Friday, November 30, 2007

Kannada Word of the Day: Gooli

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


That's what "gooli" means. I learned the word because we were heading down the dirt-road, which is a shortcut to the Embassy Golf Links office park, and we passed a tiny shrine, in front of which was a little painted, plaster/wood/metal bull.

"Channa, I don't want to forget to ask you for a word today. How do you say, 'Bull' in Kannada?"

"Gooli, Ma'am."

Pimped Ride

We shouted this exchange with each other because Hertz "pimped Channa's ride;" this morning, he arrived with a huge sound system all over the inside of it.

"I locked all the doors one by one today," he said.

Whenever I drive in a city myself, I always keep my doors locked, but he hadn't done it in Bangalore, so I hadn't either...till today. I guess the sound system might be too tempting to resist.

You can hear us coming now and the floor tickles the soles of my shoes, since the bass is reverberating through it.

On the way, we listened to Hindi hits and smiled nearly the whole time. I couldn't wait to go home.

"Channa, this is very bindaas of you," I said.

He smiled proudly.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oh, Kannada

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Today, More Than Just A Word A Day

When Channa and I were commuting this morning, I told him that I felt bad that I had forgotten to ask for my word or phrase of the day yesterday, so we made up for it:

  • Oota aita?/Did you eat?
  • Tindi aita?/Did you eat breakfast?
  • Shoobowdaya/Good morning.
  • Shoobadeena/Have a good day.
  • Shoobaratri/Good night.
  • Danyawada/Thank you.
  • Dayawitu/Please
  • Walaya chalaka/You are a great driver.
  • Navaratriya shoobashayagalu/Happy Navarati.
  • Madeema/used when referring either to radio or TV
  • Mara/Tree.

It was fun and humbling to be back to such basics in language. It's like being a baby again...only with many more responsibilities!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chanukah Is Around the Corner

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

And I'm Still Watching Mosquitos Fly By

The eight-day holiday's really early this year, beginning on December 5th, and won't be on anyone's radar here. We've already been witnesses to the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, but still, I'll miss our own Chanukiah in the window nightly.

I hear that it's cold where we'd be typically at this time of year, but instead, I'm whizzing past palm trees and the occasional mosquito whizzes past me.

Home is Relative

Tonight, my best friend here said that she wanted to come to our home before we leave, so that she has some sense of us in India beyond just at work, shopping or in her home.

I was surprised, and told her so, because she knows we don't even cook here -- don't have anything beyond a microwave -- and that the art on the walls and the furniture is the landlord's, and yet she says it would make her feel good to be able to think of us in our Indian home.

"I remember so well, staying with you in your home when I came to the States, the blueberry pancakes that Pat made me -- I don't have your memory for every single thing that ever happens to me, but I do remember..." and she listed lots more memories of the house and our time there, which made me miss our U.S. home.

Today, a colleague, who's been on a number of assignments told me to be ready for reverse-culture shock when I return to the United States.

I suppose I'll be talking like this a lot from now on because our departure is so relatively soon, toward the end of next month.

Leona Lewis, the Queen, The Indian Clerk and Me

Liz and I IM'ed today and she wrote that weirdly, she was thinking of me yesterday, too, as Kate and she were watching a documentary and the interviewee reminded her of me; it was on the Queen of England...and no, I didn't remind her of the Queen. She knew that I was referring to Leona Lewis as the singer whose hit reminded me of Texas tunes; Lewis is British.

Speaking of England, I woke up at 3:30 this morning and read for 90 minutes prior to falling back to sleep -- I don't remember ever doing that before; the book's good: *The Indian Clerk* by David Leavitt, one of my favorite authors.

Oh, today's Kannadian phrase was, "Have you eaten?" but I've forgotten how to say it(!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Boxing Up My Books

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Complacency vs. Raw Alertness

Sitting on the desk here are the two gift-bags from the Muslim-Indian wedding at the Windsor that we were invited to crash in July. Getting ready to blog tonight, I was recalling how blogging was a major form of self-entertainment in those first five weeks at the Windsor Bengaluru.

Now, living in Palm Meadows in Whitefield, in a real house, with many rooms, rather than just one, I've become too business-as-usual. It's easy to eat dinner and then just go up to bed afterwards and read, rather than stay down here and blog.

Tonight, I got home earlier than usual, by 6 pm, and so we're back from dinner by 8:30, rather than by 9:30 or 10 pm.

Other than my final paper for school, the other thing in the way of blogging is the frequency with which I'm calling my family. For the first couple of months, I had no real cell service -- I think I recounted the tiresome story here prior -- and so it wasn't easy to pick up the phone and pay 4.7 rupees a minute (about 12 cents/min.) to call anywhere in the United States.

