My Everest

I remember the night before my 6th standard maths test. The first time I felt a terror so deep, I felt paralysed. That same dread has revisited me at various points in my life. The night before my 10th Biology boards exams, the moment I learned that the ICSE 10th standard results were out, the night before my first exam in Germany and the first couple of seconds of my very first job interview. Dread for what was to come next, of the unknown.

This dread that has only visited me a half dozen times in my life, has come to rule my evenings for the last 1 year. All my years of schooling, at the Uni and all the years of my mother nagging me and there’s one thing that I still cannot do – keeping a house. I can model components, write code, make presentations, spreadsheets, all while speaking german but I can’t keep a house.

The mornings are great! I hop out of bed! Me! The morning zombie! Who has loathed waking up early for all 20 something years of my life! I hop out of bed and cannot wait to get to work. It’s the evenings that I dread. Those couple of seconds that it takes to turn the key in the lock fills me with a fear, that was hitherto unknown. Every fibre of my body screaming to me to just the turn back in the lock and run back. You would think, just what awaits me behind those closed doors. An abusive husband? a demanding one? an alcoholic one?

I happen to be one of those lucky few who has a husband who actually does all the cooking and most of the cleaning. But after a long day, neither he nor I, have the patience or the energy to cook up something. Let alone do the cleaning up after. Because of this, most of our dinners last year have been out-sourced to restaurants or deliveries. Unhealthy, expensive junk! Needless to say we both fill out our clothes much better than we used to. After some serious decisions we decided to cook more this year and so far, it’s been working. But I continue to question myself – how long is this to last?

The prospect of thinking up dinner, rounding up the ingredients and the cooking in itself drain more than whatever little energy I have left in me. With the weekend come more chores – vacuuming, dusting, grocery shopping, laundry…… and the list goes on and on! My life seems to have become an endless stream of folding clothes, doing the dishes, making shopping lists,… No matter how much I get done, there is always something left to do. It’s no wonder that its only last weekend, a year after moving in, that we finally finished furnishing our living room. Okay, so may be it’s not completely done. But we have a couch, couch table and a cupboard for books and knick-knacks. That counts right?

I want to come back to a nice and clean house everyday. I want to enjoy my time at home. I want to be able to write a little and find time for other pursuits when I’m at home. I want to eat healthy meals and I want to go for a run or exercise but I can’t bring myself to do all this when the house is not how I want it to be. And no matter how badly I want it, I am not the  domestic goddess I need to make my house nice and clean. This is my undoing!

So if you have any tips or tricks for this nerve-wracked 20 something who is at her wits end when it comes to keeping house, do write in.

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The little things

I’m all about the little things in life. Whether it’s the small talk with the cashier/server at the canteen, the daily phone calls with my mum and sister, or some stupid joke I manage to crack in German over lunch with my colleagues, I derive enormous pleasure from tiny everyday things. They ensure my routine never bores me and that a smile is permanently plastered on my face.

While in my head these instances seem like the treasure trove of anecdotes to share with friends and family, my audiences are usually trying to figure out what exactly is so special about the fact that someone I greet at work every morning had a conversation with me about how moody our lift is. Then again, as I write this, I guess I can understand their apathy. It’s true. I talk just for the sake of talking.

While my life is graced daily with innumerable such simple daily pleasures, there are still some small ones that I’ve pursued all my life but have continued to elude me to date.

It all started last week. I was sat at a meeting wondering why time passes so slowly when you’re attending one. I glanced at my watch, my laptop screen, the projector screen, at the colleagues who were discussing some work that had to be done and back at my laptop. As my eye roved over the entire room, it happened to fall on the pen in my hand. A second glance confirmed what attracted the first one. It was happening! Finally! After months and months of using the same pen, the ink in the refill was finally getting over.

Now while this should count as a daily pleasure, I have never, in all my life, in 19 years as a student and the last 1.5 as an employee, seen the refill in my pen empty just as I have never used a pencil/eraser until it’s so tiny, it can’t be used anymore. Because somewhere along the way I lose them. ALWAYS!!

So as I sat there in the meeting, the biggest of balloons swelled up in my heart. The day I waited for my entire life, just a few days away. I’d done the impossible. I’d managed to use the same pen until the ink in the refill had come down to just a few pages of writing. So every day I came to work looked at the pen and tried to estimate exactly when the party would be.

And yesterday, with the day ahead of me filled with meetings, I was especially excited. So as the day wore on, I made meticulous notes at every meeting. Making sure I brought it back with me at the end of every meeting. It was going great. The ink was emptying itself out of the refill on to the pages before me. And then it was time for the last meeting of the day. We drove to the meeting centre and I sat down for what would be an hour of new information to me. The new subject matter required more concentration than usual but no note taking. So I sat at the back and followed the topic. Sorting out all the information in my head. At the end of the meeting we headed back to our office. Listening to my colleagues as they discussed what tasks they had ahead of them.

Back at my desk, I pulled out my diary to update my to-do list before I left for the day. I reached for the pen but my fingers grasped at thin air. Without too much thought, I dove under my desk, where I normally find a lot of my stationery disappears to. But I re-surfaced empty-handed. When my bag also yielded nothing, I sat back slowly and let the disappointment sink in. I’d left the pen at the other office. There was no way of getting it back. It was not to be.

