Monday, November 25, 2013

The absurdity of conditioning

I have a photo of me in a bubble-filled, extremely sudsy jacuzzi, taken by Pete in our hotel room at Niagara Falls a couple of years back. I've never been able to post it publicly on Facebook or even show it to anyone privately, on Facebook or anywhere else, simply because I can't bring myself to do it... because, you know, *whispers* I'm not wearing any clothes under those bubbles. It's not a risque photo by any stretch - all you can see is my head poking out from the middle of billions of bubbles, and the smile on my face. 

I know this mental block is absurd, because I'm perfectly able to post photos of myself wearing clothes - and I'm just as naked underneath clothes (like everyone else) as underneath those bubbles! In fact, you see more of my skin when I'm wearing clothes - arms, hands, legs, feet, neck, sometimes some minimal cleavage... in other words, far more skin is visible normally than in that one photograph. 

I don't imagine that the presence of the bubbles will make anyone (male) think lecherous thoughts, any more than wearing clothes that cover me from neck to feet is going to stop them thinking those same thoughts. I do know that, in my head. I really do. I tell myself all this every time I think of the photo - and yet, and yet it still hasn't seen the light of day. And probably never will.

Ah, the absurdity of conditioning - and the absolute power it can exercise...

Friday, October 04, 2013

More about Sanaa

At 3 years and 2 months old, Sanaa is a holy terror – and growing up much too soon (a complaint made by everybody who ever loved a baby, I think). Her Sanaaisms, as I think of them, grow exponentially, and HOW I regret that most of those come as second-hand information. I wish that I lived closer to them... but then again, even if I lived in Seattle instead of a few thousand miles away, unless I lived permanently with my brother and sister-in-law - a situation they would definitely describe as not quite ideal - I would still miss quite a few of her sayings and doings. Thank goodness for Skype, because occasionally I get to witness/hear some Sanaaisms for myself!

- During one Skype session, Pete was talking to Sanaa while sat at his desk, and I was leaning over his shoulder. My hair was hanging down by his face, so he idly draped some of it over his head. The effect it had on Sanaa was remarkable. Her eyes grew perfectly round in horror as she screamed “What are you doing Pete athimber? What are you doing to Shyamala athai’s hair??” She was laughing and horrified at the same time, and her agitation was extremely funny – she was hopping up and down, covering her mouth with her hands, squealing like a little piglet. And when he made himself a mustache of my hair, the decibel level went off the chart. This was at least 6 months ago and she reacts pretty much the same every time he does it. Our reaction to Sanaa’s reaction is also pretty much the same – hysterical laughter.

- Invariably nowadays, as the days draw in, it’s quite dark outside when my mother or my sister-in-law Skype me, so I’m unable to show Sanaa my flowers or bell peppers or tomatoes – all of which she is absolutely fascinated by. I’ve had to resort to telling her that “the bell peppers/roses/tomaytoes (she’s American, after all!) are asleep”. But she’s got her own way of getting around that. She always asks me “Can I see the tomaytoes that are asleep? I’ll be very quiet”, or “Show me the bell pepper that is sleeping”. If I tell her it’s too dark to see, she says with an impish grin: “Can I see if it’s too dark to see?”

- And of course, it’s not enough just to hold up the iPad from where I’m sitting, to show her that it really IS night outside. No, I have to go outside with the iPad (Back Camera setting, so that she can see where I’m going) and show her what she can’t see! I guess she finds it fascinating that for her in Seattle, it’s daytime, while it’s night time in “Shooshbery”. - Once she’s satisfied that it really IS dark outside and she can’t see the tomaytoes or bell peppers or flowers, she assures me “When I come to Shooshbery I will see the tomaytoes and it won’t be dark”.

- During every call, she usually finds some time to confirm her plans for when she visits here: "When I come to Shooshbery we will go to the icecream factory and I will eat strawberry icecream (her all-time favourite flavour), then we will go and swing on the jhoola in the park, then I will play with your puppies and kittens (toy ones)." Sometimes it's a statement, and at other times her itinerary is posed in the form of a question to me. But it always gets said.

- Sanaa knows all the rooms downstairs at my house (not that there are many – there’s the kitchen, sitting room, Pete’s office room and the conservatory/dining room). To get to the conservatory you have to cross Pete’s office, so she’s firmly convinced of the sitting room and the office being “Pete athimber’s house”. So if she wants me to go to the conservatory so she can see the plants or the bookshelf there, she asks me “Can we go to your house now?” I tell her every time “it’s not my house, Sanaa, it’s the conservatory” – but it’s pretty hard to shake her conviction, and “my house” it continues to be.

