A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for February, 2013

I have no excuse..

Posted by Pepper on February 23, 2013

I’ve been experiencing something strange in the past few days, or perhaps, weeks. I feel completely devoid of energy. I feel dead. Literally. The dictionary defines ‘alive’ as ‘Having life, vigour or spirit’. I certainly don’t meet that criteria. Most days, I feel too dead to move a muscle.

I find it rather strange, because I hardly subject my body to any kind of physical exertion. Far from it. I get adequate sleep. More than 8 hours in fact. I hit the bed by 11 pm. 11:30 at the most. I wake up not before 7:45 in the morning. I get my breakfast and coffee in hand. I take an auto to work, avoiding the hassle of crowded buses and trains.

And yet, by about noon, I find myself dead. And stressed out. All I want to do is go to sleep and never wake up. I drag myself and get a coffee to my desk. I feel like I need to physically push myself to get on with the day. I get another coffee around 4 pm to keep going.

The past few days, I have even been leaving office in good time. I leave by 6:30, or 7 in the evening. I take an auto back home and I am lying on my couch by 7:30. Although I am back home, I find it very hard to disconnect from work. My mind is worrying about the next day. When I bring my laptop to browse, I find it too hard to believe that I actually do  have the freedom to log on to whatever site I want to now, because mentally, I am still seated on my desk, at work. So many times, I have to shake myself out of reverie and consciously make myself focus on, just being home. I know that sounds weird.

By around 8 pm, I feel so dead, like I have just returned from a war field. I feel unreasonably exhausted, so I simly continue lying on the couch and doing nothing. I get my dinner in hand. Yes, I request my mom to serve me, because I don’t find the energy to go to the kitchen and bring my plate. She usually ‘babies’ me and I get the food laid in front of me, and guess what, I feel too tired to eat. Because that involves moving my muscles. I do manage to eat, go and change into my pajamas, toss my used clothes on a chair in my room only to see them vanish the next day. They get washed, ironed and are  moved to my wardrobe. The same cycle repeats the next day. After changing into my night clothes, I usually go back to the couch with my laptop, either browse or watch some TV, and then go to bed by 11, feeling terribly, terribly tired.

I mentally yell at myself a lot. This exhaustion and lack of energy is not justified. What am I doing through out the day? I mean, I am just fortunate I am living with my parents, so I manage to get everything in hand. Otherwise, a typical day would involve waking up in the morning, fixing breakfast, perhaps even lunch, going to work using public transport (including crowded trains), rushing back home, fixing dinner, tidying up the house, folding clothes, cleaning the kitchen and doing other domestic chores before calling it a day. And once you have a baby in the picture, your energy level needs to double up.

Why do I feel so unequipped to face life? Why do I feel so dead without doing anything? I know I can’t afford to feel like this for too long. Soon, I will be forced to shoulder responsibility and run a home. How will I find the stamina? Most people do not seem to need more than 6 hours of sleep in a day. I find even 8 hours too little. Why can’t I be like the rest?

I feel the fatigue surfacing even on the weekend. All I want to do is sleep in. There is a growing list of friends and family that I want to meet. Every weekend I make promises of meeting them the following weekend, only to feel too dead again. There are a lot of errands I need to run, places I want to go to, people I want to catch up with, but at this rate, I will continue to lead a wasted life. Is there some way I can infuse some zest and energy into my body? Sigh.

Posted in Slices of life | 44 Comments »

Matters of false pride

Posted by Pepper on February 17, 2013

It has been 10 months since we moved back to India. 10 months would seem long enough, to some. By now, I am expected to adapt to the Indianness that surrounds me. Why should that be hard, considering I grew up here? Well, it is. I believe America taught me to think.  I think I was too used to bowing down to the mental framework of the country I was born in. I didn’t think I could question the practices. Because after all, ‘this is how things work here’.

I have changed. I do question things that I disagree with. My thoughts carry a strong influence of the other two countries I have lived in. I do not blindly surrender anymore. From little matters, that do not carry much weight, to huge issues that shape the society we live in, I spend some time going over them in my head, keeping in mind the finer nuances of Indian culture.

Let me talk about one such ‘little matter’ with an example. It highlights the way Indians think. Mom and I found ourselves home on a Saturday evening. Dad is in Manila this week. The sister had gone to a friend’s birthday party. So it was just us, mom and I. The original plan was to shorten the ‘to do’ list that seemed longer than a mile, but since neither of us were in the mood to do any of that, we decided to take a break and head out to dinner.

We chose Mainland China. I like the place. The ambiance is good. We ordered a couple of things and were having a good time. My mom has a very poor appetite, and I knew we would not be able to finish the food we had ordered. Never mind, I thought. I wanted her to sample different things, so I went ahead and ordered them. I thought we could take back the left over and use it for the next meal.

