November 26, 2007
I don't know what brought about the transition, but I was quite excited to do major shopping this year. For all those who don't know, Thanksgiving is the biggest and craziest holiday in the US. We get 4 days holiday! The limelight of this holiday is the Black Friday Sales. Major shops all over US offer items at cheap, discounted prices. Most of the shops open at 6am Friday morning. However, people who want to buy costly items such as laptops, stand in the line from Thursday night. Crazy na? But I think it's understandable. I mean, if I am getting a 800$ laptop for 500$ bucks, even I would stand in the line. The details of these deals are released on certain websites such as this and this. Your local newspaper sold on the previous day also contains details about all the deals.
We purchased the newspaper Thursday eve weighing around 3kgs. I even took a snap of the width of the paper. We sorted out all needed deals and jotted down what we wanted to buy from where. While browsing on the bestbuy website, I came across a cool deal for a Sony camcorder. We immediately bought it. At 12am, we went out for a drive to Circuit City and Best Buy to see the line outside these shops. People had actually put up tents outside these shops! We came home by 1am and had no desire to sleep. However, we wanted to conserve our energy for the next day so slept from 2-4am. Got up at 4 and was out of the house by 5. Walmart had a good deal for portable DVD players. Unfortunately, we reached there at 5.10 and all the players were gone by then:(. So much so for getting up early. We were thoroughly disappointed by this first fiasco. Luckily, the next stop at Radio Shack got us a good PDVD at a good price.
Next on the list was Circuit City. We picked up a MP3 player, couple of flash drives, camera memory card, and a camcorder bag. After standing in the Circuit City checkout line for close to half hour, we went and picked up our camcorder from Best Buy. Next we reached Oxmoor centre containing a dozen different shops including Macy's, Sears, Disney, Bath and Body works. I found a cute teddy in Disney and stood in the line for 45 minutes to buy him. I picked up some good creams from Bath and Body works, they had a great sale going on and I had a 10$ off coupon. I bought some nice jewelry from Macy's. In Kohls, P bought some T-shirts and miscellaneous items. I was eagerly eyeing the Fabberware 14pc non-stick cookware set sold for 50$, when P reminded that we possibly couldn't carry all the items to India whenever we went. I was really sad to let such a fabulous deal slip out.
It was very, very cold that day and it was impossible to find parking. We visited 7 shops in all and shopped for 7 hours. If this was not enough, the next day we went to Edinburgh Premium Outlet and shopped more clothes, perfumes, and shoes. I also bought beautiful beads from Bead Palace. We both were very happy with all the shopping and most importantly we didn't buy unnecessary stuff. Over all a great shopping experience that I will never forget. It's a different matter that my legs ached for 2 days after the shopping:)
November 1, 2007
I watched the movie before I read the book so I knew what was going to happen when. I loved both. While Tabu and Irfan Khan have done an excellent job through their acting, Jhumpa has vividly described each character through words. When she wrote about Ashima, I imagined Tabu performing that action.
She writes in a simple yet powerful language. Her words flow flawlessly as she weaves a wonderful story through words, sentences, and paragraphs. You can imagine each character through her words and situations. She has not described characters by providing their height and weight; she has brought forward each one of them through lovely situations. I loved the scene when Ashima finds the brown shoes intriguing and tries them on. But most of all I loved the scene when Gogol and his father forget the camera and go to the farthest point near the beach. The father tells Gogol to remember this day and Gogol enquires for how long he should remember it. His father replies on the lines "Remember this day forever, Gogol, when you and I made this journey to the point where there was nowhere left to go."
Each character has some flaws, yet you love all of them. Jhumpa shifts attention from one character to the other. The book is primarily based on Gogol's life - his childhood, teenage years, his studies, love life, behavioral patterns, and actions. It's based on his struggle to accept his name and know the story behind it.
I don't think that I can say the book was only about Gogol's life. It's about a young bride who leaves everything behind and comes into a new country. It is about the young couple who slowly get accustomed to life in US, yet find it impossible to adjust to its culture. It is about one night that alters the path of a young man's life. It is about children who find it more important to spend time with their friends rather than go home for some pooja. It is about generation gap. It is also about Indian culture and cultural differences.
Nothing in the book sounds false or stretched. I found myself nodding my head a lot of times. Jhumpa describes a scene when Gogol thinks about Indian and American woman. Indian woman get hyper when they call guests for dinner, they cook for 1-2 days. They will rarely accompany their guests while eating, and even if they do, one eye is fixed on the guests' plate. Isn't this so true? I too do the same:))
There were a lot of times I had tears in my eyes while reading this book. I always get irritated when I read books that have hanging ends, but this book was an exception. It went in the list of my favorite books. My favorite character in it is Ashima. I am definitely going to buy it.
October 21, 2007
A dear friend H took an online class for glass painting through an Orkut community. She provided excellent links for patterns and videos on how to do glass painting. Through a Yahoo conference, she showed us the entire process with the help of a webcam. Her inputs and this video helped me immensely in completing my project.
The first thing you need to do is select a pattern for your painting. Several websites provide glass painting designs. I selected a pattern called 'Lady with flowers'.
Materials required for glass painting project:
- A design: Can be downloaded from different websites. Do a Google check for 'Glass painting patterns'.
- A glass: The best option is to buy a photo frame from Dollar shop. You will get both the glass and frame for one dollar. But first, take a print out of the design and buy a glass of the required size.
- Glass painting colors: I bought Plaid Gallery Glass Window color kit for 10$ from Michaels. This included the black outline and five colors (Amber, Ruby red, Blue, White, and Green). Individual bottles cost 2$ each approximately.
- A brush and a palette: To mix colors and apply them.
- A plastic bag for outlining: To get thin lines
- Aluminium foil: Serves as a background for the glass and elevates the effect.
- Cotton ball: To clean outline if it smudges
- Pin: To prick bubbles formed while applying colors.
- Newspaper: Keep this below the glass while applying outline and color.
