26 January 2005

Bad hair day!

Here I am, sitting with lacklustre eyes, staring at the PC monitor. I guess I need a break from my night shifts (which I do only about twice/thrice a week anyways), or I need more sleep. A break? I am getting too ambitious, or too old.

For all my bravado about the earthquake, haven't been able to catch a good night's sleep so far. And I went for a looooong walk, with Nandita in the pram this morning, so that unusual activity's made me feel really tired, I guess. I should do it more often to get used to it.

I am really looking forward to my day off tomorrow, but Nandana has already got big plans for me, some of which include buying some of her school books and also picking up a secret gift for Daddy, whose b'day is on Monday. My presence is a must, as I am the chaffeur. But come what may, I am determined to have my afternoon nap (famous last words). And I solemnly swear that I won't go shopping.

Today wasn't great though, even otherwise. Owen, the public health nurse was kind enough to drop off the medicines at home for Nandita fairly early in the morning. Dilemma _ should she have 'em or not? After all, they are strong anti-biotics to have for two months nearly....esply when her test came out negative. However, what if the second Mantoux test shows up as positive in March? I'll have to give her the drugs anyways.....choices, choices!

Sluggies during even daytime after the Tony, the pest control guy patched up the holes in the kitchen. Looks like they will have to take the kitchen apart and spray! Help, already half my kitchen is in my dining room. Good thing Periamma and Periappa have postponed their trip. Gives us time to fix the house, re the slugs, at least.

I am also feeling a little depressed that not many NRIs seem to have been perturbed enough by the JJ article to write to the editor. Sad but true. I would if I could, but I can't, so I won't.

My dosas for lunch were semi-blackened funny shaped pieces of dough. I think I will stick to idlis from now on.

I am also sad that Parveen Babi is dead. I used to think she was the height of cool when she was acting! And she was such a good looker! Fame isn't as glamourous as we think it is!

And the Satara tragedy. Plus a bad hair day. Blast, why aren't the vitamin pills working anymore?

To end on a note of forced cheefulness, had a beautiful gourmet boysenberry icrecream (a tiny one) for dessert. *sigh* there goes my resolve to eat healthy!

21 January 2005

Tsunami news second to sex, money, murder

Catchy heading, isn't it? Well, this is the headline that was carried in 36 pt bold. And that's the reason why my Friday, which started with a bang, ended with a whimper _ mine!!

To entertian their avid readers, the DomPost decided to take this huge story on the sordid sex, money and murder drama and I am called in as the expert. Why, you ask? Because, firstly, the story is on India. And secondly, yea gods, it is all about Tamil Nadu (although my friendly neighbourhood sub isn't aware of the TN connection here)

The main players in the drama? Our very own JJ & Jayendra Saraswathi. Our PM Manmohan Singh makes a guest appearance.

Ooh, I can tell you, I wished I could sink through the floor. Although we know how bad this story is, it sound simply awful when put down from an objective, western and sensationalised perspective!

Some gems from the article:

A CM who as the former CM's mistress and who now has a very close female friend reveals the reporter, in the very first para.

A 'priest' (that's what JS is refererred to in the story) who instigated murder and committed sexually inappropriate (for a man in his position) crimes.

Gosh, it may all very well be true (how can we ever tell for sure?), but have we ever in our Indian newspapers called JJ someone's mistress? Or implied anything more about the sassy Sasi?

Wait, the worse is yet to come. TN is referred to as a banana republic and as headed by a bunch of ego-maniancs (the second I cannot really deny). It is also referred to as a embarassing southern cousin to the technically-suave PM, who wants to get rid of graft in India.

Bah!! I did try to do my bit. I offered to tone down a few things, but my offer in some cases was politely rejected as it would make the story "too staid".

And in any case, the reporter has very happily sensationalised the whole thing, building on a grain of truth.

End result: (Indian & esply Tamil maanam kaapalil pogiradhu, pogiradhu, poye pochu!!(going, going, gone).

Collective NRI BP here has shot up. I expect a few intelligent ones to fire a couple of salvos in the form of letters. I will keep you posted..........

Shoreline, 1840

Not a very nice day actually. And this is just the first bit.

Day started with a bang, literally, as I woke up at about 8 am, to find the bed jouncing around a fair bit and the house creaking and groaning ominously..................it couldn't be ..................but it was, I realised, as the bed jostled heavily yet again.