Now, it is. By the way, when I called my mother after blogging last night (India time), she was already out for the day, so we talked this evening. My mom asked:

"What's new?"

"I finished a draft of my final paper. And Channa's teaching me a new word or phrase in Kannada each day from now on."

"You should have asked him sooner."

"Chana girera?"


"Are you fine? Can you say that? Chana girera?"

"Chana girera?"


The Relevance of This Entry's Main Heading

Today, at work, I collected a box to send my books -- the ones I brought with me and the new ones I acquired for work -- back to my U.S. office. The box had a Thailand return address on it and had held a computer prior to being given to me to re-use.

I felt such excitement at packing them and some wistfulness in parallel -- excited at the actual titles and the pleasure they've given me so far; excited to be doing something official in service to going back to my home-country; and wistful because there's a lot to like here, particularly the people I work with, the work I do, the cuisine, the fashions, the flowers, trees and gorgeous weather, and the relatively lower cost of living.

My mother's counting down the days till my return and I'm so flattered. Why would I be flattered that my own mother misses me so much, but I am somehow. It's so good to have someone in addition to Pat, who is such an ultimate fan of me.

I'm their fan, too, of course.

This morning, during my commute, I heard that great song, "Bleeding Love," or whatever it was called and I realized what else I loved about it. It reminded me of the group, Texas, which my New Zealander friend, Liz, introduced me to when I visited her partner Kate and her in London while there on business more than five years ago.

Getting on the elevator at work today, I had such an urge to look for Liz on our internal instant message system, but I realized it was too early...and then I forgot completely in the crush of the day.

The moment of recalling Texas and Liz, though, was such foreshadowing of the ways I'm going to feel when I return to the States and a song reminds me of an Indian memory. It's too soon, but already, I'm becoming nostalgic.

Here are some of the songs that have been my Indian soundtrack; I can't guarantee that the titles or spellings are accurate:

  • Candyman by Christina Aguillera
  • Summer Love by Justin Timberlake
  • Rehab by Amy Winehouse
  • Hey There, Delilah by?
  • Big Girls Don't Cry by Fergie
  • I Got It From My Mama by a guy from Black-eyed Peas
  • Chak de India! by?
  • Hare Ram Hare Krishna by Bhool Bhulaiyaa
  • At least three by Mika, including, Big Girl, You Are Beautiful
  • Wakeup Call by Maroon Five
  • Jesus, Take the Wheel by I forget which country singer
  • Lots of others that I can't recall at 9:27 pm.

Probably, instead of Liz, I'll think of Channa because I heard most of them while we commuted together, and I'll think of my prior driver, John, too. And I'll miss them.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mom or Blog?

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Pre-bedtime Dilemma

Well, it's not a huge conflict. Both. I'll blog and then call my mom. Last week, my mother turned 82, thank God!

Molly, who ate with us on Thanksgiving, said, "What are you most looking forward to in going home?"

"Seeing my mother," I said right away. My Indian colleagues here never would have left an 82-year-old parent for six months. Never.

I just finished reading a bunch of cultural theory to include in my independent study paper and Hofstede, the originator of the most lasting of the ideas (and an IBM alumnus), says that we're not as alike around the world as most of us would wish.

The difference in family life between my Indian colleagues' and mine are the most striking of all of the cultural differences I've noticed while here. It's true, though, that I'm happier, hunting for common ground than I am, focusing on our differences.

Sometimes, I like having exchanges with people about what's different, but I don't feel great, thinking of all the differences continually, as somehow, it adds distance between my colleagues and me.

At lunch, I was telling Pat that my sister Kathy, having gone to Helsinki for a year on AFS when I was 11 probably made me a lot more open to intercultural learning than I would have otherwise been.

And every December, local AFS volunteers in my hometown, Stamford, Connecticut, would host a potluck dinner. Everyone had to bring a dish from his or her native land. I loved that event.

The Benefits section of the AFS web site has a great slogan: "We relate to each other because we are similar. We learn from each other because we are different."

The other thing I can't wait to get back to is half-sour pickles. Chollo! Time to call my mom.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Discomfort Zone

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Lessons Learned

Comfort is not the best teacher, I've been reminded during this assignment. Discomfort is.

Months ago, I deleted the only blog entry I've ever deleted because I worried that it might alienate people here who read it. It talked of my discovery: that I'm especially open and hospitable to other cultures when I feel in the position of largess, that is, when I'm in my native country and people are visiting it from other countries. By comparison, I worried that I'm less open when I'm away from my immediate community and support infrastructure.