Total cost of all materials: 15$ apprx. (The colors can be used for other designs)How to proceed?
- After you have all the materials, you can get started. Spread a newspaper before starting your project. This will avoid spilled colors for spoiling your carpet. Place the design (paper) below the glass.
- Trace the design on the glass using the black outliner. If you use the outline directly from the bottle, you will get thick ugly lines. To avoid this, take a Ziploc or any plastic bag. Pour the black outline color in this bag. Make a small hole in one corner. Push the color in this corner and use it like a cone. You will get really neat and thin lines. I would highly recommend this method. At any point if the design smudges or goes wrong, you can clean it using a wet cotton ball.
- Once the outline is completed, let it dry for 1-2 days.
- Apply colors directly from the bottle. Start at one point and move up in a zigzag fashion. Alternatively, you can use the brush to apply colors. Pour the color in a palette and apply them with a brush. You can mix different colors together and also make lighter/darker shades of one. If you get bubbles while applying colors, prick them using a pin.
- Now remain the finishing touches. Take an aluminium foil bigger than the glass. Crumple it. Place it below the glass and then place both of them in the frame. This step is optional; the aluminium foil adds a different effect to the painting.
- Your glass painting project is now complete. Take a look at my finished painting.
I felt triumphant after looking at this lady. Sure, there is room for improvement, but she looks elegant and beautiful. The project was fun to do. I will surely be doing loads of glass painting in the future.
September 11, 2007
Every Indian comes to the US with the hope of saving dollars and then returning to his homeland to live a luxurious life. With a little bit of saving and planning, this dream can become a reality. How much to spend and how much to save also depends on how long you will stay in US. If you are planning to settle here, then you don't need to be too conscious of your spending habits. But, if you want to return back to pay off your home loans, then saving is crucial. Here are five money management/saving tips:
- Deals: Websites offer deals on everything - travel, electronics, clothes, grocery. Keep looking for deals on websites such as Deals2buy. They come in handy if you have to buy electronic items for personal use or gift someone. For travel deals, Orbitz is the best website. It offers deals on airline tickets, car rentals, and hotel stays. Walgreens and similar shops have deals on grocery items. Once a week, they sell milk at a low price. Look out for such deals and inquire about them to your local friends.
- Coupons: Many people harp on benefits of using coupons, but being a vegetarian, I don't find them very useful. Websites such as Coolsavings offer grocery and restaurant coupons. Entertainment.com offers an extremely useful coupon book. They provide coupons for restaurants, movies, travel, and grocery too. Just enter your zip code and details and they ship you the book for around 25$. Coupons are also placed near discounted items in malls such as Kroger and Meijer. If you get a coupon, don't discard it. We have placed a box in the house where we keep all coupons. Whenever we feel like ordering pizza, we check the box:)
- Maintaining an Excel sheet of expenses: We maintain an Excel sheet of our monthly expenses and write down the details of every dollar we spend. This may seem nerdish or living in a meagre way, but it helps in knowing how much is going where. We create worksheets for each month and have columns such as Date, Where, and Amount. We enter common details such as Rent, Electricity and water bills, car insurance details and then keep adding as and when we spend. We have also fixed certain budget for eating out and movies. At the end of the month, we add up all expenses and highlight the figure in bold.
- Making conscious use of appliances: This is not only for saving money, but also for being aware of global warming. Don't keep the lights on when you are not in the room. Don't waste water - close the tap while brushing, applying soap to utensils, or when not in need. If you want to keep your electricity bill really low, use moving fans instead of AC. Keep your car windows open; don't use AC.
- Think before you spend: Do I need another ice-cream tub? Do I need so many vegetables? Ask yourself questions every time you feel you are buying something that is not required. Earlier, we used to buy loads of vegetables. They used to rot and end up in garbage. But now we have stopped doing that. Buy only what is required.
We don't think twice to go on a trip. We like to explore places. But, by keeping a few things in mind, we try to increase our savings. I am not saying our bank balance is impressive, but we sure don't spend frivolously.
September 5, 2007
The Paris-Atlanta flight was a different story. Never in my life have I been so bored. There was some problem in the entertainment system which meant no TV, music, flight information was displayed in the entire 9 hour flight. I didn't read anything for fear of getting headache. I had an aisle seat in front of the toilet, which meant that everytime anyone went to answer nature's call, they would collide with my arm. Beside me were seated two ladies who did not speak/understand English, and I had no idea what language they were speaking. I did nothing else but stare here and there for the entire journey. Just when I was bored enought to jump out of the flight, the pilot announced that we had 5 hrs before landing. Urggggggggggghhhhhhhhh..I wanted to scream in frustration.
Finally, we landed at Atlanta and after the Immigration and other formalities, I went and sat at the gate. I had 5 hrs to kill. My husband had told me to explore the airport, but I sat at the gate as I didn't want to be lost anywhere. I remember watching the news of Steve Irwin's death on the TV. I slept again. The Atlanta-Louisville flight was short and sweet. I was smiling to myself at the prospect of meeting my husband after 40 long days.
This past year has been pretty good. I have learnt and seen so much after coming here. I was feel like writing more about my experiences and life in the US. Somehow, never find the motivation to write. Hopefully, after this one year completion article, I will write more about life in the US. Over and out!
August 23, 2007
To be on the safe side, we reached a good one hour before time and easily got tickets. I was amazed to see people buying tickets till the last minute. Doesn't anyone watch movies in theatres these days or were tickets available in the afternoon time? There were other bekaar people like us who had either bunked college or who were jobless. We were excited to see a Hindi movie in a theatre after complete one year. We proudly stood and sang Jan Gana Mana as it held a special meaning being away from our country so long.
The movie started with Shahrukh's troubled flash back. The movie was running smooth for 10 minutes when all of sudden all the characters became upside down and the language turned South-Indian. The audience thought this was part of the movie and waited patiently for things to become normal. When after 5 mins the characters still had their feet in air, the audience started shouting:)). I guess this is one of the drawbacks of watching first shows. Things were restored in 10 mins.