"Earthquake," I head Shiv shout from the lounge, as I picked up Nandita and rushed under the door frame. In the next room, I heard Nandana doing the same.

Crikey, we'd just had 10 on Tuesday. Another one so soon, and a fairly big one, from the looks of it, as we'd felt it. I went online to check. It was 5.5 Richter, followed by an aftershock as well, which we didn't feel!! And even so, this is the biggest in Wgn in the last 30 years!


Blast. And with all the talk about THE BIG ONE coming anytime and everyone intent on discussing this morning's one ("Did you feel the the one this morning?"), I have to admit I was feeling a bit shaky myself.

Others fared even worse. Apparently, some who rise and shine at decent times (unlike us journos) were at work in their 7th or nth floor offices. And when the quake hit 'em, the whole floor swayed. Some of them went into hysterics and others started crying, as they were so rattled.

There are so many reminders all around me. When I walk to work, I am walking on the pavement that bears a plaque saying 'Shoreline, 1840'. So, had I been walking on the very same place, say in 1839, I would have had to be J. Christ, as that would have all been water. Sea water. The whole of Wellington's central business district is built on land reclaimed from the sea by the 1840 earthquake. That was when we had the last big one

And I've always wondered at that as it made me feel very uneasy. How could that be done, especially in this island nation that is so prone to quakes and tsunamis. As we drive down from Petone, we can see the CBD on the other side of the coast, with an expanse of beautiful blue sea in between. Gorgeous (on a fine sunny day! On a bad day, you can barely see the road ahead of you, leave alone the CBD silhoutte). I cannot imagine losing all that. But yes, oh yes, it is very much a possibility. Almost a reality, in fact.

In fact, all the seismology think-tanks expect a big one every 150 years. So, if the last one was in 1860, the next big one for us in Wellington would be in..............maths has never been my strong point, that's why I am a journo, so I will leave the calculation to experts.

Wellington sits on the boundary of the place where the Australian and Pacific plates meet, 25 km below the city. The plates are locked toghether at the moment, but eventually they will have to separate, say experts. When? No one wants to guess. And that will be SUCH A BIG ONE, as these ones rarely produce less than Richter 8!

However, earthquakes on interfaces are rare, happening hundreds of year apart, they add. The Boxing Day tsunami was one such.

As they say, it is not a question of if. It is a question of when. Ok, I better rush to get my quake emergency kit ready.

18 January 2005

Full of beans!

It's amazing what one multi-vitamin pill can do!!

I was up until 10 last night, and even found the energy to empty the dishwasher. And I was up at 7.30 this morn. Brilliant, if I may say so myself!! So, I've decided that I am going to be regular about them. Yeah right, like I was with the gym, my exercises and my iron supplements. Still.......

And did soooooooo much work at home today, cleaned the floors, vaccumed the house, did two loads of washing, plus did me cooking too (rotis with kurma). Hmm, not bad at all.

Esply considering that I was a total washout during the weekend, with a massive bout of hayfever. What a waste of two scorchingly sunny days (temp was upto 30C, which is the equivalent of 40C in Chennai, a burnout).

But, there's more. After only a 15-minute nap this afternoon (in preparation for being up after midnight), drove all by my little self upto work _ at incredible speeds of 100km on the motorway, with no one in the car with me! That's a first. I am soooooooooooooo proud of meself.

In fact, I feel so cocky, I think I may actually start bringing the car in to work so I can drive back at night, instead of hanging around for the bus. Why not.

The only fly in the ointment _ one slug in kitchen y'day. However, people are coming to fix up the kitchen tomm, so I live in hope.

Plus I have heaps of changes and plans to make in my forseeable future. All will be revealed shortly.

And to all ye wonderful and not-so-wonderful people out there, au revoir!

PS: Oh no, I've just heard about the third earthquake today and blast, I didn't feel even one!! Missed 'em all!!(Richter ranging from 4.9 to 3.8)

PPS: Gosh, the fourth one today. And I felt it!! My chair went wobble, wobble!!! That was 5.2 Richter. And correction, there have been eight already today, not four!!!!!

Hooray for the Shaky Isles!

12 January 2005

Bridget Jones' diary

Have to admit I found the language shocking, both in the book and movie. I mean, do Britons use language like that every day? At work? Home? Hmm....