Today, I'm not worried about alienating any local readers because I have more perspective; I realize the reasonable truth in my discovery and also, that I'm still far more open and curious about cultures that are different than my own than many people I've met over my lifetime. Thank God. I'd have missed so much of life's most interesting lessons otherwise.

Time away from my homeland has affirmed that I don't need to relate to cultural differences to appreciate them at best and at worst, simply to observe and acknowledge them. I've reached a maturity-level, where I'm paradoxically grateful for the short-term discomfort I feel when I cannot directly relate, since it yields life-long learning and phenomenally richer self-awareness...I'm not yet so mature that I necessarily have the appreciation while I'm uncomfortable....

I need to qualify all of this with an obvious example: I don't need to relate directly to being Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Muslim or Catholic to appreciate the devotion that many of my colleagues feel for these religions, and to recognize that what they have in common with my passion for Judaism is the need for faith in something(s) much bigger than myself alone.

Language Lubrication

Recently, I made another discovery that I haven't yet posted about. Living in Israel for 12 months 20 years ago -- pre-cell phones, e-mail and blogs -- still was easier than living in India for six months because when I lived in Israel, I was fluent in Hebrew, one of the native languages.

For months here, I thought that Jerusalem was easier than Bangalore because I was in college, rather than needing to perform at work, and maybe that was some of it, but I really do think that knowing a key language of the country where I'm living is fairly essential to thriving there. Now, I did speak Hebrew with a hopelessly American accent, but still, felt tremendous confidence in my ability to express myself in a way that people could listen to relatively comfortably.

There were also expressions I learned that don't really have any equivalent in English, like "Teetchadshi/Teetchadaysh," (the first version is the feminine and the second, masculine) which we'd say to people, who had bought something for pleasure's sake, like new shoes. Its root was simply the word, "chadash" or "new" and it was just an acknowledgment of the newness, and a good wish for them to celebrate the newest thing that had come into their lives.

Today, I still say, "Teetchadshi" to Pat -- who reads, but doesn't speak, Hebrew, and so I taught her the expression -- whenever she purchases something she's been wanting...and there's no equivalent expression in English.

What major insight does such an expression reveal about Israeli culture? I'm not sure, and it doesn't really matter; I just know that it's distinct from American culture in that way, i.e., Americans, and people from other cultures, certainly purchase things they desire, but where's the communal celebration in it?

"Shalom bayit" is another great expression. So much of Hebrew has religious roots, since Ancient Hebrew was the language of the Bible and then Modern Hebrew uses it as its base, and since mostly, Hebrew is spoken by Jews. "Shalom bayit" comes from our rabbinic literature, I think, and means "peace at home." Specifically, it refers to peace at home between a husband and wife, but of course, I've necessarily re-appropriated it to apply to my family-structure.

I use the expression, i.e., that I'm behaving in a certain way for the sake of shalom bayit." Here's an example:

Let's say that my partner Pat buys a "Deadwood" TV show T-shirt online and I can't necessarily relate to why she'd wish to own the item. Nonetheless, for the sake of shalom bayit, I'd respond simply and enthusiastically, "Teetchadshi!"

My Command of Hindi, or Not

Britain's 200 years of colonization of India was tragic...and my saving grace, since it left behind English as a common language here. I know I'd be even more successful if I knew at least conversational Hindi or Kannada (the language of the state in which we live). I remember thinking about that prior to coming, and simply abdicating, figuring that my adult brain is too adult at this point to absorb a new language -- at least, I've read that it becomes much harder to learn a new language the older we get....

After nearly five months in India, here is all of the Hindi vocabulary I've managed to pick up, and unfortunately, I've not yet learned one word of Kannada:

  • Hum hain (We are here for you -- learned during an IBM conference of managers)
  • Sapna (Dream, and used as a woman's name; an Indian MTV trailer of the popular movie, "Apna Sapna Money Money" is where I first heard it)
  • Shukriya (Thank you -- learned that prior to coming, and easy to remember, as it sounds like the Arabic way to say thank you, which is "Shukran..." the word for which I learned consciously prior to living in Israel)
  • Namaste (I bow to you -- also, learned before I left, and I contradict myself a bit when saying it, as I'll clasp my hands together, but will not bow, since Judaism forbids prostrating myself to anyone other than God)
  • Raja (King, and the name of my driver, Channa's, dog)
  • Bhagwan kenam pe le le (For God's sake, please give me)
  • Bhagwan kenam pe de de (For God's sake, please take from me; my first driver, John -- before he got a promotion to drive a larger car and a VIP -- taught them to me, as there was a chocolate bar commercial in Hindi on the radio constantly when I first got here, which was all about how the candy was the opposite of what you'd expect, i.e., the cream was on the outside or something; in any case, the commercial was trying to illustrate the concept by having a beggar say, "Bhagwan kenam pe de de," the opposite of his or her typical request, John explained.)
  • I don't recall how to say this in Hindi, but when I asked the way to say hello other than "Namaste," a colleague told me there's no such word per se; rather, whenever someone sees you, he or she asks, "Have you eaten yet?" I love that. It's meant to express hospitality, i.e., if the person hasn't, then I inferred that it suggests that the greeter is prepared to feed him or her...or perhaps, it's not literal, but the sentiment is terrific.
  • Jalti chollo ("Let's go already," is how I understand it, and it reminds me of "Nu kvar," which is Hebrew for what has always meant to me, "C'mon already. [Get to the point/what's taking so long?], which "Jalti chollo" isn't; rather, it might be used to remind people that the designated time is up.)
  • Tike ("OK," and it is the most often used expression I've heard, and reminds me of what I heard all the time when I was in China on business for three weeks a couple of years ago, "Chige" and "Nige;" I don't even recall what they mean -- perhaps "this" and "that," but Chinese people that I heard speaking Mandarin used them as bridges in conversation continually.)
  • Jayanthi (birthday, e.g., "Gandhi Jayanthi," the national holiday, celebrating Mahatma Gandhi's birth)
  • murgh shorba (chicken soup)
  • gobi (cauliflower)
  • Dal Makni (black-lentil-and-kidney-bean stew)
  • Dahi (yogurt).

In addition, I learned two more expressions that I like:

I didn't learn the way to say this in Hindi, but there's an expression about hypocrisy: "The elephant has two sets of teeth" [the ones it shows, i.e., the aesthetic tusks, and the ones it chews with.] The expression is used when someone is trying to appear a certain way, but the appearance is false.

Finally, from Sanskrit, "Nindak naede rakhiye" ("Keep your critics closest to you" [as you have the most to learn from them]. The context: A colleague was facilitating a a leadership development program for new managers, and she was illustrating the value of feedback.)

Spending the start of my Saturday, considering how language-knowledge enriches my understanding of cultures makes me wish I were more naturally gifted at picking up new languages. Now, though, I must return to working on my final paper for my independent study; tike, jalti chollo!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tandoori Turkey

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Sated by Surrogates While Hungering for Home

I'm happy that Molly's coming over to go have un-Thanksgiving dinner at the clubhouse in about 15 minutes. It's remarkable how people can serve as one another's family when necessary.

Earlier today, a colleague with whom I'm close here and I were talking by phone. She said, "Oh, I'm bragging too much. I shouldn't tell you all of this." She was happy with how a recent project had gone at work.

"Yes you should. Think of me as a hybrid of your friend and your family. I always want to hear whatever you want to brag about."

"What?" There was background noise and she didn't hear me. I felt self-conscious having to repeat it, as I had never before spoken to her this commitedly, even as we've confided in each other routinely, since meeting more than two years ago.

I repeated my offer and she said that she was moved and humbled.

And then I was even surer that I wanted to have her among my family.

Later in the day, she sent me e-mail:

Sarah, you are family- you listen to my foibles and you listen to me bragging- what more could I ask of you (a bit of turkey and pecan pie, but these broad hints don't seem to work, sigh!!!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Less Than an Hour Till Game-time

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Go, Pack, Go!

At 11:30 pm (India-time), Pat will call her Green-Bay-based brother Jim on Skype and they will provide color-commentary for the Packers game as Jim watches it on TV and Pat watches it on her laptop computer.

There were two conditions that needed to be met for Pat to be happy with me on this assignment: I needed to take Pat to the Taj Mahal (done!) and she needed to be able to download the Packers games from (ongoing). There's a deal, where NFL lets non-U.S.-based fans pay to download the games on their computers.

Wisconsinites Are Everywhere!

Last week, at IBM in the Embassy Golf Links site, I met a colleague, who grew up near Green Bay. She's on assignment here for a month, on her own. She'll come eat with us on Thanksgiving.

I know that Pat will be happy to have another person with whom she can "talk cheese." (Wisconsin is famous for its cheese, and Pat refers to the conversations she has with people from WI as "talkin' cheese.")

Looking Forward to More Relaxing Times

The assignment feels like it did during the month before I arrived, now that the final month is approaching, i.e., I feel like I'm working non-stop to get stuff done....I say that as a disclaimer for why I've been scarce lately with my blog.