I loved the movie for a number of reasons. Firstly, Shahrukh has done a different and serious role, in contrast to his romantic overdoses. There isn't an ounce of over acting from him. You really feel bad when he's blamed for something he has not done. He appears calm and matured. I loved the way he handled all the ego clashes.
All 16 players are superb. The director has not wasted time on focusing on each one of them. Each player is unique and special; the ever angry and powerful Balbeer, boyish Komal, non-English speaking Sui Mui, cool headed Vidya, determined Priti, to the trouble maker Bindiya. Out of all, I liked the roles of Priti, Bindiya, and Balbeer. The movie runs in a smooth flow and for once my logical head was satisfied. I couldn't decide which scene I liked most, whether it was the danga fasad in McDonald's, the outcome of the men's vs. women's match, or the exciting final. Chak de is sprinkled with cool one-liners and some good jokes. I think there are only two songs and they are inspiring. The final match will make you nervous and pray for the hockey team. It's exhilarating and fast. Don't rush out after the end as the last scenes running adjacent to the names are fun to watch.
The movie questions the sport committee about why women's hockey is not taken as seriously as it should be. I am sure the movie will bring some positive changes for the Indian hockey team.
This was one movie that your whole family can enjoy. It's a movie in which you can't sit still. You will get involved in it, either by cheering, shouting, clapping, or whistling. For all those who still haven't got the chance to see Chak de, don't miss it!!!
July 8, 2007
I spent a truly fruitful evening in Barnes and Nobles yesterday. What was decided as a casual visit to check out the new bestsellers, turned into a 2-hour sitting surrounded by books and music. While browsing through one section, my hand reached a book that I had been meaning to read since some time. Around a year back my friend had mentioned this inspirational book and somehow I never got to reading it. The Present is yet another wonderful book by Spencer Johnson that sets you thinking deep about who you really are and what you want from life. I had read "Who moved my cheese?" and appreciated the thoughts put forward in accepting changes in life. The Present focuses on the best gift a person can give himself and that is discovering to stay in the present.
The book starts off with the character Bill narrating the story to Liz, who's making desperate attempts at improving her life. The book then discusses 4 important things that we need to keep in mind:
*Live in The Present:Often, we let our mind drift away while what we should do is seize the present moment. We either whine about what went wrong in the past or worry too much about tomorrow. Unless we concentrate on the present, we won't appreciate it. It's challenging to focus on one particular thing at hand, only practice, patience, and perseverance will aid in doing it. I think a little bit of meditation every day will help us in concentrating on "The Present".
*Learn from the past: While it's important to fully concentrate on the present, at times we should think about the past. The crucial thing is to "let go" of our past and learn from its mistakes. He who acknowledges his past, learns from his previous mistakes, will surely make a progress in the present. I think everyone should write down important past events, think about them, and write what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what could be done in the future to correct it.
*Create the future:Your present won't be secure till you plan for your future. Planning each day's activities makes you more organized and confident. You should give a thought to where you see yourself in the future. This can be the immediate future like the next day or 4 years down the line.
*Do everything for a purpose:Your life won't be fulfilling unless you do everything with a purpose. Be it personal enrichment, getting a promotion in your career, or improving your family life; a sense of purpose motivates you to complete the task with zeal and energy. Decide your purpose in doing every action and see the positive changes in brings to your life.
The book was filled with inspiring quotes. However, one sentence struck me as excellent. It goes something like this, "Consider the present, the past, and the future as three legs of a tripod. If one falls down,the other 2 suffer as well."
The book was so good that I couldn't put in down. It took me just over an hour to read, understand, and decide how I could implement the story in my life. This book is a must-read for all those who want to be more creative and successful both in their life and work. Check out the website The Present.com to know more about the book. The Present sure got me thinking and analyzing my life more closely. I have decided to live in the present, let go of the past, and work on my future.
July 7, 2007
I guess the date 7-7-2007 proved lucky to many Indians and this wonderful monument which is an epitome of love and beauty. Don't know how lucky the date's going to be for the hundreds of couples who have decided to take their marital vows on this day.
Till then, thank your lucky stars and destiny!
May 31, 2007
My status change from working to non-working also changed the attitude of a lot of people towards me. People whom I knew were earning less than me in the previous company suddenly started showing how superior they were to me. Working females would make statements like I can keep the house cleaner as I am a full-time housewife, I can cook better as I have nothing else to do. And I would be “Hello, I used to work 2 months back”. Of course, I never retaliated to any of the taunts/comments that people threw at me. I have the classic problem of not being able to say anything rude on anyone’s face and then later think about what/how could I have said something. Friends would ask me questions such as “Din bhar ghar mein kya time pass karti hai? (What time pass do you do the whole day sitting at home?)” “Why don’t you study in college?” “Why are you online the whole day just waiting for someone to come online and talk to you?” Initially, the word “Housewife” said to me sounded like an insult or bad word.
Mostly, I took all these attitude problems and questions in my stride and kept a positive outlook. Then there were times when I would get terribly depressed. The walls would close on me, all the ghosts seen in horror movies would haunt me in broad daylight, and I would feel like an utter failure. I would never pester my husband for all my boredom, after all staying here for an extended time was my decision too.
This article is my small contribution to all those females like me, who have willingly or unwillingly taken a break from their careers. The reasons and the duration of the break might be different. But the situation through which we are going through is the same. Mostly, this article is for all the females on the H4 dependent visa. And only females on the H4 dependent visa know how dependent they become through this visa. With a decent paying job in India, I never thought twice about buying anything. And oh, the freedom to buy and shop is so valuable to any girl. My husband would never stop me from buying anything in the US. But the ability to shop from your hard earned money is quite different than asking him to buy something for you. Some of you who have been in the US know most of the things covered in this article, but I am hoping that this article proves useful to girls who have newly come to US on H4.