Disappointment quickly made place for anger. At my carelessness, at my absent-mindedness. After months and months of using the same pen, I lost it when it mattered most. It’ll take months and months to get back to where I was. So I sit at meetings now, with inky hands holding a new full refill pen with leaks ink profusely, back to square one.

An ode to my one true love

As a woman in the automotive industry I’m often greeted with surprise and sometimes scepticism. Why cars? I’m asked. Why is a difficult question to answer. It’s like asking someone why they like their favourite colour. There’s just no answer to the question why. The heart wants what it wants. How did I come to realise I love cars, however, is an excellent question.

We never had a car at home while I was growing up. We didn’t get one until I was studying engineering. My only access to cars were three different instances over the year. My aunt visited us from the USA once every year and without fail we would go to pick her up and drop her back to the airport. Now as I said, we didn’t have a car, so it was always a taxi, in fact, it was always an ambassador. It was big, heavy and loud. But what a car! They just don’t make them like that anymore!! (pun intended)

Summer vacations spent at another aunt’s place meant one hour drives to pick up my aunt from her bank. This car was another Indian classic. A white ’95 Maruti 800. This was also to be the car I was to learn to drive in, clean, face a breakdown and come to love as dearly as my friends.

My uncle took us out to dinner at least once when he was in Bangalore. More often than not, we were picked up for these dinners. Now, these cars were no Ambassadors or Maruti 800s. They were Lancers, Cielos and sometimes even a Mercedes. For someone who had only been in Ambassadors and Marutis, I was endlessly fascinated by the powered windows, soft seats and air conditioning.

I lived through most of these experiences passively. Although I enjoyed the car rides, I never understood why I so looked forward to them. Until, I had an epiphany. On rainy evening in Bangalore, I was getting to dance class from school by auto (rickshaw) when the 2 minute ride was halted by a blocked road thanks to a fallen tree. And as the auto driver tried to manoeuvre the auto out of the cacophony of vehicles, there it was, a vision in metallic blue, as if the heavens themselves had opened up just to remind us of its majesty. That’s the day I discovered just how beautiful cars are. Beautiful, mobile pieces of art.

Few people appreciate the detail, furore and care that goes into making a car. The challenges they face and how they emerge victorious. To give us something new yet familiar, dynamic yet comfortable, all metal and technology and yet so gorgeous. And I don’t mean just the Ferraris, Lamborghinis or Maseratis. I mean all cars (except maybe the Zen Estilo. I don’t know what they were thinking!! ).

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Seriously?!

I learnt to drive in a ’95 Maruti 800 in 2007. It’s as simple as they come. 3 cylinder carburettor engine, no power steering, powered windows, brake booster or AC. The car broke down on me a couple of times but even in such situations it was considerate enough to break down in front of a garage or in a parking lot. I learnt to drive it, clean it and slowly but surely came to love it. I have many fond memories in this car. The first time I took it out into the city, I had my very first accident. I was terrified and upset but drove back because my mum was with me and she didn’t know how to drive then :D. I ferried my classmates to college in my final year, drove all the way to Bommasandra from Malleshwaram during my final semester, hit 100 km/h on the outer ring road, ….. And when I moved to Germany to pursue my Masters, it moved on too, to make memories with someone new. Shiro Chan he was called. He was no Ferrari or BMW and yet he would win hands down when it came to claiming that little place in my heart. I’m sure I’ll own and drive a lot of cars in my life but Shiro Chan shall remain my first love.

Suzuki_Maruti_800

The thing you need to understand about cars is that they too have a personality. Each and every one of them are unique. Even when they are the same model from the same year, they will be and feel different. You have to connect with them. Sometimes it’s instantaneous and at others it’s cultivated over time. The important thing is to respect them. They don’t just get you where you need to be but they do it safely. Like any person or relationship in your life, cars need to be maintained. I don’t mean the routine checks at the service stations. I mean filling them with a good quality fuel, making sure the air pressure in all your tyres are right, checking if the engine oil level is right, if you have enough coolant. It’s not hard, it takes maybe about 5 minutes to do everything I said and yet most people don’t take out that time to do it and complain about how their car is behaving. Treat your car well, and by this I don’t mean don’t push it, by all means see what your car can do. But remember to toe the line and not cross it.

So this Valentine’s day, take the time to get to know your car. Give it a good scrub, a little bit of pampering, take it out for a drive, just the two of you and try giving a listen to what it’s saying and I’m sure you’ll find yourself falling in love too.

Bangalore in a nutshell!

It’s been a week since I got back from home-sweet-home aka Bangalore. Now, as my stockpile of food from home starts to come down, the blues steadily rise. So of course, there’s a rant about Bangalore waiting to happen. Let there be no doubt that I do think Bangalore is the most awesome place in the world to live in, Bangalore traffic and pollution included. Now when you make statements like this people are always tempted to argue otherwise or expect you to prove the same. A friend of mine who happened to visit Bangalore for three days, especially had a bone to pick with me over this issue. And ever since then I’ve thought long and hard about how to explain to him the awesomeness that is Bangalore. It wasn’t until this time that it finally dawned on me what was going on.