I did find that four-letter words were very prevalent even in Kiwi English (almost as common as Maori words), but I am used to that now after nearly six years here. But cannot believe that the prim and propah Brits use language like that.

Oh well, at least, the movie was presentable enough in other ways................

Gotta watch it, I am finding using this sort of language far too easy nowadays. Constant exposure, methinks. But still, when Nandita starts using words like 'munted moron', I know who is to blame.........I should stop before she progresses to higher levels.

Tsunami tantrums _ Part 2

Look, I don't want anyone imagining for a minute that I condone the inept way in which the disaster was initially handled by Indian authorities. To send a fax to the ex-minister about the tsunami and not even be aware of it is truly inefficiency personified.

To have a time of two-and-a-half hours to warn people and not even putting a minute of that to use is unbelievable.

And now that the tsunami has come and gone, we all do know that we have all these big bullies with politiical clout who make off with a lot of the relief booty.

Fine, agreed! I am not saying that we are mistake-free.

But what gets to me is people running down even good things that are being done. Just because we are a third world country and were ruled by whites till about half a century ago, doesn't mean we can't do anything efficiently.

Or is it that the Western world is loath to give us darkies credit? I wouldn't know. But in my mind, I feel heartened to know that humane values are triumphing and relief work is working wonders in India.

And it isn't just the world media that is projecting India as egoistic bunglers. There have been many Indian voices too knocking down the good work and pointing only to the goof-ups.

The media coverage here has been very comprehensive and very sympathetic to the victims. Kiwis as a rule, are very aware of the world around them and are not at all insular, a la the Yanks.

It is just that the focus tends to be a very judgmental and western-viewpoint oriented, at times. Well, I guess I gotta take the good with the bad.

11 January 2005

Tsunami tantrums - Part 1

I am sick of seeing and reading and hearing all about how India botched up the early tsunami warnings and how India said no, thank you, we don't want any aid and about how all the relief work isn't happening the way it should.

I mean, from what I've picked up from the net, I thought India was doing a pretty good job (sure, despite initial botch-ups). Given all the constraints and conditions that only a person in India can know about. And even given Amma's idiosyncracies (she is referred to here in the newspaper that I work for, as the "Eva-Peron like figure of former movie star J Jayalalithaa"), I still felt and thought that there was much more good happening in India (and TN) now than has during other recent catastrophes.

As a good example, just take the amount of relief money that has been collected. It is unimaginable. And yet we have twits from various think-tanks saying that a country that hopes to be #1 in the call centre industry could not even call its own people to warn them in advancem about the tsunami. And that twittish think-tanker was an Indian.

And when I opened today's paper, it had a report from a reporter (luckily not page 1) currently touring tsunami-hit areas, complaining and being complacent about the relief work, I really saw red. I mean, living the life that westerners do, can he have any earthly comprehension of how wretched a life in an Indian fishing hovel would be. And what sort of relief operations can be carried out, given the local conditions.

And the relief work _ he calls is "pathetically inadequate" coz no one has thought of putting up tents for the refugees and they are all crowding into the temples and schools. And because the kids are only being given cough syrup as medicine. God, I don't know if I should laugh or cry at that man's ignorance.

He says the "overall response seems to be disorganised, and lacking urgency, now that the initial panic is over. "

He complains that the smell of bleaching powder is everywhere. When I read that, I was ecstatic, coz to me that means help has actually arrived and something is being done. Real action, for sure.

And when I read the bit about a "harassed-looking soldier distributing food packets", I was almost beside myself with joy. People were actually getting food. What more? Food, shelter and medicine. Would all those affected have had access to all these things before the tsunami struck? I don't know.

What I do know is that something is being done _ very poorly by Western standards _ but excellent by our previous standards. And I have it from at least one reliable source that the work going on is phenomenal!!!

10 January 2005

Movie Mania

It's been a long, long time since I've actually had the time or energy to do this. But during this Christmas/New Year break, I watched at least one movie a day and somedays, two.

It was on the cards. Haaving concentrated exclusively on Tamil and Hindi movies during the past year, I did have to catch up on English movies as well.

I thought I'd make up a list of the movies and books I've managed over past fortnight or so (not to mention various outings with kids to Te Papa, swimming pool, botanical gardens etc (all of which I will visit again with my Periamma/Periappa, when they land here next week). This way, I will at least know what movies I've watched *wink* And I can also be impressed with myself!!