Stuck on a H4? Don’t say so. Here’s how you should utilize your free time:
1.Volunteer: The first thing that comes to mind when you say H4 is that people cannot work on this visa. So, what now? Volunteer. Look up sites such as Volunteermatch.org and Idealist.org and find volunteer positions in your area. Find the work that best suites your likes and spend your time there. You can choose the schedule of your volunteer work. These jobs won’t pay you anything. But they will help in: a. Maintaining a schedule. b. Give you peace of mind that you are doing something worthwhile with your time. c. If you get a volunteer experience letter, then you can account for the free time when later applying for a job.
My friend A volunteered at a school here. It was a very enriching experience for her. I found several writing opportunities through Volunteermatch.org. It’s great to spend time writing articles. In fact, I am very busy in my work.
2.Internships: Several companies accept college interns to work for them for a certain time period. If you have some experience in a particular field and find an internship opening, then you can apply to work voluntarily for the same. My friend was working as an Instructional Designer in India and after coming to the US she found an internship opening in a firm. She applied, went through six rounds of interviews, and is now working as an intern with the firm. Read her experiences here. These firms will also not pay you anything, but they might give you gift cards to gyms and all. Again, the best thing about working as an intern is working as a full-time employee. If the firm is happy with your work, they may sponsor your H1 visa.
Check out websites such as this and this to find internship positions.
3.Further studies: For all those whose husband doesn’t mind sponsoring further education, this option is the best. You can complete your MS, MBA, or CPA in US universities.
If you are not interested in a full-time course or a degree, you can consider taking individual courses and earn credit points. Some colleges offer courses for 100$ and these will earn you a single credit point. You will need to increase the number of courses to earn more points. These credit points will definitely come in handy for job applications.
If going to college for earning a degree isn’t easy for you, take up some distance learning program. You can always search on Google for such programs in your field of study.
Lastly, there’s the option of online certifications. Females from IT background can complete Oracle, SAP, and software testing certifications.
4.Hobby classes: Find out about hobby classes in your area and join something that interests you. I was very lucky in this aspect after knowing about Friendship International. This group sponsored by the local church offers free hobby classes. Teachers train you on various hobbies such as sewing, stitching, home decorations crafts, crochet, knitting, and quilting. They provide free materials and offer free pick up and drop facility. The class is scheduled every Wednesday and is attended by people of all nationalities. I always look forward to this class as it gives me a chance to go out, meet so many people, and do something creative with my hands.
I recently came to know that the store Michaels offers cake decorating and bead jewelry making classes. I have enrolled for the cake decorating class. Whenever I do something creative, I feel like a child who has accomplished something.
5.Network: The more you network, the more you will be aware of opportunities. I have made several friends in my vicinity. These friends informed me about hobby classes, gave me shopping tips, and comforted me when I felt lonely. I also joined Orkut, a networking website and found several long lost friends. Later, I joined communities such as “H4 Marathi Mandal” and “Indian Homemakers in the USA”. Through these communities, I had 500+ virtual friends. I knew that whenever I posted a query or felt like talking to anyone, I would have company. These girls also chat online and play online antakshari.
6.Keep updated: My biggest worry of being on H4 was that I should get a decent job after going back to India. I should be able to account for the one year time I spent at home. I am Technical Writer by profession and regularly read everything happening in my field. I follow e-mail discussions, read online magazines, and keep updated with the new tools in my field. The biggest advantage of being in the US for me is the local library. I found several books on Technical Writing that would be difficult to find in India. I get these books, read them, and take notes. I regularly write articles, either for my blogs or as part of the voluntary work. I do not want to appear clueless and lost when I would apply for jobs in India.
Whatever field you belong to, keep yourself updated. You may convert your visa from H4 to H1 and while searching for jobs, you should be confident and well-informed.
7.Pursue your passion: I believe that there’s a passion in every human waiting to come out. Some of us might have found that passion, while some may find it later. You may be good at singing, cooking, painting, sketching, drawing, playing an instrument, or creative in whatever you make. I discovered my love for cooking after coming to the US. I truly believe that ‘Whatever happens, happens for the best'. I never cooked anything till I came here, and then had to cook as there is no concept of cooking maids in the US. Initially, I struggled but later found that I loved cooking different dishes. While searching for a particular recipe, I stumbled upon a food blog and through this I found several food bloggers. I now have my own food blog Swad, where I write about what I cook at home and post pictures of the cooked dishes. Food blogging serves three of my passions – writing, cooking, and photography. I have several blogger friends and we have a lot of blogging events. I love participating in all of them.
A friend of mine is taking her photography hobby very seriously. She has a Canon S2 IS digital camera and captures Mother Nature’s phenomenal wonders through her lens. She shares her work on Flickr and gives a chance to people to appreciate nature’s beauty. Whatever is your passion, find it and pursue it. You will never feel alone if you are engrossed in something.
8.Exercise regularly: The one thing that my dad said to me when I was leaving for the US is “Don’t come back fat”. I always remember this. It’s natural that if you sit at home and eat, you will put on weight. Sometimes you might eat because you are bored, or eat without noticing while watching TV. And then when you see in the mirror, you will see a fat lady. This might increase your frustration and you may end up eating even more. I am not saying that I regularly go to the gym, but some form of physical activity is necessary. Go for a morning walk, do jogging, hit the gym, practice yoga, or play tennis. I practice meditation taught to me in the ‘Art of living’ class. It makes me calm and controlled. Go out from time to time. You will feel refreshed after breathing the natural air.
9.Follow a schedule: During my early days in the US, I had absolutely no schedule. I used to get up and make breakfast for my husband, then sleep again till 11 am, get up and chat with my parents, eat lunch at odd times, watch TV, and have bath any time before hubby came home. I soon got bored with this schedule. All of us should follow some schedule to feel positive and happy. Nowadays, I get up early, make breakfast for hubby, read the news, clean the house, do my voluntary work, and maintain a fixed schedule.