Except that, there seemed to be a problem. We had only half eaten some of the items we had ordered, and one particular appetizer was consumed by about 70%. The remaining 30% (that consisted of 8 pieces of crispy vegetables) was lying on the table. When our server came by, I asked him to pack all the remaining food. He looked at me, and then glanced at the remaining crispy veg and asked me, “This too?”. I tried to keep my cool, and simply said ‘yes’. He then went on to tell me, ‘But this is too little’. His expression was full of disgust. I told myself to remain calm. All I told him was, ‘I prefer to not trash it’. He then had the nerve to tell me, ‘Even the paper bag I pack it in will seem so empty’. That is when I lost it.

This is an attitude I am sick of. I am sorry, but you have no right to make me feel embarrassed for wanting to take home the food I have paid for. Just because I do not have room to consume it right now, does not mean I will not want to eat it later. Why should it be considered below my dignity to want to take back food that is less in quantity? Is it a status or a prestige issue? Am I trying to say that  such little quantity is irrelevant to me? And who decides what quantity is acceptable? 30% seemed too less to him. 50% might seem too less to another. So are you suggested I trash all that remains on my plate?

In the past, I have let go of huge slices of pizzas because I was too full to eat it at that point, and too embarrassed to want to ask for one single piece to be packed. Even when I let go of it then, I felt horrid. Damn, that slice of pizza would be relished in a few hours. But unfortunately, I couldn’t take it back. I was conditioned into believing it was a ‘cheap’ thing to do. Now I wonder why?

Wanting to take home the food for self consumption is one thing. Most times I want to pack it only to pass it on to some hungry, homeless people lying on the streets. India has them in abundance. You find them in every corner. So why would you embarrass me for wanting to feed them?

The US, thankfully, functions very differently. You are never made to feel embarrassed if you want to ‘box’ even a half eaten slice of pizza. Infact, it is something that is considered obvious. Because really, why would you want to trash it? The servers there are courteous enough to ask you if you want to box something on their own. Most times, you don’t even have to go through the process of asking your food to be boxed. You see disposable boxes lying on counters in the sides of most restaurants. Just go there and pick them up on your own. They go to the extent of letting you take back a quarter glass of juice, in disposable cups. That is how the culture is built. Why do we, in India, carry this false sense of pride?

Anyway, let me come back to the server who enraged me by saying all that he did. I had two options. I could either fume internally and let go of it all, or I could speak up for a change and point out some fundamental facts to him. The old me would have stayed quiet. But this time, I decided to speak and battle the mindsets.

I started by filling the feedback form that was provided to me. I wrote a long comment in the section titled ‘Your suggestions’. I hoped that would get them to react to it while I was there. I did want to address this issue, instead of letting it go. Fortunately, the moment I had submitted the form, I had the manager walk up to me. He wanted to discuss it. I asked for our server. Once he was called, I spoke. I told him how wrong it was to question diners about the quantity of food they wanted to parcel. I spoke about Indian mindsets. I spoke about how this should not be a prestige issue. I spoke about how servers like him embarrass patrons and cause them let go of their food even if they don’t want to. I spoke about how this creates mass wastage. I spoke a lot.

They were very, very apologetic. Our server particularly, personally apologised to me a total of 5 times. I didn’t want to make this a huge issue. At the same time, I didn’t want to let go of it. Because I would be guilty of submitting to a system that I did not believe in. We can’t expect change if we do not work towards change.  It was important to me that he never did that again. So it was important to raise an objection to this attitude now. In the end, he did promise me he would never repeat such behaviour or embarrass a patron for wanting to take back small quantity of food. To make up for it, they offered us some chocolates.

I really don’t know if this attitude will change anytime soon. What I do know is that we need to start changing the way we think and behave. So please, do not feel embarrassed to ask for small quantity of food to be packed. There are a lot of hungry people who can do with it.  If somebody questions you, I hope you speak up.


Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 86 Comments »

Not all Fridays are happy

Posted by Pepper on February 8, 2013

The ‘Friday feel’ is usually awesome. You know?  That feeling that comes with knowing you don’t have to wake up to an alarm the next day. That feeling of lightheartedness that accompanies you all day? That feeling of freedom? That feeling of anticipation? That feeling of general happiness?

Well, I don’t feel it this Friday. Because I am working tomorrow. In my world, working on a Saturday is blasphemous. My work seems like it will never end. The atmosphere continues to be poisonous.

This is going to be a hectic weekend. I have a lot lined up. I don’t feel up to it. I am waiting for some news from Mint’s end. That leaves me on the edge, as usual. I have a monster headache. I am cranky and grumpy and grouchy and angry and angsty and snarky and crabby and.. just plain tired. It is all of it put together, but mainly, it is just work. Work that sucks.

To all of you who don’t have to go to work tomorrow and are basking in the Friday happiness – I hate you.

Posted in Chaos | 28 Comments »

Making it special

Posted by Pepper on February 4, 2013

Of all things that feature in the ‘special’ list for couples, I would say the first home in which you start your life together is located somewhere at the top. It is of high sentimental value. For me, alteast. In this day and age, many of us are renting homes. Moving cities and changing locations and homes is not uncommon. The ‘first home’ stands out. And ofcourse, the first time you walk into that home as a couple is what memories are made of.