The fun part is that I'm synthesizing the experience of this Indian assignment, plus a literature review, into a final paper for my Masters independent study and it's pretty substantial so far. Can I make it compelling throughout? Just the right length? Will it intrigue stakeholders? I'm praying so.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Enjoying the Gift of Being Present

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Guilt Safari

"The only thing I wish we had had time to do was go to a national park [to see wildlife]," Pat told me over the weekend.

I'm spending a fair amount of time, trying not to feel guilty lately. Colleagues are saying, "Hey, don't leave now. Everything's not yet complete. You can't leave in the middle." ...I'm not leaving for more than a month, but it has begun already...and it's flattering, yet unsettling.

And then Pat told me she had a regret over what we didn't get to do while in India.

Presence Presents

Channa's friend, Manjunata, gave me a ride to work today, since Channa was ill. As we drove across the flyover in Whitefield, I saw a glistening elephant, fresh from a river-bath, with its trunk raised like a natural trumpet; over its trunk, a single word: "Come."

The elephant was gracing a giant billboard, like the ones we see driving into Manhattan from my sister Deb's and her family in Queens. It was an ad for Cicada Resorts, "Wildlife, Club Class." If I can get my final paper written by December 13th, we can go during our last weekend in Bangalore. We'll see. I did send an inquiry to the resort and received an automated message that they'd contact us during office hours.

How calming it would be to see wildlife. During a relatively recent visit to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, I found myself soothed, simply looking at a herd of sheep and lambs running up and down a yard that was dedicated to them.

Tonight, during a conversation with one of my dear mentors, she said, "That billboard was a perfect example of making sure you don't miss what's going on in the present either by looking for too long in the rear-view mirror, or by looking too far ahead."

Hot Songs and a Cool Professor

This morning was full of gifts: On the radio, I heard two really great songs for the first time: Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" and "Androgyny." Lewis' voice was haunting-rich while "Androgyny" was fun in its invitation to play with our gender. Though it was first released in 2001, I never heard it on American radio, but maybe that's not so shocking....

Also, I heard a guy rapping so poetically that I was reminded of Professor Lauren Berlant, whose interview never was published by the magazine I wrote for during my first summer after college, "Inside Chicago." It stopped publishing altogether within a year of its launch.

Professor Berlant met me at McDonald's on Randolph Street in Chicago, rather than in her U. of C. office. It was the summer of '87 and she was passionate about researching rap at the time. If I remember correctly, she thought that the poetic value of some of it was huge.

I thought she was so cool and then they didn't publish the interview I wrote. I didn't save a copy. I'm glad and not surprised that she's doing well 20 years later.

Songs that Remind Me It's Nearly Thanksgiving

The ride was rounded out by two, super-cheerful tunes, which I can't get out of my head now, and for which I'm grateful: "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" and "I Got It from My Mama."

The "...Mama" song actually made me homesick for my mother, though I doubt that that was its intention.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lip-synching and Channeling Lou Rawls

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Loose Lips...

Over paneer tikka at Cafe Palmyra tonight, I must have been under the influence of mint-garlic, grilled-cheese kabobs. Lou Rawls' silk-sari voice wafted above us and I pointed at Pat romantically, mouthing along with the beloved singer (beloved by me particularly), "You'll never find another love like mine...."

"Sarah, we're in a *restaurant*," Pat whispered.

I smiled a who-cares smile, but then felt myself returning to my one-layer-apart-from-my-true-self, typical societal [im]posture here. And it felt bad.

At first, it felt fun for a moment to have been "naughty" and scolded, but ultimately, I felt stifled...not by Pat, but rather by our perceived state of how it is here still, and how we need to behave accordingly.

Could I have been any more self-evident? I showed up to dinner in an Indian cricket-cap, sweatshirt and track-pants -- which I know any athletic female could have done, but believe me, at 5'10" with no earrings tonight, I differentiated myself.

It was all about don't-ask-don't-tell, though, and always, so far, it has felt like that to me in India. Probably, if we were staying for longer than six months, I would hazard a further outness rhythm; of course, I'm out at work, since IBM has a global non-discrimination policy, but am non-verbal, if not invisible, about my sexual orientation when I'm off-site. Four and a half months into our sojourn, tonight was my first "slip."

Lou Rawls kept singing, in any case, which was joyful. If only Barry White hadn't sung, "My First, My Last, My Everything" three songs prior, probably none of this ever would have happened!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Humanity Parlor

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Because We're Worth It

With no available synagogue services to attend on Friday night, Pat and I watched a couple more "Mad Men" episodes, including one -- spoiler alert! -- where the female friend of the most gorgeous secretary in the office reveals that she's in love with the secretary.