You see, every big and famous city in the world is associated with something that makes it famous. New York has Times square, Agra the Taj Mahal, Vegas it’s casinos, Venice the canals. These places have come to symbolise these cities and are what you look forward to most when you travel there. Then there’s Bangalore. Now, we have Lalbagh, Cubbon park, Vidhan Soudha, the Bangalore palace and many other places but in the end none of these places individually or even collectively symbolise or stand for Bangalore. Bangalore doesn’t have the fast paced life of New York/Mumbai. At the same time it isn’t quiet and slow like a small village tucked away in the Himalayas/Alps. Bangalore is like a river, with ebbs and flows and you would do well to let the flow take you where it will.

Bangalore is not a traveller’s city. You will never be able to “see” Bangalore. Not because there’s nothing to see but because Bangalore is not just meant to be seen. Bangalore needs to be heard, savoured, felt, and above all, lived! You can’t put Bangalore in any mould. It will not fit. It’s not a rebellious teenager or an experimental twenty-something, a mid-life crisis waiting to happen or even a pensioner who’s seen and done it all. You can’t go looking for Bangalore in just one street, building or corner. It is all around you. It is as much UB city and Phoenix market city as it is Malleshwaram 8th cross and K R market. It is as much ITPL and Manyatha tech park as it is Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. It is as much 100 feet road Indiranagar as it is the food street in VV Puram. It is Chitra santhe, soul santhe, Kadalekai parishe and Bengaluru habba.

Bangalore is the silence and stillness in Lalbagh/Sankey tank within the chaos and traffic that surround it. It is the Benne dosa at CTR, the fish and chips at Koshys, the beer in Pecos and the Hamburger in The Only Place. It is the misty chill mornings in December and the hot sunny afternoons in May. It’s the random 5-10 minute long showers in July and the cool breeze in October.

You will be hard pressed to try to figure out Bangalore if you come as a traveller. I go back home every year for a month and I still find it hard to visit all my favourite hang outs, let alone try the new ones. Bangalore is always changing. Just as you are. And yet, it’s also the same. It finds a way to take the new and make it a part of itself without getting rid of the old. Bangalore is limitless. It cannot be confined. Believe me, they’ve tried. The first road around the city is now called the inner ring road while the city continues to expand beyond the newer outer ring road.

The truth is, you can’t put Bangalore in a nutshell. It is not the place you go to for 3 days and 2 nights and come away with a fridge magnet or a scaled model of a monument as a souvenir. You don’t come to Bangalore for a vacation, you come for life.

Milestones

We’re born and then we die. But what defines our lives is everything that happens in between the being born and the dying. For the first few years of our lives our parents take the pains of celebrating every little milestone we reach – our first smile, first rollover, first crawl, first night without crying, first potty training, fully potty trained,…… Yes, some we wish weren’t recorded for posterity but it is the duty of parents to embarrass their children and the earlier you start the better. After the first few years, the novelty of a new baby fades and life and routine begin to take control and the celebration of milestones decreases.

Sometimes we refuse to see what all the fuss is about and slowly most milestones stop being marked in our lives until we feel that it is truly big enough to be celebrated. We succumb to peer pressure and begin to measure our success with society’s yardstick. As the years pass, the number of milestones that mark our lives, at least to us, begin to decrease.

As we age, we begin to lose the awe and wonder we held as kids for anything. Birthdays that were eagerly awaited and looked forward to all year round are slowly becoming days to detest. Acing an exam or a test, though harder now, don’t get the spot on the refrigerator it used to. We grow more critical of ourselves and only recognise our achievements and feats when it is first recognised by others. Happiness becomes something that comes from outside rather than from within ourselves.

This year has been a very big year for me. I’ve crossed some of the biggest milestones in my life. At the beginning of the year I got done with all my exams, the end of march brought to an end my time as an intern, in June I celebrated 25 years on this planet, in September I got featured on Freshly Pressed, I finished my thesis at the end of October, I got my first job offer in November, I finally finished my Masters in December and hit a 1000 followers this week. These are some of the biggest things that have ever happened to me. Things which, apart from the being featured on Freshly Pressed, will never happen to me again. Hence, the biggest milestones.

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YAY!!!

Yet, there have also been so many other smaller milestones along the way which I cannot forget and have given me immense joy. Every single like and comment on the blog, every single time that I spoke in German without a single mistake, every job application that I finished and sent, giving my very first job interview, touching down in Bangalore,… These are things that will continue to happen in my life but we give me the same joy as the bigger milestones.

I guess the other milestones are bigger because they bring with them a certain relief. A feeling of “Oh! Thank God! Finally!!”. That slight panic that we all carry in our hearts, a social clock (more like a time bomb if you ask me) if you will, to reach a certain milestone at a certain time is what makes that milestone more important to achieve. Add to that a certain level of difficulty and you have a big milestone. But that doesn’t mean the smaller ones are any less worth celebrating.

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1000 followers!

The world we live in today is so fast and fickle that we hardly have the time to get a grasp of what is going on, let alone orient ourselves in the direction we want to. There are more upsets and accidents which bring with them so much anguish and turmoil, which is what necessitates a little more happiness. We have become so cynical and critical that we  don’t recognise the smallest of joys. Or maybe we do recognise them but just refuse to give ourselves the chance to enjoy them.