10.Be positive: Oh no, it's not my blood group. Thoughts of your family, friends, and country are bound to come to your mind from time to time. Your inability to earn may depress you at times. But, try and be positive all the time. If you are feeling lonely, then share this feeling with someone. Read books. I believe that a person will never feel lonely whilst he’s in the company of books. Try to find a positive angle to the present situation. Although I miss my family and all the functions back home, I cherish all the time I am getting to spend with my husband. Who knows, every Sunday in India might have been spent attending weddings and birthday parties? I try and be happy most of the times. I dance when I am alone, laugh out loud, take photographs, and read a lot.
11.Keep company: I see to it that there’s some form of noise when I feel lonely; this way I feel that I have company. I listen to music when I am cooking; I switch on the TV while eating. Ask a friend to visit you if you are too bored or visit her instead. Plan a potluck party with a group of friends.
12.Eat properly: This point is more as a reminder to me than for anyone else. I hate eating alone. My husband’s office is far off and he can’t come home for lunch. I often neglect lunch and eat in minimal quantities. Sometimes I chuck making chapattis and settle for Maggi, a sandwich, or an apple. I sure hope that none of you do something similar, but if you do, then stop doing it. I have now become very serious about having a hearty lunch. I play my favorite movie, add fruits in my lunch, and seem to enjoy it.
13.Learn something new: What was it that you always wanted to do but never found the time to? Learn a new activity - be it sports, a musical instrument, or a new language. There are websites such as this that teach you Spanish. You can hear the pronunciations and learn the language. I am planning to learn tennis and swimming. Rekindle the romance with your husband and sign up for some dance classes. I recently found out that a local dance school offers classes for 40$ a month.
(Updated: One of my readers, Shabari suggested this very important point.)
14. Learn driving: I did the mistake of not learning to drive. If you stay in a city which does not have good local transport, driving becomes mandatory. Most of the states require you to appear for a written test. You can easily prepare for this test using the driver's guideline book for your state. All the driving rules and regulations are defined in this book. Once you pass the written exam, you have to wait for a month to give the driving test. Practice driving in this one month and then appear for the test. A driving license gives you the freedom to go out whenever you want, you need not be dependent on your husband to take you out. Go to the library, go shopping with your friends, or do volunteer work.
This is for all the smart asses (sorry to use this word, but it suits them) who think that people on H4 do nothing but time pass the whole day. Most of these girls are highly educated and know better about how to pass their time than you lecturing them. Do consider the fact that these girls are thousands of miles away from home and family. If you are not interested in talking to them, leave them alone. But at least don’t point out the fact that they are not working over and over again. Remember, if you say something depressing, you can spoil their day.
I hope that this article would help my female friends on H4 in some way or the other. Thanks for reading this article. If you would like to contribute any other helpful fact for this article, please contact me. I would love to add it to the article and give your reference. Also, if you want more information about anything, get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you out.
Till then, be happy on H4!Adios!
February 17, 2007
It was heavily snowing since morning. We were not doing anything except stare at the falling snow. It was snowing like cats and dogs and before we knew it the ground was covered with a thick layer of snow. We felt like going out, but were afraid that we might fall sick. When we saw two friends playing in snow, we said, "What the hell..let's go out and enjoy". We called up a couple of friends and everyone was ready in no time, donned in jackets, caps, thermals, and gloves. Before we knew it, everyone was throwing snow balls at each other. As each new person joined the group, he was bombarded with snow balls from all directions. Everyone tried to run away from this, which was even worst coz they would slip and fall in the snow. Masti knows no bounds, some guys put snow in other's shirt. And then someone decided a target. The guy was lifted off the ground, rolled in snow, showered with snow, and then left to take revenge. Luckily, we girls were spared, but not before we faced some major snow balls. We took loads of snaps of everyone enjoying and playing in the snow.
This reminded us of Holi, were we pull out friends from their houses and throw colors and water balloons on them. I thoroughly enjoyed this Holi played with snow.
The evening ended with hot tea and bhajjis. All in all, it was a rollicking evening that will always remain in my heart. Let it snow! Let it snow!
February 9, 2007
Just got back from a pizza party that was planned to celebrate Valentine's. The reason for this early party was that all the beautiful ladies wanted to spend Valentine's eve with their sweethearts:P Amidst laughter, shouts, and noise we managed to order a large number of pizzas. It took us a whole 45 minutes to place the order.Grrrrrrr.
We gobbled the pizzas in total silence. Yes, we were too hungry to talk anything. This was followed by the hisaab-kitaab and planning of a special potluck for Holi. Holi is soon approaching and we all racked our brains to find a fun way to celebrate Holi in US.
Anyways, after all the planning we settled down to play UNO. Now, I have kinda become an expert in UNO. I play it almost every weekend since I have landed in the US. UNO is a wonderful game that can be played with a huge group. Players win the game by having minimum points. You can play a card of matching color or number. If you have a single card remaining, you have to shout, "UNO" at the top of your voice.
So, we began by training all the newbies with the rules and regulations.
Once we started playing the game, our voices reached higher decibels. Among shouts of "Mujhe draw 4 kyon diya", "Mujhe skip kyon kiya", "Mera turn to ata hi nahi!" and "UNO" we had total fun. The afternoon couldn't have got better with a sweet surprise of sweet kheer by our sweet friend S. Thanks! The kheer was yummy (I ofcoz took a second helping).
Here's wishing a very Happy Valentine's day to all my new friends (you know who you are). Just when I had thought that I won't be making many new friends after college and office life was over, God gifted me a whole bunch of friends:-))Thanks for your friendship!