Looking at her unrequitedly, yet lovingly, the secretary replies, "You've had a hard day. Let's go out and forget all about it." This was in 1960.

With respect to my own lesbian identity, at times, living in India has felt like living in the United States in 1960. I am open about my sexual orientation at work, since IBM has a legacy of inclusion and since we have a global non-discrimination policy, but outside its walls, Pat and I don't tell, no matter how self-evident we might be.

While getting my hair cut yesterday, though, I opened up.

The guy cutting my hair asked about Pat, "Where's your friend?"

"She's here, too."


"Pat's on the other side, getting her hair colored [blond]."

[Here, this was a calculated risk, since my gaydar told me he could be gay, but if my gaydar were wrong, or if he were not comfortable with his orientation, I would be in trouble, as I still had half a haircut to go(!):] "Pat and I are a couple and I was thinking about how typically, other than our brothers-in-law and some friends, Pat and I don't have men in our lives routinely...but in India, the people, who have helped me most in some essential ways are men; the chef, where we eat most often feeds me well; the man, who keeps me safe and on time -- my driver; and the man, who keeps me stylish! All of you are men. It's nice to be taken care of by men, too."

He smiled, and moments later said, "Yesterday, all of us went to our boss's house to set off fireworks [for Diwali], and then I went to a gay party with my friend."

"What's your friend's name?"

He told me.

"Was the party all men?"


"Do you have any female friends who like women?"

"In Sri Lanka, I had many, but not here yet...

Bollywood En Route to Montclair

Who do you like of our actors?"

"Kareena Kapoor is beautiful," I said.

"She is, but she's too girly. I like Bipasha. She's sexier."

"Which actors do you like?"

"Shahrukh," he sighed.

Pat read a biography on Shahrukh Khan, which referred to him as being more popular than Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt combined. I asked him, "Which are his very best films?"

After my haircut, which did turn out stylish, he wrote down the movie titles for me and we found two out of three of them at Planet M afterwards: "Devdas;" "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" -- couldn't find this one; and "Veer Zara."

The salesguy also persuaded me not to miss "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" and Pat found "ChakDe! India," which excited us because we didn't realize it was on DVD yet.

Pat and I opted not to go to the movies yesterday, but rather to buy a series of DVDs, so we could have our own Indian film fest upon our return to the States. In addition to the Shahrukh Khan films, we bought "Life in a Metro," for which I had seen a video trailer on Indian MTV this past summer, and "Corporate: Paisa Power Politics," which the salesguy handed me when I asked if he had any films that were more seriously dramatic. As a bonus, I saw that it featured Bipasha Basu.

Celebrating a Day of Leisure

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Easier Than I Feared

Could I let go, I wondered upon waking yesterday morning. Would I allow myself a solid, day-long break, whether or not there was "time" for it?


We showed Channa the address and he said, "It's the beauty parlor, ma'am?"

"Not that we need it," Pat offered.

He didn't get her joke. I did and laughed generously.

Here was the soundtrack of our ride, played by Radio Indigo, 91.9 FM from around 10-10:30 am:

While hearing R. Kelly, I looked up at a billboard of a woman in a sari, which read, "Buying a TV without Tata Sky is like celebrating Diwali without lights." In parallel, as we passed a gas station, Pat asked Channa if gas was sold in litres here, and then converted it and determined that gas costs around US$4/gallon here(!)

Next, we heard:

Music makes anything possible. I am so grateful for it. On the way home, we listened to two movie soundtracks we had bought from Planet M on MG Road: "Saawariya," which Pat had wanted to buy, and which was a bit too slow for my taste, and "Om Shanti Om," which hit the spot with its faster, more cheerful pace.

A U.S. friend wrote to me over the weekend and mentioned the two newest songs she has written, including, "An artist friend of my parents once said that all we really have of people in history is their art. It is art that tells us where we've been etc. One could argue that there is more than art. But she did make a good point--an awful lot of what survives humans--and is worth preserving--is their art."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Not in the Driver's Seat

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

I Haven't Driven in More than Four Months, but My Desires Have

They drive me to aim toward being:

  • A star in my work
  • Beloved by everyone I meet
  • Funny as a cultural bridge
  • Fully-conscious of the many gorgeous women I see
  • Attentive to Pat
  • Insulting of no one's values
  • Resilient when anyone unwittingly insults mine
  • Universally, recognizably stylish
  • Sated by, rather than a glutton with, the exquisite cuisine here.

Note: I do recognize that particularly the first, second and sixth items are not necessarily always possible.