I’ve always believed in living life to the fullest and I know I’m definitely not the most experienced person when it comes to how to live your life or even about how life is. But I have realised, at least for myself, that just sitting with a bunch of friends and talking absolute nonsense gives me so much more joy than going on that huge roller coaster at the fair. We’re all so caught up in living the YOLO kind of life that we forget and look past some of the most amazing things that are happening to us.

I still can’t forget that even after having defended my thesis, I felt no different than I had been feeling the rest of the time. I remember saying “I thought this was supposed to feel different but it doesn’t”. And no, it wasn’t because it hadn’t sunk in yet. I realise that now because when I look back on the last year, it’s the small things that come to mind. Finding a way to mount a component on the test bench after what seemed like forever, having lunch with my colleagues, celebrating with friends, roaming around the christmas market with them, hugging my mom and sister after a whole year of not having seen them.

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50th Post!!

So, here’s to all the milestones, big and small. To what has been an amazing year and looking forward to a new one, which will hopefully bring with it the same awe and wonder as the previous ones.

Of the theory of relativity, beating hearts and PhD topics

The last month and a half have been the longest of my entire life. I’m not being dramatic. They really were. It feels like the first ten months of this year happened at warp speed and then everything just started going in super slow motion. I know what you’d say, “You were occupied with internship and thesis so you didn’t realise time passing by but now with everything done and nothing left to do you’re bored and hence time seems to pass by slowly”. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve had plenty to do since I finished my thesis. For one there was the report, which by the way, is a nightmare in itself. Then the job applications, online tests, telephonic and personal interviews. You name it! Last but not the least, there was also the master thesis defence presentation. I was by no means idle.

I’ve also tried everything in my power to make the day go faster. I’ve slept in. That usually does it for me. I sleep in, wake up late and realise half the day is gone. But not this time, the rest of the day just seemed to taunt me. Even the sun which used to set so early in the day towards the end of the master thesis seemed suspended just over the horizon as if mocking me. And don’t even get me started on today. Waking up late, taking a long shower, watching lots of anime, roaming around the city, hanging out with friends and still it was only 8 when I got back. As I sit here typing this post, it feels like time has stopped just to annoy me.

I never quite appreciate Einstein’s theory of relativity as much as I do now. When I say now, I mean every time I am flying back home. It always seems like the days before my departure are extremely long. Even the flight seems longer than its 6 and 3 hours and the waiting time during transit, Good lord!! It seems like an eternity as you wait for the boarding to your flight to be announced.

Sometimes I feel that the closer I get to going home the faster and louder my heart beats. Maybe that’s why I feel like the day goes slower. How’s that for a theory to research? Any takers for a PhD? I’ll willing offer myself up as a subject. When I say faster and louder I mean crazy fast and loud. Just like it does when you run a race or some equally exerting physical activity. Right now I can hear it despite the sounds from my keyboard. That’s pretty loud.

At times like these I really wish I were a more calm person compared to the excitable idiot I am being right now. It doesn’t really take a lot. A free shell sticker that you get at the petrol bunk, an orange candy, hearing a song I like playing on the radio. What amazes me is that despite my racing heart and the adrenalin coursing through my body, I still function as I do on a normal day. Just more high pitched and talkative than usual. It’s like my mind is above my body and looks down at it sneering, “Oh! You pathetic little thing!”. At times like this I really wonder how my heart will take some really shocking news. Aren’t heart attacks a result of too much excitement? Maybe I need to be doing more cardio. Or more like start doing cardio.

The internship chronicles – Part 2 – The end!

When I started the internship chronicles, many people (including myself) knew it was more like AN internship chronicle. But since I’m all about surprising people (including myself), I decided to mess with your minds (and my own) and write part 2 of the series. However, so as to not affect the equilibrium of the world too much, this will also be the end of the series.

So as you know I started an internship in January and on 31st October, it came to an end. Well, technically my internship ended in March and I’ve been working on my Master thesis but technicalities such as those don’t matter. You know, potäto potato whatever. Moving on, literally, this is the end of one of the biggest chapters in my life. The end of this internship is a sign of many things coming to an end. My masters, life as a student, and all this ending is making me very nostalgic.

Contrary to all my expectations and nightmares, my internship was the complete opposite of what I expected it to be. Most of my nightmares featured me staring quizzically at several people spoke at me in rapid German or me tripping over some wire and breaking some expensive equipment or deleting important files from the server or well, you get the picture. On the other hand, my expectation had me waking up early and going to work in formals everyday, talking in rapid German and cracking jokes along the way (I sound way funnier in my head but then again I think my German would make a few people laugh).

When I said more or less, I meant nothing like either my expectation or my nightmares. The only things that either got right was 1. I did in fact wake up early and 2. Sometimes I did stare quizzically when people spoke at me in rapid German but I snapped out of it pretty quickly. Now while I always thought of getting up early wearing formals and make up (yeah right!), that hardly ever happened. I’m way too lazy to iron my formal shirts so I took the easy way out and said I’m a student, plus I work in R&D. No one’s going to care if I’m in formals. I got that one right.  So out went formals, as far as make up is concerned, I’m yet to learn the art of properly applying eyeliner, let alone perfect it, and work wasn’t the place I wanted to start my experiments with make up so that went out the window too.