The first home I lived in with Mint was a tiny, hole in the wall studio apartment, in Cincinnati, Ohio. It contained a lot of old, unmatched furniture picked up from various friends who were moving out. In other words, it wasn’t spectacular. After that, we went on to move to a bigger home in California, which was cosy, which we loved.  But, this little studio was special. It was our first home. I remember the first time I walked in. It was the day I had landed in the US. We were tired, and had lugged our huge suitcases up the stairs all by ourselves. It had been a long journey for us, but now that I was so close to seeing my new home, I couldn’t wait. I remember feeling impatient as Mint fished for the keys. All I wanted to do was dash in and see the place.

The first thing I noticed was how clean the place was. Now, if you know Mint, you will know what an achievement this is for him. I could see the effort he had put into cleaning the place for me. Everything was in its rightful place. Most surfaces were shining. I think that is probably the only time I have seen Mint invest so much effort into cleaning.

My welcome gift was in the bathroom. I am nuts about a particular fragrance from Bath & Body Works. ‘Warm Vanilla Sugar’ is what drives me senses crazy. To my delight, the bathroom was full of this fragrance, in the form of body washes, shower gels, body lotions and creams, mists, perfumes. All of it was warm vanilla sugar. I wanted to jump straight into the bath tub.

And there was this one DVD that I had been looking for since forever. “If Only’. Have you seen that movie? It isn’t a very well known one. Anyway, I was a very happy girl that day. Obviously, that day has been etched in my memory.

The other day, my friend who is getting married, called me while I was at work. His marriage was in Pune, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend it. So he entrusted me with some responsibility. I had to enter his home, and decorate his bedroom for his new bride while he was away. I told him I would be happy to do it, and that I knew how important these small gestures were. The problem was, I would have only an hour to do this.

This was the plan. His uncle would enter the house and let me in. Exactly in an hour, my friend would be entering with his new wife, and in that time, I had to finish all that I wanted to do and make sure I exit the place. He told me this on Thursday night. The execution was to take place on Saturday. I thought I would have Friday evening after work to plan and get my act together. What do you know? Friday evening passed in a blink. Anyway, here were his specifications.

– He wanted flowers on the bed, in the shape of a heart. (Yes, cheeesy! But it is what he wanted for her, so well..)

– He wanted there to be red heart shaped balloons and candles.

– He wanted to make sure I don’t stick anything, anywhere.

I wanted to do this right. I knew years later, this day would form an integral part of their memories. I was worried though. I am not a creative person by any means. Neither did I have too much time on my hands. I looked online, but found nothing suitable. I did the next best thing after that, I buzzed every single person who was online on my Gtalk list, begging them for some ideas. Unfortunately, none of them were free to talk to me.

I realised I didn’t have enough time to ponder now. I had to get going, and manage by myself. So I started by going to the guy who sells flowers in my street. I had ordered a kg of assorted flower petals the previous evening. I was to pick it up today morning. When I went there,  guy looked at me blankly and said he didn’t have it with him now, because I had not paid an advance the previous evening, so the order was not confirmed. I panicked. Dude, I didn’t pay you an advance because you didn’t ask for one. Duh! Anyway, I told him to get me the flowers, at any cost in the next one hour. He took the ‘at any cost’ bit a too literally, but never mind.

I then went to a few stores and picked up some things – satin ribbons, crepe paper, scented candles, a pack of heart shaped balloons and most importantly, an air pump to inflate the balloons. Post that, I collected my flower petals and went back home.

Here is when the drama began. I tried inflating the balloons using the pump I had. It wouldn’t work. My arms hurt with the exercise. I was beginning to panic. After multiple unsuccessful attempts, I tried to ‘blow’ the balloons on my own. The next half an hour was spent with me holding a balloon close to my mouth and using all my energy to puff into the goddamn balloon. It didn’t work. Instead, I was left coughing and spluttering. I must have terrible lung capacity. My chest hurt. I gave up.

I realised, only a balloon seller could save me. But where would I find one at such short notice? I ran downstairs, hoping to find one. But ofcourse, nothing was to come easy. I spent almost an hour, running on the streets, asking store owners if they had seen a balloon seller around in the area. Who would have thought they could be so important?

After an hour when I finally spotted one, I jumped in joy. Literally. I ran up to him, and bought about 10 big heart shaped balloons. Talk about embarrassing? As I walked back home, I could feel a hundred pairs of eyes staring at me, as I carried back the balloons. Some kids even pointed at me excitedly. Perhaps they thought I was a balloon seller myself.

Anyway, I did it. There were other problems along the way. Lack of time being the biggest. I was given only 30 minutes to do his room, instead of the expected one hour. I was seen talking to myself, standing on a ladder, cutting and stapling crepe paper around the curtain rods, laying out the candles and flowers on the window sills, tying the balloons in different places, arranging the flowers on the bed. It resulted in an achy back, but I am hoping it made them smile. Because the first entry to your first home is always special.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the final outcome. Here are some I took while I was still working.

Room 1

Room 2

Room 3


Posted in Friends | 49 Comments »

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