February 5, 2007
My cousin M had told this friend a very funny story starring two characters – me and the crow. It goes like this. I was en route to my college with my friend L. I had tied my hair in a different style that day, and put some pins to hold back strands. I and my friend were chatting non-stop – oblivious to our surroundings. In the midst of our walk, I stared up, only to notice a crow (I think it was a baby crow) aiming straight for my head. Now, let me tell you that I am completely, shamelessly, terrified of crows. Long back, a crow had banged his beak on my head suspecting me as a threat to his nest. I will never forget how much painful the experience was. From then on, the sight and sound of crows terrified me. It doesn’t help that the fish sellers choose the exact time to sell their wares when I step out of the house. It is so irritating to see hundreds of crows flying in all directions and flocking the fish basket on top of the seller’s head. I don’t have much option but to dodge crows, change lanes, and be as far away as possible.
Anyways, back to the story. I saw the crow approaching me and before he could bang my head, I ducked. This seemed to be a grave error in my calculation. For, I did nothing but confuse the crow. Its claws got stuck in my head. Because of the complex hairdo, he was not able to untangle himself from my hair. He wildly started flapping his wings. As for me, I shut my eyes and started screaming at the top of my lungs. This confused the crow even further and he joined me in screaming. Meanwhile, my friend tried to wave her hands in an attempt to shoo away the crow. She threw down my bag on the road. She couldn’t help laughing. I mean the whole scene was so hilarious. Imagine, a girl with a crow on top of her head! Some people from nearby shops came out to see the commotion. Luckily, after five minutes of screaming, flapping, shooing, and waving the crow finally untangled his claws and set off. I was relieved and thanked my friend.
I have my doubts on crows having eyes. They really seem to have no sense of direction. I think the only cure for my paranoid behavior would be to carry an umbrella all around the year.
January 23, 2007
Today, I went to a lunch potluck – the second one I attended with the mahila mandal out here. I recently joined this group of terrific homemakers, and I am sure I will have loads of fun with them in the future too.
My first potluck with the group was on last Tuesday. It was a lunch potluck to celebrate Makar Sankranti. I was supposed to make starters and I opted to make pakoras. Wanting to try my hand at something new, I made Moong pakoras in addition to potato pakoras. I won’t write much about this potluck here, except that all the food was lovely, and we had a great time chatting and exchanging recipes.
Today’s potluck was arranged on the occasion of Vasant Panchami. We were supposed to dress in yellow and cook something that looked yellow. Vasant Panchami is celebrated to welcome spring. Goddess Saraswati - the goddess of knowledge is worshipped on this day. We should also worship our books. My friend informed me that children are not supposed to study on this day. Can they have a better excuse?:-) We made a small pooja of Saraswati. Yellow and white are favorite colors of Saraswati, hence the importance of wearing yellow and cooking a yellow colored dish.
When my friend told me about this potluck, I decided to cook fried idli. Later on, I was thinking that I could also have made potato poha or pithala. Anyways, my mom always used to make these idlis (which are almost like dhoklas), that I used to love and I wanted to make those. This is a minor variation from the normal idlis and taste divine. Here’s the recipe:
Fried Masala Idlis
For the batter:
2 cups rice
1 cup udad daal
1 cup besan
½ cup curd (yoghurt)
For the masala:
Paste of 4-5 green chillies (You can add more as per your choice.)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon red chilli powder (You can add more as per your choice.)
Pinch of soda
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- Soak 2 cups of rice and 1 cup of udad daal in water for 4-5 hours.
- Churn the above ingredients in the mixture, without draining the water.
- Add 1 cup besan and half cup curd to the above batter. Ferment this for 10 hours.
- Add all the ingredients listed under “For the masala” in the above batter. Mix well.
- Pour this mixture in the greased plates of the idli stand.
- Steam cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove the idlis from the stand and let them cool for some time. Cut the idlis into two pieces (you can leave them whole, if you want).
- Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin and mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
- Shallow fry the idli pieces on both sides.
- Enjoy the fried masala idlis.
Everyone liked these idlis. We had a grand feast with dishes including khichdi, tamarind rice, boondi raita, laddu, and pakoras. We enjoyed playing dumb charades after this feast. Overall, a super potluck with loads of food and fun.
January 20, 2007
Well, our plans did change. So, I guess it will be a whole 6 more months before I will be visiting India. I was looking forward to so many things after reaching home. I had promised my friends that I would be attending their weddings. And yes, I had taken a promise from my husband of buying me a lot of new dresses to add to my excessive wardrobe. We have missed most of the important festivals in this first year after marriage. We had promised our parents that we will celebrate all festivals in 2007. We will be missing those too.
It’s funny to think what all you can miss when you are in a foreign land. I miss my home, the lanes near my home, the trees in my backyard, the shops I used to visit, the restaurants, theatres, and so much more. I miss the scent, smell, and crowd of Mumbai. I miss traveling in the over packed buses and trains. I loved buying earrings in the trains. I miss fighting over the meter with a rickshaw walla. I miss the weather and the heat. And I miss haggling over the vegetable prices with the sellers. How can I forget the Mumbai food – the pavbhaji, chat, and vada-pav? Being a total junkie, I miss all the food stalls that I used to frequent. I remember Juhu beach, Shivaji Park, and all the Mumbai malls.
Anyways, I have decided not to miss anything too much. If I think too much, then I will be sad all the time. My best wishes will always be with my friends on their wedding day. My parents know that they are always in my thoughts though I am physically far away. Sometimes, I wish that there would be a remote that could take you to any place of your choice at the click of a button. Till then, memories would have to suffice.
January 15, 2007
How many times have you looked forward to Makar Sankranti so that you get to eat lot of laadoos? I and my brother awaited 14th Jan every year, and celebrated the festival without knowing its religious significance. I helped my mom prepare the laadoos, gobbled up as many as I can, and then distributed these amongst neighbors. Sometimes, we used to be invited for haldi kumkums, which meant more laadoos for me.
My aunt stays in Surat, and her family celebrate this festival my flying kites. Three years back, I had been to Surat in December. Every evening, the sky used to be filled with kites of all colors, shapes, and sizes. I had a nice time learning to fly a kite, and most of the times I used to get a cut with the “manja”. There used to be undecided competition between all the kites and often you could hear a shout of “Kaipoche”.