Conversing in German didn’t turn out to be the nightmare I expected it to be. Despite my rudimentary skills, I was able to interact, understand and communicate. What more do you need? I’ll admit, the first couple of months were pretty difficult. I had to really concentrate to understand what someone was saying and by evening I was reduced to starring and nodding politely. Speaking a different language really takes up brain space!! Not to forget the mini hear attacks I’d have when someone spoke in Swabian or with a thick accent (look who’s talking!). But I found a way around it all. As long as you have a smile on your face and are polite, people will be patient with you. Somewhere along the line I forgot to be scared and just spoke in German. It stopped being an exercise and just became something very normal. I actually miss it now. I just hope I don’t get rusty.

As far as colleagues were concerned, I had the best. For the most part I was the youngest person in the team so I always got a bit of leeway. Everyone was very patient and friendly with me.  S who was also doing his master thesis became a good friend. We had quite a few laughs sitting right at the back of the department speaking in broken German (me) and broken English (S). I can’t imagine how the others could work with a serious face during all this. It became very boring to have to sit and work alone the last couple of months since S was done. There was also Mr. L who always came at 12:30 to call us for lunch. Mr. L always had the most interesting of stories and observations to make. Being a foreigner, my country was the topic of quite a few conversations and lunch was never boring. Mr. M was always fascinated by India and by how I liked Formula 1 and could hold my own when Mr. W and Mr. K had a conversation about it. Some of the finest gentlemen I know.

On a day with good weather i.e. the Sun was out, Dr. T and Mr. L would suggest eating an ice cream or getting a cup of coffee after lunch. We’d sit and talk about uni, what they served for food at the canteen, the correct height and angle for the hedge around the house,. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had. Then there was always the walk around the building to delay getting back to work even if by just a couple of minutes. And when the topic was even more interesting we’d dawdle in the aisle between the cubicles getting in a last opinion or two before it was time for the inevitable.

One thing I’d never realised was that there’s so much more to work than just the actual work like running tests or simulations or figuring out the bug in your model. Those are things you figure out with experience or if nothing works then there’s always google. But the skill you really need is the one which helps you communicate. Not talk but actually communicate. A lot of times you say a lot of things but you can never really get across what you mean. At times like this language isn’t the barrier but your people skills are. This is probably my biggest take away from my internship. The number of times I ran around the workshop and the test bench to ask for a component to be mounted or dismounted is too many to count. I also can’t imagine how each and every one at the workshop always took the time to come and do that for me despite their tight schedules. It goes to show that anything is possible if only you’re polite to people and treat them as equals. It’s also amazing how much you can learn from them.

A smile and a hello or good morning can do wonders in forging bonds with people. Everyday that I went to work, there would be a couple of people standing outside the door smoking and I would say good morning and they would return the greeting. I don’t know these people by their names but they became a part of my day as I did theirs and whenever we met again during the course of the day they’d make it a point to say hello. Many a conversations in the lift while running from my work station to the test bench happened just because I was willing to say hello. It’s amazing how these little actions change the whole course of your day. Even at the canteen, saying “Mahlzeit” made the servers’ day and you could see how happy they felt to be acknowledged.

All in all, it’s been an eventful ten months. My brain’s a little fuller with all that I’ve learnt during my thesis, my resume has increased in length, I’ve added two letters of recommendations but most of all, I’ve made memories to last me a life time.

Happy Deepavali!!

My calendar on the laptop says it 32 minutes until Diwali/Deepavali and my FB feed is filled with wishes for a safe and prosperous new Diwali. It’s one of my most favourite festivals and once again, I find myself far from home. This is a pretty big festival in our household and one for which preparations begin much earlier.

The weeks preceding Deepavali is filled with cleaning the house. At least for my mum it is. I get too distracted discovering half forgotten things found during these cleaning sessions. It means moving the showcase on which our TV stands and finding the million pens my mum loses, or the rubber bands and hair clips that my sister and I do. Climbing the attic to bring down the giant mandap and in the process finding some old books or photos.

Cleaning the mandap and fitting the pieces back to actually make it resemble one is another one of the very fond memories that I have of this festival. Its pretty hilarious trying to fit the columns into their holes on the roof as my mum and sister hold the base and the columns together. And it never works on the first try. Several failed attempts and many nearly crushed fingers later we manage to put it all together.

The market near our house is always abuzz during festival time but Deepavali adds a certain charm to it. The overcrowded streets, vendors trying to get you to buy their wares, people bargaining, the autos and other vehicles trying to make their way through the cacophony of it all, just add to the festivities. I find it incredibly amusing and fascinating as my mum manages to bargain four stalks of the banana plant, a dozen banana leaves and mango leaves all for the price of one. Let’s not even discuss her skills when it come to flower and vegetable vendors.

After finally managing to get home the chores are set aside for the next morning. Of course, it all falls to Ma the next day but she likes to think she’s incharge and we let her. Waking up to the house in Deepavali mode is one of the best experiences. It’s never before nine, you didn’t think I’d rise earlier did you? it’s a holiday after all, the house is filled with music (devotional songs of course, I actually like these and can sing along to most of them but I resist the urge) and delicious smells. After brushing my teeth and washing my face a good part of the next half an hour is spent trying to annoy Ma by trying to touch her (You see, she’s been up for probably 3 hours now, had a shower, cleaned the front yard, drawn a rangoli and got started with the cooking for the day. Since everything she cooks is first kept in front of God, we’re not allowed to touch her without taking a bath because we’re still dirty.) It’s more exciting than it sounds trust me.