I never want my desires to drive recklessly, but sometimes they want to. They want to stop using turn-signals; they want to beep the horn as an editorial comment more than to signal danger; they don't want to heed yellow traffic-lights.

Obeying the Signals

Living in another country these past four months, every moment is magnified, and moment by moment, my desires can lead me either to a delightful adventure or set off an episode of metaphoric road-rage in me or in the people I encounter...even if it's just the simmering variety.

I thought of all this because we're spending a day of leisure today, including getting haircuts and doing some clothes-shopping, and maybe even seeing a Hindi movie in an actual movie theater finally.

Today, my desires are at odds with themselves --in their own traffic-jam, or maybe having to repair a blown tire. I want to produce work that is brilliant (that's the star-wish part), particularly now that I'm in the stage of writing a final paper for my independent study. And I also want to be universally, recognizably stylish as well as attentive to Pat, perhaps unfortunately -- today -- in that order.

Getting Purposefully Lost

Every day, I want to be loving, mature, self-aware, discerning and appealing, and I struggle with being so 100% of the time. My mother promises that my intensity will mellow over time, but I do not really believe her. I think of it as earnestness, but my mom calls it what it is, which is intensity. "Sarah, why don't you let yourself live?" she asks me whenever I'm menaced by perfectionism or by any experience that would not torture a typical person.

Suddenly, I feel defensive and want to say that intensity is a two-sided coin -- there's the alienating side and the side that makes me so fully-present and enthusiastic most of the time.

If I can "let myself live" today, maybe I'll be driven in some new directions....

Thursday, November 8, 2007


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Boom, Boom, Boom...

...was part of a fun '80s pop-song chorus by Paul Lekakis. The booms popped all day in honor of Diwali, and they're still bursting.

I found them a bit scary while Pat was purely amused by the firecrackers and their accompanying detritus, which lay all over the streets of our neighborhood.

The simply beautiful candles on people's doorsteps appealed to me most.


The House of Reps went for it yesterday. When it includes transgender people, I'll celebrate.

Animals Are People, Too

A baby salamander found its way into our downstairs bathroom today. I don't think I ever mentioned that one of the telephone numbers we were given when we moved in was for the snake-catcher. So far, thank God, we haven't needed to dial him.

My friend Chitra and her family bought an Alsatian German Shepherd today. I haven't yet met Miranda, but Pat's looking forward to it. My local manager, our colleague from Gurgaon, Pat and I had dinner last night and I asked them if they loved animals. Pat said yes, and one of them replied, "The human kind."

"Are we animals, Pat?" I asked this afternoon.

"Yes because we're not vegetables or minerals."

For the first time here the other day, I saw road-kill. It was early in the morning, during my commute. I'd thought that animals were safe here, even as they've ambled into the roads routinely. Pat taught me that it's considered bad Karma for Hindus to kill an animal.

I've missed this forum all week; I was in solidly off-site meetings till Thursday. It's hard to return to the groove when I've been out of it for more than a few days, which is why, typically, I try not to go without posting for more than three days or so.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dance Fever at Le Meridien

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


My colleagues have hidden talents. The first day of our all-hands meeting ended with dinner and a DJ. I just love the Hari Krishna hip-hop song and a colleague got excited when the main song from the "Om Shanti Om" soundtrack played: "This was the movie I was telling you to go see this weekend."

I danced along with all of them. Never mind that I'm older than most of my local colleagues. They were generous and inclusive. And I did it in a salwar kameez and open-toed sandals with a bit of a heel. Definitely, I've been stretching beyond my typical fashion-zone, and it has been surprisingly fun.

Most inspirational of all, one of them was blind. The other guys were dancing with him, holding his hands and being spirited. He was among the best of the dancers. I was reminded of watching Jewish men dance together at Jewish weddings, only all of them were Indian guys in their twenties.

What fun!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sad Men

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Circa 1960

Pat's brother, Jim, first told us about "Mad Men" last week. And then Pat heard a positive review for it on NPR, which she has been downloading here as podcasts.

In 1960, Pat was 10 and I wasn't yet born. We watched three episodes this weekend and it reminded me of suits and ties and outfits my dad and mom wore during my earliest years; I was born in '65. And I could almost smell the lipsticks the women were wearing.

Also, I recognized the box of Carnation powdered milk and what appeared to be the Lanz nightgown on the daughter (my sisters and I wore them, too), and the girdles; I was endlessly fascinated with the snaps that hung down from them and would play with them when they came up from the laundry. By the end of the '60s, they stopped coming up from the laundry; women, including my mother, stopped wearing them.