So, as far as I was concerned, Makar Sankranti meant eating laadoos and flying kites.
Well, I am a married woman now. It is high time I get to know the significance of all the festivals. I wanted to find more information on Makar Sankranti, so I googled and was amazed to read so much about the festival. Here are excerpts from some of my findings:
- Sankranti means “transition”. It signifies the transition of Sun from one zodiac to another. There are 12 transitions in a year considering that there are 12 zodiacs. But, two of these transitions are important. One is the “Mesh (Aries)” transition and the other is the “Makar (Capricorn)” transition.
- Makar Sankranti is the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to the Capricorn zodiac during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana). After this day, winter starts reducing and days become longer in the northern hemisphere.
- The Sun signifies light, power, and sparkle. So it is important to worship the Sun on this day and pray for knowledge and wisdom.
- While most of the festivals are celebrated depending on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. The English calendar date of Sankranti is always the same - Jan 14th.
- Bhishma Pitamah from Mahabharata waited for this day to leave his mortal coil and reach immortality.
- Lord Sun visits his son Shani on Makar Sankranti. Although the two of them don’t get along well, Lord Sun visits his son for a month every year. This day symbolizes the love of father and son.
- It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terrorism of the Asuras by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat. So this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.
People from all religions celebrate Makar Sankranti in their own unique way. Most of the people worship the Sun by chanting the Gayatri mantra.
- Maharashtrians: Celebrate this festival by worshipping the Sun and distributing sweet laadoos called til-gul. These laadoos are made from sesame seeds and jaggery. They are distributed among relatives and neighbors in the hope of a new year filled with love and affection.Newly married females celebrate this festival by inviting married females for Haldi – Kumkum. The newly married female is gifted a black saree by her in-laws, and she is decorated with all kinds of jewelry made from halwa. Small gifts are distributed to all the married females who attend the haldi-kumkum.Similarly, babies are also decorated with jewelry and dressed in black. There is a separate function for toddlers called the “Bornahan”, where other kids are invited. You mix up a good quantity of bor (fruit), halwa, chocolates, or anything else you feel like. This mixture is then poured on the toddler’s head and the other kids are supposed to collect whatever they can.
- Gujrathis: They look up to the Sun and worship him. They fly kites before and on this day. Kites are available at all prices, starting from Re. 1. The International Kite Festival is held in Ahmedabad every year on the 14th of Jan. Hundreds of people from the world participate in kite flying competitions, and thousands of tourists flock Ahmedabad every year.
- Tamilians: Celebrate the festival by the name of Pongal. Rice and pulses cooked in ghee and milk are offered to the family diety, after worshipping the Sun.
- Punjabis: Celebrate the Sankrant eve by the name of Lohari. Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted.
Celebration this year
I was pondering over how to celebrate Sankranti in the US, when it struck me that I could at least make laadoos. I asked a friend to get sesame seeds and found a good recipe on the Internet. I set out to make laadoos on my own for the very first time. Just when the process was about to hit disaster, I called my husband for help. We found a solution and made a decent amount of laadoos. We offered these to the God and tasted them. They had really turned out well. We were the proud makers and took lots of snaps from all possible angles of our laadoos. We set out to distribute these among our friends. All our friends liked the laadoos and complimented us. I think I will make laadoos every year now.
January 12, 2007
What is my blog about? : My blog is all about me – my life, friends, dreams, family, thoughts, actions, emotions, and everything that comes to my mind. I will write down anything that I feel worthwhile. Some of my ideas and articles might be funny, while others might be serious and urge you into deep thinking. I will write about book reviews and movie reviews. I will write about my travel stories. I will write about places I have visited in the past. My blog will also offer an insight about my profession – Technical Writing.
Why is my blog named so?: I couldn’t think of a better name, and what can be better than something related to my name. If you can think of a better name, then keep it to yourself:-)
Will I write frequently?: Well, I really can’t provide a definite answer to that question. I will write, whenever I feel like writing. Sometimes, I am in the middle of some chore, when an idea strikes me. So, I open my laptop and start scribbling away. Thoughts materialize into words, words into sentences, and sentences turn into meaningful articles. Sometimes, I start writing an article and leave it in the middle to write another one. Then the first article is never completed. I am hoping to continue with the same fervor with which I have started writing on my blog.
What is the purpose of my blog?: The purpose of this blog is to improve my writing skills. I am a writer by profession, and good writing skills are a must in my profession. As much as I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts with everyone, I am also hoping to improve as a writer. So, if you find any kind of mistake on my blog – be it grammatical, a spelling mistake, repetitiveness, please share it with me. Well, don’t point out the mistakes in a public comment:-). Please drop me a mail regarding it.
Writing more is also one of my New Year resolutions – and I am hoping not to break at least this one resolution.
So, wish me luck in my writing endeavor!
January 9, 2007
Since the time I was in college, my Mom was after my life to teach me cooking. And I was always finding an excuse to procrastinate it. Well, I always used to think that it isn’t such a big deal to cook something. Plus, I had this snobbish attitude that I would be so well off in my career that I would always afford a cook. You just have to cut some vegetables, fry some onions in oil, throw in a variety of masalas, some salt to taste and voila – the vegetable is readyJ. Making rice was even simpler – just wash the rice, add water, keep it in the cooker, and do not forget the whistle. In about fifteen minutes, the rice is ready. Making chapattis is a bit more difficult – but manageable. You take some flour, mix some water in it, and make the dough till it is not too sticky. If it does become quite sticky, then you add more flour, and then if there’s too much of flour you add more water, more flour, more water, repeat the process till the dough is perfect. Caution: Make sure you have enough flour left for the next day.