When I see that she’s not amused anymore and her face is starting to get that annoyed look, I escape into the bathroom to take a shower. After I’ve had a shower I’m immediately put to work. Decorating the front door with the mango leaves (it’s called making a toran), cleaning all the portraits and decorating them with flowers is all my work. It’s actually harder than it sounds and takes me a good hour to be done with it all. Then there are small chores and errands like cutting some vegetables or running to the store to buy some last minute things we forgot. By one in the afternoon we’re free to do whatever we want and this time, of course, is spent sprawled on the sofa watching some mindless Diwali flick playing on TV while waiting for lunch.

Lunch is always a late affair on these days, what with all the cleaning and decorating, and usually happens after the pooja. Even though it is late, it lasts quite long. Ma then retires to her room to read something and the sister and I follow suit. We lounge around on the bed and read until Ma falls asleep and we make fun of her snoring noises. After a quick ten minute nap Ma is up and refreshed (I don’t know how that woman does it but I hope that gene was passed on to me). She then starts preparing stuff for the evening pooja. I find most of this stuff irrelevant to this post except for one – kajjaya. Kajjaya is the sweet Ma makes every Deepavali. This means the gas stove comes down on the floor, Ma sits in the centre and is surrounded by banana leaves with kajjaya batter on them. It’s quite difficult to make and takes longer than any other sweet she makes but it’s all worth it!! It’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Easily the best sweet around during this time.

Promptly at five in the evening when the noise of crackers starts to increase and the sister and I realise it will all go faster if we help, we offer our services to the mother. She begs to get ready and a round of arguments ensue over what to wear. After wasting an hour on it she makes us visit all the neighbours’ houses with sweets. By the time we’re back she has everything ready, I’m beginning to think she sends us out just to get the work done. I can’t believe I always thought we were being helpful!!

Now this is the best part of the day, there is normally a pooja again after which we can go light the diyas. Ma reads a story from a very old book. This book belonged to my grandfather and is so old that it’s yellow in colour and so brittle that it’s falling to pieces and don’t even get me started on that handwriting! Its all written in old Kannada and yet Ma reads it flawlessly! She thinks about writing it all out again before the book actually falls apart but so far every year has been a false alarm. I’m actually going to miss it when she gets around to doing it. The story she reads is about the rituals we follow during Deepavali and why its important. It’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve heard and even though I’ve heard it year after year I never tire of it. Once she’s read it she ties the nopi thread around each of our wrists.

Now these nopi threads are different from the normal threads you get outside every temple. They are only available in a handful of colours and they bleed on contact with water. So of course, we are picky about the colours we want. The threads also have a gold cylinder threaded into them, these are reused every year and we all have one which is ours and insist on just that one being threaded on. These nopi threads stay on all through Deepavali and my hand actually feels quite weird once its removed.

After the thread drama there is the lighting the diyas drama. You see, there are two parts to lighting the diyas. Step one: Fill diyas with oil and put the wick in. Step two: light the diya. Step one is boring and not to forget quite messy and hence, neither the sister nor I want to do it. Cue fight. Until Ma intervenes and manages a compromise. Diya lighting is my most favourite part of Deepavali. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as watching your house all lit up and beautiful. Year on year, its the same house, more or less the same pattern but ever beautiful.

As kids we used to play with crackers but not anymore. I gave up on crackers twice. As a kid I was very fond of the sparklers, flower-pots and chakras. I always had a love hate relationship with those gun cracker things. Every year I’d see other kids playing with it and be tempted into playing with one myself, sometimes it went okay, other times I ended up hurting my hand and swearing off it until the next year. Anyway, as I said I was very fond of flower-pots. When I was about eight, and lighting a flower-pot, it suddenly burst like a bomb. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt but needless to say I was traumatised and couldn’t stop crying. Even watching my little sister have fun while playing with crackers was not enough to change my mind. Taking a pledge to not burst crackers the next year at school ensured my abstinence from fireworks but pretty soon I was back to bursting crackers. It was only when we got a dog and I watched the poor thing shake in fright that I swore off crackers for good. The pleasure I derive from bursting a cracker is no where close to the pain that these poor animals go through. It’s just not worth it.

One of the best parts of Deepavali is the oil bath. Traditionally, on the first day of Deepavali, you massage your entire body with oil and take a hot water bath. In my house, we have an additional tradition of drawing on the bathroom walls after massaging the oil and waiting for the water to heat up. We had a traditional fireplace and the water used to get heated up from the fire we made from the coconut husks in our front yard. Both the sister and I got half of the bathroom walls to draw on and it made us feel like artists. We drew diyas, flower-pots, rockets, chakras and everything else associated with the festival. Poor Ma who had to clean it all up later. This is all part of the Ganga pooja where you worship water.

It’s been three years since I’ve celebrated Deepavali at home and while I miss the noise and the general exuberance during the festival, I miss the little things more. Of course, I try to celebrate a tiny part of Deepavali by lighting candles in my room but I still miss the general brilliance of my house. I guess it is one of those festivals which you have to be home to really celebrate.

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My tiny Deepavali

Happy Deepavali to you all!! May the festival of lights bring new light into your life and fill it with brilliance.

