Thursday, March 22, 2012

Working For Money

In the course of a recent discussion with my friends about what each one of us thought was the worst thing in life, it was interesting to note the various answers we all came up with. The one who had an infant at home said that she felt so alienated from her girlfriends after the arrival of her baby, and another said that having to go through the tantrums of her teenagers was the worst thing for her. Another friend said that not knowing when her adult sons would move out was killing her, while another mom with three young ones at home said that having her mother visit her and help out with her kids was the best thing, and now that her mother had returned to her own hometown, dreading the lack of help was the worst thing for her. The childless one, having listened to all this whining, quipped, "At least, you all have children to complain about. Not having a child is the worst thing I could possibly imagine!"

Interestingly enough, the one I seemed to agree with the most was the view of yet another friend who said that having to work for money is the worst. I paused for a moment to reflect, and thought, "How very true!" I know several people who have taken an early retirement, who live in multi-million dollar homes, play endless rounds of golf during the work week, and lunch on a daily basis at the exclusive clubs where they have life memberships. They are the lucky few who have already made their fortune in the world, or have spouses who can afford to keep them at home, out of the maddening job market. Some of us might be bored with that kind of a lifestyle, but at the same time I feel it would simply be awesome to be able to work for pleasure, and not "have to do it" for money.

I, for one, would love to have the luxury of a healthy bank balance, do the job I love when I please, take off on those elusive travel jaunts when I please, get back to school to do my Ph.D. when I please, and pretty much do what I want when I want, all without ever having to worry about making money. That kind of a life seems pretty far-fetched for now, needless to say, unless there's a mighty reversal of fortunes and a big bonanza just drops into my lap from the benevolent clouds above. Till then, my life will go on in the same manner, listening to my girlfriends bitch and complain and whine about the unfairness of life and secretly dreaming how great it would be to have the luxury of not having to work for money!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh, To Dance On The Mountains!

This Spring Break has been pretty laid back and sedate - nothing heart-stoppably exciting, no adrenalin rush, or anything of that sort! I am just grateful for the simple pleasures of life, being able to sleep in each morning, drink the freshly-squeezed lemon juice so thoughtfully left for me by the husband, read the papers leisurely, cook whatever the kid likes for the day, lie on the couch and read to my heart's content, etc., etc. Last Saturday, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we decided to take a drive up the mountains from which we live a scant 20 to 25 minutes away. We have gone up the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, and also the North Shore Mountains many a time before, but this time we decided to go up to Buntzen Lake and Belcarra, up past Anmore Village, on the Coquitlam Mountains.

The drive up the mountains was breathtakingly refreshing. It's a whole new world up there, and quite difficult to believe that this oasis of nature in the seclusion of the mountains is just a stone's throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city down below. It's bear country, needless to say, and the tales of bears coming down the mountains to feed on the apples, pears, and other fruits and berries in people's gardens, and on garbage if the fruits are not available, are legion. Man cohabits with the wild life up there - quite saddening to see how man has encroached upon the wildlife habitat in the name of development! Multi-million dollar homes boasting a lot of acreage and zillion-dollar views of the mainland below are plenty on the mountain - a zip code that advertises one's wealth and power, without question! And down below, as the mountains slope down to the waterfront of the bay, there are multi-million dollar homes as well, each one having its own private docking yard for the expensive sailboats and motor boats that dot the bay.

As we drove up the mountains, I was reminded of W.B. Yeats' lines in his "The Land Of Heart's Desire":
"Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame."
I truly felt that the faeries had taken me out of my dull world, and I was one with Nature, dancing on the mountains like a flame! A home or a cabin I may not have on the mountains, but that love for Nature I do have in plenty, and I promised myself that I would go up there as often as I could in the future!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Selective Memory

I was lying in bed last week, gazing at the full moon shining through my window, and as I marveled at its other-worldly beauty, a Tamil poem describing the moon as a beautiful damsel clothed in the blue of the skies that my father had taught me as a child, came to mind. As a little girl, I would lie beside my father and mother on a mat on the open terrace of our house in India at nightfall, and my father would point out to me the different constellations in the dark, velvet sky. On one such occasion, he recited this particular poem by Bharathiar, the famed Tamil poet, and those lines just stuck in my mind. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old then, and strangely enough, almost 4 decades plus later, I was able to recall the lines effortlessly.