- Yesterday, though, she proved that she can bend the English language to suit her need to express herself. Now, one of the things that she associates with me is bread. She’s seen loaves that I’ve baked, she’s seen me in the middle of baking, so she mostly always asks “Can I see your bread Shyamala athai?” - which is my cue to march into the kitchen and hold up whatever loaf is in the bread bin. And she always makes a round-eyed awed face accompanied by a long-drawn-out “wooooow”. After this ritual, she went on to the next part of the programme – “Can you go to your house now?” I broke from the ritual by saying “Where do you want me to go now Sanaa?” “Your house, Shyamala athai, can I see your house?” “Where?” I said again. My niece is a “Gen-N”* child, like practically all children, and her patience reserves are always low-to-empty. “Shyamala athai, go to your – your – your...” then - evidently unable to recall the word “conservatory” in her excitement - she blurted out this gem: “Shyamala athai, go to the back of the front of your house!”

- Sanaa can navigate her way around the iPad like a pro, knowing exactly which button does what, whether it’s to get to her favourite game, or whether it’s Skype. Also, she knows by now to stay out of its range if she doesn’t want to talk to someone. Yesterday she mischievously cut the call short while I was talking to my mother. When they came back online, she must have had a reprimand from my mom, but evidently not a sharp one, because she giggled through her apology, her eyes sparkling with mischief: “Sorry Shyamala athai, I’m sorry for pressing the red telephone button on Skype and cutting the call.” Then she scampered out of sight, because I guess she had found something more interesting to catch her attention.

* Gen-N - Generation-Now

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sanaa at 3

My niece Sanaa is now 3 years old. She has always talked up a riot, but my cousin and her daughter, currently visiting Seattle, are totally bowled over by her vocabulary and her facility with words that you wouldn't imagine a 3-year-old knowing, let alone using correctly. Also, she never replies to anyone in anything but full sentences. 

Amma: "Sanaa, please don't leave your books on the floor. Put them away if you're inished." 
Sanaa, even though she's nowhere near the books: "No, I don't want to put them away, paati. I want to read them."

Anyway, the little madam was in an unusually good mood the other day, on Skype, insisting on reading me her current favourite books/CD, something do with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. At one point I got distracted by something and looked away from her. When she noticed, she immediately asked: "Shyamala athai, what are you looking at?" I said: "Sorry, sweetie, I was just looking at something here." Sanaa: "Shyamala athai, don't look at something, you must look only at me because I am reading to you." 

Oh. Right. That was me told. 

Further on down the line, my mother called for Sanaa to go and have her bath. She was very unwilling as she wanted to "read" me yet another book, but eventually they came to a compromise - that she would finish reading that book, have her bath, and then come back and read some more (by which time I fully expected that she would not want to continue Skyping). 

So I told Sanaa that her paati would call me back on Skype as soon as she (Sanaa) was bathed and dressed. But, evidently worried about losing her captive audience, she said pleadingly to me: "No, Shyamala athai, please don't go away. Please wait for me in paati's laptop because I want to read another book." 

On my part, I was fairly sure that my wait would not be rewarded with more Sanaa, because she's as fickle as a weathervane and would be more than likely to say "I don't want to talk on Skype with Shyamala athai, I want to make icecream with playdoh (or something similarly fascinating)." 

Happily, though, this time, waiting for Sanaa in my mother's laptop WAS worthwhile because she returned and told me a (somewhat garbled) story of Mickey and Minnie. Skyping with Miss Vayadi isn't anything like being there with her in person, but for those who live 7000 miles away from their family, it's as good as it gets most of the time. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

MR vs Mrs

Anybody notice that MS Word changes "MRS" to "Mrs" in any Word document, the first time around? 

See, if you're addressing something to "MR AND MRS BLANK", MS Word automatically changes it to "MR AND Mrs BLANK". 

Typing it the other way around - that is, as "MRS AND MR BLANK" (on the basis that perhaps the word that comes after "and" gets downsized from all caps) - gets you the same result: "Mrs AND MR BLANK". You have to go back and retype the "Mrs" as "MRS" to make it stay that way. 

I think it's a sexism in play - albeit in a small way, but irritating to me because I tend to address envelopes to clients with the names and address in all caps as it's easier that way - except for this little hitch. 

And did I mention it's sexist?

Disclaimer: There might be some way of turning off this annoying feature, but I for one don't know of it. Ideas, anyone? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

When I'm in the driving seat

against all established convention, my number one rule for cyclists (bi-, not motor-) is:

(1) To be, first and foremost, sat at home. 
This way, I need not worry about them being out on their bicycles at all.

If (1) is not possible, my number two rule is: 
(2) To ride only on the pavement. 
This way, I need not worry about them being on the road. 