Dear Prospective Employer,

As I go through the process of looking for and applying to jobs, I feel the need to compose this letter to you. I’m writing to you because I don’t think two pdf documents and all my grade cards and certificates are enough reasons to consider me for a position let alone know me. I’m also writing to you because I want you to know how much effort goes into an application and how hard it is for all of us. Finding a job is hard in itself. Add to that the fact that you have to apply in a foreign language, know exactly what you want to do but can’t find an opening in it and you have a recipe for frustration.

I’m going through this process as a fresher while simultaneously working on my master thesis. This is how it is for most of us. We are more than aware of how important both our thesis and job applications are, but most of us can’t afford the luxury of applying once we are done with our studies. We have to because we can’t continue to rely on our families for financial assistance, because for a few of us we are the ones who support our families, because we have a huge loan in the bank whose interest is just waiting to drown us. For most of us it is at least one of these reasons and for some of us it’s all these reasons. Now while these are pressing reasons, we also can’t wait. We can’t wait to start working. We’re excited to see what we have to offer, we’re a little naive that way. And to be honest, you are better off hiring us at this time, bursting with enthusiasm and excited about our careers rather than when we have waited and faced rejection and are applying to anything and everything because we’re so desperately in need of a job.

Source: http://playgrounddad.nextimpulsemedia.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/76806713.jpg

I am sure I will be one of the hundreds or thousands of resumes stacked on your desk. On some days I may be the best of the lot, and the worst on some, but for the most part I will figure somewhere in the middle. I know this because most of us have the same grades, have done the same number of internships/student jobs and won the same number of awards. Competition, today, has grown so much that it’s hard to find people who have a below average grade or who have absolutely no practical experience. So I can only imagine how hard that makes it for you. At first glance we all seem the same to you and yet, we’re not.

Our grades, internships, awards, they don’t define us. These are things meant for us to do. What matters is the effort we put into our grades, the factors that led us to decide on an internship. It’s these behind the scenes decisions and work that define us as professionals and as individuals. Yet, these are inappropriate in a résumé and the space in the cover/motivation letter just isn’t enough to do justice to it all. We could try, but we’re not great writers. I guess that’s why we chose engineering as a profession.

For me, a glance at my grade card wouldn’t necessarily tell you what I like or find interesting, and while I would love to say I cherry picked my student jobs, projects and internships, you know I would be lying through my teeth. Some of them happened out of circumstance and some out of luck. That’s not to say that there was no effort though. They took a lot of effort and I’m really happy I did them because I learnt so much. I’m not saying it because it’s expected of me but because I really did. I tried to make the most of every situation. I dabbled in many things and while you would dismiss me calling me fickle, I would like to clarify that I was curious. After all, I was only a bachelor or master student still finding my footing. To say the least, I was curious. I was looking for that elusive love for work. What I’ve seen in my mother when she talks about her job even though she’s been doing that for 30 odd years. Thanks to all my fickleness, I have finally found it.

I’ve always liked cars and I thought knowing what I liked was enough. Apparently not. Why, I was asked. Frankly, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve loved cars for years just like I love chocolate. I’d like to see you try to tell me why you like your favourite colour or your favourite shirt. Sometimes there is no answer. I could bore you with conventional lies like I used to open up radios and toasters to see how they worked, so I knew I’d be an engineer but I didn’t, I would have gotten a nice spanking if I had tried. The best I can offer is that it was love at first sight. I know it may seem a frivolous reason to choose a profession, but what is the ‘correct’ reason?

I come from a country where education, especially higher education, is a luxury few can afford. Even in the case of those who can afford, only a few professions are considered lucrative and hence feasible to study. Throughout my academic career, I’ve met more people who were, disinterested at best and hated at worst, what they were studying. Is the fact that the profession earns you money the correct reason to choose it? It is a reason none the less. Most résumé on that list are there because of the above reason. Me, I’m not immune to it either but I’m in it because I love it. Passion and curiosity are my reason and that, I believe is my selling point.

Being a girl in the mechanical field can be hard. Not from the technical point of view. Thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer will seem like a cake walk compared to the bigotry you face in this field. It’s a male dominated world and they don’t like trespassers. Most people, even outside India, eye you with suspicion and distaste when you say you are studying mechanical engineering. I’ve had people in very high positions ask me ‘By choice or by chance’. It’s something my male counterparts have rarely faced. It’s very insulting. My gender is not my limitation. I’m here, always, by choice. It’s my passion that keeps me ticking.

I could tell you a lot about the subjects I’ve studied and the projects I’ve worked on but I’ll leave that to my résumé because I don’t think that is the reason you should recruit me. In my short experience I’ve realised that grades are just numbers and certificates are just pieces of paper that have no value once you step into the office. Whether at the top or bottom of the class, at work, we all start from zero. There have been days where I’ve not understood something, my grades didn’t help me then, my curiosity and stubbornness did. There have been days when my models or codes have not worked, my projects didn’t help me then, my perseverance and creativity did. On days that I didn’t get the results that I needed and my boss was not too pleased, my certificates didn’t come to my rescue, my fortitude did. I’ve worked with people from different countries and backgrounds, the seminars only gave me a background but my outgoing and social nature helped me get started.