Well, all my theories about cooking came crashing down when I tried my hand at it. I sometimes blame my sharp memory, for it remembers all my cooking misfortunes. When I made chapattis, my brother studied Geography. He used to identify the country from the chapatti map. Or the chapatti used to turn out similar to a papad and used to make a horrible cracking sound. Once, my Mom had asked me to keep the rice in the pressure cooker. I blindly kept the rice inside without checking if there was water in the utensil. We had to settle for brown rice. My Dad always supported me by eating whatever I cooked. But even he had his limits. Mom had enough with me. She had almost given up. She used to fret a lot about my future after I got married.
Luckily, I met my Mr. Right who was very caring and understanding. Immediately after marriage, I convinced my husband that it will be difficult for me to get up early in the morning and cook. And so, we hired a cook. When the cook took a leave, we settled for Maggi noodles. And yes, we even took a life-time membership of a nearby restaurant. Well, I am not totally hopeless. I did cook some nice dishes for my husband. But still, cooking never was my passion. I had never imagined that I would ever cook on a regular basis. But, fate had something else in store for me. My husband had to come to the US, and I was supposed to join him after a month. We had decided to share an apartment with another couple.
I arrived in US with a dread in my heart about my cooking skills. Unfortunately, there’s no concept of a cook, and everyone has to take turns to cook. I don’t exactly remember the first dish that I cooked here, but I do remember that nobody liked it. Everyday, I tried in vain to do something right. But, I was good at nothing. For starters, I was not comfortable cutting vegetables with a knife and used to spend hours cutting it. The vegetables I made either contained too much spice and salt, or were very bland. Once, I spent close to two hours cooking the pulav only to find out that the rice was under cooked. Even the tea I made was never right. My husband always used to praise whatever I cooked, but that was only because of his love for me. I was filled with shame and anger at myself for having wasted all the years when I could have learnt cooking. I resolved that I would take an interest and improve my cooking.
It was not that I did anything differently, but since the day my heart decided to have a passion for cooking, things happened differently. I improved my cutting speed and became careful while using spices. I tried vegetables with paneer, mushroom, sprouts, and some simple vegetable recipes. The daal I made started to taste decent, if not delicious. I ensured that whatever I cooked pleased me before serving it to others. After I started cooking good vegetables, I turned my attention to making chapattis. I observed my male friend everyday, making perfect-round chapattis in no time. I saw to it that I mixed the flour perfectly. I practiced making round chapattis. My friends started liking what I cooked and this gave me immense encouragement. I started reading cooking blogs and books. I studied tips and tricks to cook faster.
It is not true that I became an expert cook overnight. It’s just that I am improving day-by-day. I still fail at some of the things I make. But, there is a definite improvement. For someone like me who hardly used to enter the kitchen, I look forward to spend more time, experimenting with new stuff. I love it when my kitchen is filled with different aromas. My message to people like me would be – it doesn’t hurt to take an interest in cooking. You can manage a career and be a great cook too. For those who have not yet learnt cooking, it is never too late to start. Believe me, you will feel like a magician when a simple, innocent-looking vegetable turns out to be a delicious meal.
It is true that the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Since the day I started cooking delicious food, my husband loves me double!
January 5, 2007
Well, why should this year be any different? So, here I am making a list of all the resolutions that I am planning to break in 2007:
1. Make a proper schedule:- Since the time I have landed in the US, my whole schedule has been disrupted. I get up at 11 o’clock, spend the next two hours chatting with friends, and have lunch at any time after that. Once lunch is over, I either switch on the TV or read a book. I have a bath at any time between 3 to 4 o’clock. At times, I have a bath just before my husband reaches home. Frankly, after following this schedule for 3 months, I am utterly bored with it. I want to get up at a decent hour and utilize my time more effectively.
2. Exercise regularly:- Some background about my eating habits would be necessary before writing down this resolution. This is mostly two important resolutions combined into one. I hereby present two facts – I am thin and I am a total junkie. I do not think twice before devouring anything. I am absolutely crazy about fried stuff, especially chips. I can easily finish a bagful of chips all by myself. I love chocolates, ice-creams, cakes. I do not give a damn about how many calories I consume in a day, hour, or minute. I have realized that if I have any chance of staying beyond 60 years is if I get a grip on my eating habits and exercise regularly. I must have visited the gymnasium around 10 times in the past 3 months. It’s not that I don’t like going to the gym, it is pure laziness. So, I am planning to spend at least half an hour in the gym on a daily basis. I am determined to do Yoga every morning and visit the gym every evening.
3. Learn Spanish:- I always been interested in learning new languages. I currently know only three languages, and now that I have the time, I would like to learn a new one. I have always been intrigued by the Spanish language and am planning to learn it. A couple of books and some online oral tutorials should help me learn the basics of the language.
4. Regularly keep in touch with friends and family:- I have a huge and diverse group of friends, and a huge family. At times, I know what is happening in their lives; at others I don’t know anything. I always wonder whether it is difficult to keep in touch with friends – what with the e-mail, chat, phone options available. How much time does it take to drop in a little hello? Or is it necessary to reach out to friends only when we are feeling lonely and need their company?
5. Write more:- I am a Technical Writer by profession and have written so much technical stuff up till now. But now, I want to write more about everything I see and experience. There is so much to write. I want to write about places I visit, books I read, feelings, emotions, movies, and about life.
6. Be more creative and organized:- I am planning to learn lots of crafts, knitting, sewing in this year. These are things that I have always wanted to do, but never got the time to learn. I have done some painting and embroidery in the past, but I want to take this one step further and learn more. I also want to be more organized and always keep my home neat and tidy.
7. Reduce my temper:- My parents, my husband, and myself are very scared of my temper. At times, I don’t understand what tips me off. But I get very, very angry. I want to use meditation and yoga to reduce my temper.
8. Improve cooking:- Well, I am a terrible cook. I try very hard, but whatever I make turns out to be a disaster. My cooking has considerably improved since I have come to the US. I have taken a guanine interest in cooking and am trying out new things by visiting blogs. So, the New Year resolution is to be a really good cook.
Well, that’s all for it now. I hope I am able to meet at least some of my resolutions if not all. At the end of the year I will write another article – “Broken Resolutions in 2007”.