Well, one thing led to another, and my mind was a beehive of memories, recalling choruses that I had sung as a child. Then suddenly, from nowhere, the moonlight filling my room brought out yet another poem, just like that. I had memorized "Abou Ben Adhem" as a little girl, and the lines came back to me with crystal clarity, as if it were just yesterday that I had learned them. Strange how the mind works! I cannot recall many things from the recent past, such as what I had eaten for dinner last Saturday, or the times I'd spent with friends at college, or my previous phone number in California, but many things from my childhood jump out at me when I least expect them to. I cannot fully fathom this selective memory process. While my brain seems to be growing new dendrites with each day of my life, and the ones from the recent past seem to be fading away, the older ones from ages ago that have been lying dormant in the nethermost recesses of my brain, seem to spring back to life unbidden. I wish I had a better understanding of the neural connections being made, but one thing I must admit, the human brain is a fascinating organ indeed. Its wonders and capabilities are unmatched, and speak for the unique creation that man is!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's Spring Break ...Yeah, Baby!!!

FINALLY, I'm there! After the laborious countdown of the days and hours, it's Spring Break at last! All my students and colleagues at work were actually relieved yesterday to be heading home on that much-awaited break. And last night, just the very thought that I wouldn't have to wake up at 5.30 in the morning to get ready to go to work, made going to bed very sweet. And oh yeah, the kid has school next week, so the fact that I'll be having the house all to myself is something sweeter and one that I'm looking forward to with eagerness. Solitude is bliss, and one has to enjoy it in the first place in order to be able to better appreciate it. The emptynesters might beg to differ, but with all due respect, it is a state of mind and being that is highly appealing to me right now.

The peace and the quiet, the freedom to laze around, hanging out by myself in my PJs, cooking what I please and when I please, not having to hear cries of "Ma, I'm hungry! What's for lunch?" or " I can't find my blue shirt! Oh no ... is it still in the laundry hamper?", having full possession of the TV remote control, drinking endless cups of green tea and reading my iBooks - all these and more may not seem much to anyone else, but they mean the world of a difference to me! Talk about small mercies ... Phew!!! The husband has promised a mini trip the following week, once the kid gets his break from school. That, and the plans to work out as much as I can are all on the cards for now. As my mother always told me, I keep counting my blessings, and there's plenty of time to do just that this break. Happy Spring Break to me! :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Fairness Craze

I posted the following Status Update on Facebook yesterday: "My son doesn't want to be fair-skinned, and wants to get a tan. When told that fairness creams in India were incredibly popular, he thought that was crazy ... black (dark) is beautiful, of course, but I had to veto the tanning thing! Teenagers!!! " Well, 16 of my friends had LIKEd this status, and it led to a whole discussion thread about how multi-national corporations sell the fairness concept in India, which was not at all fair. My friend Chitra commented that she wished corporates stopped stooping to the levels they do to sell fairness in India, and that it appeared to her that all cosmetic companies, MNCs, etc., who promoted the fairness creams seemed to have no scruples at all.

True, indeed! Fifteen years ago, the only fairness cream I knew in India was Fair & Lovely, but now there seems to be a whole host of them on the market. It's a shame how the corporates exploit people's craze for a fair complexion, and it's no big surprise then that American and European companies have entered the fairness cream market as well in these days of globalization. The worst part is that parents and prospective grooms perpetuate the demand for fair-skinned girls, as can be seen in the matrimonial ads in a country where the majority of marriages are arranged ones. Most of the boys want a FAIR AND BEAUTIFUL girl! I personally know quite a few of those dark-complexioned girls who were rejected by potential grooms because of their color, even though the girls were highly qualified and were earning on par with the potential suitors, and also some dark-complexioned boys who got exceptionally fair girls as wives, just because the boys were software engineers working abroad, mostly in the U.S., a seemingly "good catch" in the marriage market!

Another friend Amelia wrote, "The best part is when guys who are really dark want fair girls ... When asked why, they say that way the children born will be fair ... to such guys I would say 'What if the child turns out to be exactly like you??' " It is deeply rooted in the Indian way of thinking that fair is beautiful ... how unfair is that?!? Krithika, another friend, responded that her personal theory is that if a guy is stupid enough to think that fair is beautiful, then he deserves what he gets. and the dusky beauty who was rejected by him is the real winner. "Imagine being tied to a guy for whom beauty is skin deep. I shudder imagining being married to a guy like that!!!! Lucky escape for all those dusky girls!!!!" Nizam, went a little further to reflect that the grass is always greener on the other side, that while the Indians want a fair skin, the Westerners want to tan their fair skin, because to them a tanned complexion is more preferable to a pale one.

And so the fairness war goes on. At the end of the day, beauty is only skin deep, and the sooner we realize that, the better for us!