I was not the smartest kid in my class and I may not be the best résumé on your desk but I hope you will give me a little more than the customary one or two minutes before tossing me away. I know this is asking a lot, but while to you it is just a résumé, to me, it’s a gateway to my future. My résumé can’t tell you that I’m sincere in my work, that I’m a loyal friend, that I’m stubborn (in a good way, I promise), I’m curious, friendly and punctual. It won’t tell you how I discovered my love for chassis and suspension or why I want to work in the research and development department. It won’t tell you how much I love cars and how I think they are pieces of art that most people can own unlike ‘actual art’ which only the rich can. It won’t tell you how much I respect and admire the amount of work that goes into making each and every one of them. It won’t tell you how I still squeal like an awed two-year old every time I see a car I love (I’ve been in Germany for 3 years now and I still can’t look the other way when I see a car I like). It can’t tell you that thanks to my curiosity I read about many different things and hence, make for pretty good lunch company. It can’t tell you that I believe excitement and passion are big motivators in a job, and that is why I am writing this to you. I want to be a part of the future of the auto industry and I can’t wait for the day I am. I hope you will be the one to give me my big break.

Yours sincerely,

Manasa Manjunath

We could all do with a little Bollywood in our lives

All the places of interest in your travel list are likely to have been built or have come into existence about half a century ago. If you think about that time, whether you talk about their architecture, lifestyle, fashion or cinema, everything was over the top. Larger than life, if you would. From something as small as tea to something as big as a party was one elaborate affair. Where you came from or what you did didn’t feature into how you lead your life. Everyone indulged themselves in every little activity.

You want proof, let’s start small, head down to the older parts of your city and compare the buildings there to those that have come up in the last couple of years. The old ones may be dirty and starting to fall apart but you’ll definitely notice something different in each and every one of them unlike the columns of grey we call home today. Think about the clothes and make up of the 1950s or 1920s and compare them today. Maybe those people put more time and effort into how they looked than we do now but the elegance and glamour in their hair and clothing, even in something as simple and common as the milkmaid’s dress, is lost on the dresses of today.  There’s a reason vintage is in, you know? Let’s leave the buildings and clothes behind and talk about tea, shall we? Whether the typical English tea or a traditional Japanese tea ceremony were such elaborate affairs in themselves. The people didn’t just savour tea but the time and work that went into making it. I could continue but I think you get the point.

When I think of the Taj Mahal or the Cologne cathedral or the Sacré Coeur, the sheer size of these buildings blow me away. In fact, even calling them buildings feels sacriligious, like I’m diminishing their standard putting them at the same league as something so common. Each of these structures carry in them so much detail and thought that you feel nothing but awe in their presence. You don’t have to be an expert in architecture, art or engineering to marvel at these majestic structures. Compare them to the “marvels” of today, the Burj Dubai, the Sears towers or the Taipei 101. All groundbreaking pieces of engineering but to the untrained eye, they are nothing but a pillar made of concrete, steel and glass.  Sure the way they tower over you and stand with their heads in the clouds ís somehting to marvel at, but in a day and age where you either live or work in the 10th or 20th floor, the feeling fades in a couple of hours if not a couple of minutes.

I understand and appreciate the technology and science that went into making each of these skyscrapers, but once you’ve had a tour of the building where they tell you why the building was built the way it is, the most you can do is drink a cup of coffee in a fancy restaurant that is bound to be there in the last or penultimate floor of the building, and that is assuming that you can afford to(more often than not you can’t). But then with something like the Taj, you could spend all day staring at just one wall and come back the next day to stare at the same wall and still have enough to see and be mesmerised by it.

Whenever I visit a new city and come back, the old and new stand out to me. For the next couple of weeks I’m constantly comparing and contrasting them and asking myself two things. The first being, have we lost our eye for beauty? That can’t be true. We live in a society that prizes beauty. You could even venture on to say that we have an unhealthy obsession with it. But as it stands, no, that is definitely not the problem?

That brings forth a second more pressing question, The question of have we stopped taking pleasure in the smaller details of life. This question is deeper and much darker than the previous. It doesn’t scrape at the surface but takes a more intensive look into our pysche and could perhaps answer the bigger question of why we are on an average such an unhappy lot. We need to take a better look to understand why we’ve become this plain, bland and grossly unhappy generation despite having technology and luxuries, previously unheard of, at our disposal.

While the market is flooded with newer and better versions have we forgone the enduring pleasure of enjoying our purchases in favour of being consumed by the fleeting the pleasure of ownership? We are caught up with the surface and have no chance to venture beyond to even give ourselves the chance to explore and experience true happiness. AS the adage goes, “Money can’t buy you happiness”, we maybe richer and be able to live longer lives but we’re by no means happier. What is the point of a long life where you can afford what you want but you can’t enjoy any of it?

In our fast changing and consumer driven world, we’ve stopped looking at the smaller details and forgotten just how much beauty lies in those tiny little details. And for those who go on about how unreal bollywood movies are, mabye what we need is a bit of song and dance to put colour back into our grey world. It may be a bit over the top but I’ll take drama and living in the moment over the insipidness and race of today that we call life anyday! I’d gladly trade my jeans for a 1920s dress if it meant happiness and satisfaction. Sure I may die earlier but at least I’ll be doing it happy and in style. If not, at least I’m in vogue ;).