Sliding doors (Both heroes were such losers, no wonder the film didn't do well)
A Knight's Tale (so-so, I saw only bit and pieces of it)
Troy (whew, brilliant sets, costumes, etc, but very hollow characterisation)
Under the Tuscan sun (perfect art movie)
Laws of Attraction (it was a nice, light, frothy romance)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (man, it was so weird, but interesting)
Charlie's Angels: Full throttle (Yawn!)
Gosh, I've already forgotten the rest! (no that's not a movie title)


Bridget Jones' diary
One book of Jeff Archer (forgotten the name, it was short stories though!)
Ruth Rendell (too depressing)
One Asterix comic!!

I think I will put in the rest when I do remember. Which may be never.

Well, I for one, learnt the art of relaxing this break. And it was a good lesson to learn. Really, I feel heaps happier and contented. And my weighing scales are telling me something too!

7 January 2005

The Pohutukawa

For as long as I have been here, Shiv, my husband, has been raving about the Pohutukawa. And no one be put off by the title, this isn't a botany lesson.

It is a very kiwi tree and the name is from the Maori language (Maoris were the original inhabitants of NZ, long before James Cook hoisted the Brit flag here). And as to why Shiv raved about them, that's not very hard to tell. They've got gorgeous deep red blooms and they bloom only in our summer, just in time for Chirstmas.

In fact, I now know that you can now tell what kind of a summer you are going to have here by looking at when and how the pohutukawa flowers. If it is an abundant flowering, and quite early on in summer, say by mid-December, then it's going to be a long warm summer (we should be so lucky!!). That has hap only once after I started living here, when temperature reached the late twenties in summer.

It's because of this that they are the kiwi Christmas tree. The first White settlers used pohutukawa blossoms to decorate their homes at Christmas time, using it as a New Zealand substitute for holly, and they called it the Christmas tree.


This year though, the trees have only just started blooming in plenty. Any surprise then, that today is the first day in our summer, when the maximum temperature promises to go upto 20C? And this, when summer is officially half over!! The discount sales on summer clothes are already on. Retailers are grouchy, as they hardly sold any of their summer clothes _ it was so cold, hardly anyone bought any!!!!

But still, looking at the tree outside my window now, and watching the red blooms (Only half the tree is red, showing that blooming is still not complete), I can't help feeling cheerful. The red blooms make a lovely contrast to the silvery grey/green leaves of the tree. It is a mild balmy day, there have been no slugs in my kitchen the last couple of days (fingers crossed) and I have a nice two-day weekend to look forward to.

And even better, us Indians apparently, as doing a good self-reliant job of tsunami recovery that even the US is jealous (at least, that's what the net tells me). And what's more, we are being very neighbourly and helping Sri Lanka. I say, good on us!

4 January 2005

Life does go on.........in 2005

So much has been said by so many of the tsunami, there is nothing left to be said, especially by someone like me who lives thousands of miles away.

And yet, it haunts me. I am unable to get away from it. It pervades the atmosphere at home. And at work. It gives me nightmares.

When we friends talk, it is only about this. With Indian/Sri Lankan friends, we talk about places and people we know and hope they are safe.

With Kiwi friends, it is the same, only in a more general way. They are very kind, for they all know that I am from India. Many even know that I am from Madras (as it is still known as here).

Aid relief collection is on here. We have done all we can. Yet a sense of guilt _ is that all there is to it? Just flinging some money? How about those who are actually doing the work _ working with the homeless babies, the rotting corpses? I know I can't do it. But still........

All our squabbles, our wars, seem so petty in comparison. Mother Nature is the ultimate, in beautiful and ugly.

I feel so silly and ashamed, when I think how revolted and scared I was when I saw slugs in my kitchen. What is it compared to all this horror that is going on in this world. It is like comparing the pain of a scratch to that of labour pain. But, still, both are varying degrees of pain.

I just can't get over my gross and deep-rooted revulsion for slugs and snails. {I don't have to worry about snakes and lizards here as they can be found only in zoos.} Much as I can't get over the images that the TV brings to me daily about the tsunami.

I am only human, after all...and hats off to you, Ramya, if you are reading this, for actually going there and being part of it. I do know it is part of your job, but still, I don't know if I could have done it had I still been there.............

However, to end on a note of hope _ today, for the first time after I got my driving licence, I drove on the motorway, all the way from Lower Hutt to Wellington. Life goes on!