If (1) and (2) are not possible, my number three rule is:
(3) They should be the slow-moving, unfit, huffing-and-puffing kind. 
That way, they're not zipping around at 25-30 miles an hour on main roads under the erroneous impression that they're equal to moving cars that are trying to pass them but can't get up enough speed between oncoming cars to actually get past them (the cyclists) because they (the cyclists) are zipping along at that exact speed which is amazing for pedal power but is not in the least amazing for someone driving a car. 

Do you see why some motorists (obviously those less patient, kind or even-tempered than I) are overcome by road rage when a skinny cyclist in ridiculous headgear and tight-fitting neon clothes on a racing bike doesn't allow them to get past? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's toast

Today I make a confession. I love cold toast. Sure, toast with melting butter sinking into its pores is nice twice over - once because it's hot, and again because dude, it's BUTTER! If you must eat toast, it's gotta have real butter on it. Not olive oil spread, not vegetable-oil spread, not "lighter, spreadable" butter, or I-cant-believe-it's-not-butter non-butter... none of that. It's got to be the best organic butter that you can lay your paws on. 

And, in my humble opinion, that same flavourful real butter on cold toast is just unbeatable. The butter shouldn't come straight from the fridge - that makes it impossible to spread evenly on the toast. No, the butter should be at room temperature and spreadable. 

Think about it - when the toast is cold, it doesn't get a chance to get soggy from the melting butter. With cold toast, the toast stays crunchy, the butter stays buttery. The toast-must-be-eaten-hot camp don't know what they're missing. 

One last thing... if you're in the market for good strawberry preserves, like me, then try the preserves slathered over the butter on the cold toast. It's probably one of my guiltiest pleasures.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A time to whine, a time to laugh

During a Skype video chat with my mother and Sanaa yesterday, Sanaa was somewhat cranky and capricious, one moment wanting to go out and play in the cold, then wanting to take off the cardigan she was wearing, then refusing to throw her basketball through the basket on (my) request, and so on until it degenerated into wordless whining, just one step away from meltdown.

My mother tried to get her to actually talk rather than whine, telling her: "Sanaa, stop whining and use your words, tell me what you want because I can't understand you otherwise." But Sanaa just continued in the same vein.

Eventually, exasperated, amma asked her: "Sanaa, what is it that you want to DO?"

Sanaa: "I want to whine!"

I'm afraid I was laughing far too much to hear amma's reply to that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The best punishment for rapists

It is not physical castration, because fantasies - violent or otherwise - arise in the mind/brain. Women can be raped - to grievous effect, as witness the poor 23-year-old victim's injuries caused by an iron rod - with things other than a penis. Since rape is about power/anger/revenge, castrating a rapist is no guarantee at all that he would stop harming women. The bottomline is, the penis, for all its reputation as a "fearsome weapon" (ha) does not cause a man to rape. 

It is not chemical castration, because see above. Also, as far as I know, there's no single dose of any medicine for life - it's an ongoing process and has to be taken willingly by the man. Not bloody likely, is it, especially if he's out in the world as a "functioning" person? 

It is not - up to a point - execution (this in my opinion), because it's too easy a way out for the rapist. 

Imprisonment, however, IS just the ticket, in my opinion. I personally think all rapists should suffer all their natural life long, the way their victims have to suffer. Solitary confinement for life, with no interaction whatsoever with anyone at all, ever. If they go mad, so be it. I'm sure plenty of people would be willing to pay a little extra tax to ensure that the cost of subsidising the rapists' stay in prison is met. I know I would. Besides, all they would ever need is just enough food to keep them alive, and none of it is required to be the finest quality organic food prepared by 5-star chefs. 

Murder may or may not be deliberate and may even have mitigating circumstances. But rape can never happen by accident or be committed as a "mistake" - it's always a deliberate act committed by the physically stronger on the physically weaker. It's the one crime that's never, ever forgivable. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

A windy day story

Just a little story, though. 

I had accompanied my sister-in-law and my 2.6 year old niece Sanaa on a trip to Costco. It was mildly cold (for winter) but quite windy. We'd managed to get Sanaa to agree to being carried across the car park (too dangerous to have a speedy little toddler skipping around) and to be seated in the shopping cart, and it was my happy job to push the cart. 

As we hurried down the pedestrian walkway, helped along by a brisk tailwind, I noticed that Sanaa had her mouth wide open. 

"Sanaa, what are you doing? Why is your mouth open?" I asked. 

She closed her mouth for a moment and grinned delightedly at me.  

"I'm eating the wind," she said, and went back to relishing the wind in her face. 

Sign of the times?

Pete to me, very late yesterday night: "Hey, it's snowing!"

"How do you know, did you check outside?"

He: "No, it says so on the weather app."


To give the app its due, though, it WAS snowing.