke up before we did and left. Uncle is now back home and she wanted to have me and G along with Babs over for dinner. We tried our best to get away from it but she insisted. She wanted to thank us and I really have no idea for what but she insisted and we could not disrespect them and we agreed to meet them last night in their house.

G was looking forward to a boring uncle-aunty evening and I was not expecting anything at all but when we got there aunty had cooked up a feast and the best part we heard stories from them. Stories that no one in our family could tell us because we are from the South, where the partition was a tale that people had heard of. We learnt from them that uncle was born in Calcutta (Kolkotta) and aunty in Delhi and they moved to Bangladesh during partition. uncle told us how different life was then and how the politicians had messed up their life. We spoke about their tour around India where they visited all parts of India and had fun. He told us about Jinnah about Nehru and about his student life at Aligarh. We spoke about movies and soaps. I did not think that I would run out of asking them questions when Giri reminded me that we had to leave because it was almost ten and uncle would want the rest. Uncle was slightly gasping. We took leave but we could not stop thinking of them and their past. Of India and Bangladesh, of his love for India and not so much love for Pakistan. He had hated everything they had forced upon them, he told me that he was indeed happy that Indira Gandhi had carried out the 1971 war which created Bangladesh. I was proud of my country again...

I kept thinking of a young uncle and aunty eating barely anything and living as refugees during the partition of their home land. I felt so bad for them that they had to go through such turmoil but what will always remain with me is uncle and aunty repeating many times to us with a very far away look in their eyes, "I love Calcutta, I miss Calcutta. I would love to go back there."


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

As a little girl going to school in Trichy, we never got weather days off. Because Trichy was famous for its rice paddy, temples, Chola's, schools and HEAT! Yes, it is hot 365 days of the year. Whenever it did rain it would dry up soon so that the HEAT can resume its work. When I moved to Chennai I was in for a surprise. When the rains started pouring I heard for the first time in my life that a cyclone was going to hit my City. I was excited because it was also the first time I ever got to enjoy a weather day off.

It was raining cats and dogs and we tried calling our school several times. With no news if the school was open or not dad took me by autorickshaw to school. But the rick could only go so far as areas around my school was flooded. So we got off and waded through knee deep water. I loved every minute of walking in the City's sewer, don't judge me! I was a kid who was getting closer to know that her school was off for the rest of the day and possibly another couple of days.

We get back home and wait to see if the news would provide us information regarding school closure. So kids who normally did not care what was happening around the world would all tune in to watch the local news in Tamizh and yes schools and all Govt. Offices will  be declared shut due to the cyclone that is swirling 500 kilometers off the coast of Chennai and is expected to arrive anytime between two and eight in the morning. I am sure you could have heard the kids screaming even if you lived on another planet. To most of us it was celebration time because we could stay back home. At that age we really did not care about the homeless or people who lived in the slums, we were getting a day off, so it was time to celebrate.

The next morning when all of the kids would wake up at 10 in the morning only to see bright sun shine. We could not believe our eyes. How could that have happened, from non-stop pouring to bright sun shine and dried up streets? Over night did Varuna change his mind? You bet he did, because the cyclone went and hit Pudukottai or Machilipatinam, Nellore, Orissa, Bangladesh, Kolkatta, or some other poor cities that always got the wrath of the cyclones. I am not kidding you, in the eleven years we lived in Chennai we only got the rains from the cyclones but never the storm itself. All of us kids would sulk now because we were sure that we had to go back to school the next day. What we were hoping would be a week off would get reduced to just having two days off. Sulking, we would get back to school.

This is how the news was always for our here

Looking back now I can see how jealous we kids were but then again we were kids enjoying our childhood so lets it be :)


Social Networking Sites

All my life in India and in the US, I had never required a social networking website to keep me in touch with important people in my life. I am very communicative and typically pick up the phone and call or shoot an email to them. When my friend S introduced me to Orkut in mid 2004 the first time, I simply deleted the email. I also told him that it was such a waste of time and gave him gyan sounding like an octogenarian. But towards end of 2005 I called the same friend and asked him to send me an invite because a lot of my friends were on it and mocking at me for not getting on the wagon as well. Then another person introduced me to Facebook just so she can get her number of friends to a 100 within two hours of signing up. I rarely used that until about 2008-2009.

It wasn't until I started meeting people I had lost touch with since kindergarten that I got interested in this whole social networking. I met classmates who were good friends but since those were the days before e-mail and the internet we could not manage to keep in touch after school when each of us went our way. It was really fun, I met school mates, college mates, and people who were sons or daughters of people my dad had worked with 20+ years ago. It was all so exciting. FB and orkut got my dad in touch with a few of his friends with whom he had lost contact with.

And then the downturn, which started with people asking to "make friendship" with you. Not to forget the classmate whom you hated and never wanted to see again telling you, "Don't you remember me? My name is PIG, and I got the highest score in English in 10th standard." When all I wanted to tell him was, "there was a reason why I never spoke to you in school, 20 years later, it is not going to change." After many "ignores," and "go away's" I am still on both the social networking but I have met almost everyone I would like to meet other than of course the following few:

Payal Sengupta: She was my roomie when I was living as a paying guest in Bangalore (Bengaluru). She was the first and last girl with whom I went to a Wine shop (you can imagine how shady they are in India) to buy us some good ol' King Fisher beer and a pack of cigarettes which she dutifully finished because I could not stand the smell or taste of either. She was the one who made my stay at B'lore fun. She took me out to this cool restaurant the day she got her first paycheck and would sit around and give me Gyan all the time. I was the clean one and she was the dirty one but at that time it never bothered me. She had odd hours at work and I had regular work hours. She would carry home left over booze after banquets in the hotel she worked and we would both finish it off on cold Bengaluru nights. The sad thing is that the two of us had no common friends. We just met and we parted with her house address that I have dutifully lost in the last 12 years. I have tried the web, I have tried even visiting that land lady of mine who has also moved. Apparently me and Payal were her worst tenants because we did not want to tutor her 5th grade daughter. Sorry lady, We had a life! So hopefully she can find me.

Madhu Sawlani and Mamta: Friends who made high school fun. We were a trio, Madhu, Mamta and I, always together. They cherished and ate my south Indian dabba while I greedily dug into their uber-cool north Indian dabbas. In schools in Chennai or South for that matter (in those days at least) your name was always listed like A.T Anu Russell. The initials are never spelt out and you can actually graduate school not knowing your best friends last name ever. Which is why I am not able to trace either of them. I have listed Madhu's last name but I am not 100% sure thats what it is. I know that Madhu got married right after her undergrad and since we did not go to the same college we rarely met after school. And Mamta did the whole trying to elope with some guy but that did not work and then probably she got married too. Both of them were from such conservative families that I thanked my lucky stars every time I went to their house. I could never in my life imagine living their life but they were ok with it, so no problems. But girls, do try to get on the net and look for me. You will find me easily, I promise!

I guess that's all. I might update this list in the future but for now, this is it. I just recently met my first ever best friend via orkut and the net. I did not know her last name so my search was always futile but for her it was easy (you cannot find two Anu Russell's in this planet, I can bet you!) and yet it took her over 20 years to find me! So once I establish contact with above mentioned three friends I shall retire from all social networking websites for good. I do realize that I use FB and Orkut to mainly keep in touch with the people who are not actively involved in my life, for the rest, I just call :)


Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Read about all these self-styled Godmen on wiki. None of them have a clean record. Yet I wonder why millions of people from all over the world visit them, spend time and money on them and then do all sort of stupid things with them. Are people so wandered off from their beliefs that they need another "man" to lead them to "God?" I, for one was always warned by my father since my childhood to beware of people who showered their blessings on you only if you donate to their cause. Why should I bribe Godmen to reach God? Is it not enough that I already bribe God directly? How difficult is it for people to see through the scheme's of these people, especially when you have a PhD, a grad degree, etc? I can see poor people reaching out to anyone who will give them a helping hand but rich people with secure families giving up their life for a causeless cause? I do not get it at all.

I am just listing out people from my religion but I am very sure that there are black sheep's everywhere.

Monday, May 10, 2010


On Saturday Babs and I were heading back from her morning rhyme class and we were both listening to songs on our stereo and singing alone when suddenly the sound of a siren pierced the air and all the cars on the road stopped and waited for the EMS vehicle to pass through. I lifted my hands in a prayer and silently prayed for the person inside, when I realized that I had not done it in a long time. Approximately ten years and it made me wonder...

In India, I did it all the time. The reason? Because death is visible. By that, you see dead body procession on the streets, at least one a day. Some have the dead person sitting up, lying down, or covered up but you hear it through the music, see it because of the crowd, and feel it because you are stuck in a traffic jam. You also see death on road sides when a road kill waits to be picked up. And then of course, if you went to college on the same route as me, you would have seen many accidents and the casualties waiting to be picked up. I always said a silent prayer to the victim as well as his family.

I did not have to do that here, I almost never saw the victim, I always only saw the remnants of the accident. I still prayed but not like I did in India, I could never put a face to the person for whom I was praying for. Like the time I stood in the railway station when a couple jumped in front of the train (suicide) and I saw everything splattered everywhere. Or the time, the train I was travelling hit a guy who landed at my window and then saw people picking his remains. Or the time when I saw this guy lying under the bus, dead. All those bothered me so much that it drove me to fervent praying but now I rarely do it because I do not see death as I did before.

Don't ask me why, but this is what I felt and wanted to put it down to words and now that I have realized that I am not saying my prayers to the ones that might need it, I shall start again.