My dad worked in the Toy industry as a toy and game designer, as I mentioned here previously, and it was as competitive as Advertising. He commuted to New York City daily from our suburban home in Stamford.

Channeling Childhood Challenges

Due to the competitive nature of the creative side of the toy business, my dad moved companies a lot, and it was less secure for us, growing up, than if he'd been in a less creative job, I think. As a child, I didn't think about supporting myself or a family when I grew up, but knew that no matter what, I didn't want to be as financially-rollercoasterish as we were during my childhood.

A month or so ago, I read a great interview in a local women's magazine about a young, Indian-American economist, who contributed to an important BRIC study recently; she spoke of being haunted by her dad's layoff from AT&T in the States during her teenage years and was happy to have more financial security in her adulthood.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember her name or the magazine's -- just that she went to Yale and recently moved to India. What I admired was how her unstable childhood inspired her to channel it for good in her career as an economist. She has been trying to help in a macro way, identifying hopeful trends, pointing to fewer people feeling what she felt in relation to money, or lack thereof.

Keeping Up Appearances

What was so poignant to me about the TV show so far, and my memories of that time, was the investment in appearances. My mom went to see Girardo to have her hair done every week, regardless of my parents' financial situation. Necessarily, my mother spent much more time with me during my childhood than my dad, and the show has been giving me a window into the pain he might have felt in the work-world of that time.

Spoiler alert: Don't continue reading if you don't want to know any of the episode plots. We saw episodes 5-7 and in one of them, one of the account execs. -- who's not even on the creative side of the agency -- gets a short story published by "The Atlantic Monthly." His colleagues are pathologically jealous. I think about how my dad must have felt whenever a colleague invented a new toy or game, rather than his having invented one. How painful that might have been!

Innovation: How Repeatable?

My dad's most popular invention was an alternate version of Yachtzee, Triple Yachtzee, which I never learned to play. In the Wikipedia article I linked to in the previous sentence, it was mentioned in the "Related Games" section toward the bottom of the article.

Would my dad have invented additional, popular games if he had lived beyond age 56? Or were most creative people lucky to have even one good invention? When he was dying of cancer, he was working on a hand-held, computerized version and my sister Kathy was helping him with the concept, which was ahead of its time.

I have a friend in IBM Research, whose invention has brought in nearly half a billion dollars of revenue to our company so far, and yet, I don't know the ratio of Researchers worldwide, who have that happen in their career even once, let alone more than once.

Innovation: A Gift However Often it Happens

Writing this entry, "Sad Men," I've become a sad woman. I don't like to be sad, as it saps my own creativity. And I need to have a creative day today: I'm working on my independent study paper toward my Masters in Organization & Leadership.

Instead of letting "Mad Men" make me a sad woman, I need to see it as a cautionary tale -- that a preoccupation with appearances and being self-destructively comparative and competitive is not a recipe for creativity.

Creativity, for me, comes from losing myself in the sheer fun of learning and thinking and writing. What a treat that I can spend the rest of the day, doing all of that by becoming focused on it.

Please, God, let today turn into a positively creative day for me in service to the paper I'm writing and its yielding useful findings.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

25 Years Ago Today

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Shiv'ah, Not Shiva

When I began creating this entry, it was less than hour ago, 25 years ago, that my father's coma ended, and he died, after six months of common bile-duct cancer.

Shiv'ah arrangements happened the following morning. I was 17 and in shock; not till nearly a day and a half later did I shed any tears.

I miss my father's humor, dignity, smile and imagination, and I try to honor his memory with how I lead my life. This morning, Pat told me about a new series on AMC, "Mad Men," and I wonder if it'll remind me of my dad from my very early childhood -- from the creative perspective, since he was a toy and game designer, if not an ad man, and because of how the men on the show are dressed. I'm looking forward to buying/renting the season DVD.

Meanwhile, today was an honorable day, I hope. I worked extra-hard on a presentation with several colleagues and had a lovely dinner with my local manager and one of my Delhi-based colleagues.

As we said goodbye, my colleague told me to recall my first week here, during the train-the-trainers session. "You were quiet and seemed to be looking around a lot."

I could hardly recognize the characterization, but then I remembered that I was trying not to feel culture shock, particularly when one of my colleagues took a cell-phone call in the middle of the presentation he himself was delivering.

And comparing then to today, "You fit in so beautifully now. I'm amazed, as this isn't an easy culture, even for *me* sometimes(!)"

I thanked her, and her consideration of the contrast made me feel so good. It's true that I hardly even notice cell-phone disruptions during meetings anymore -- cells don't have voicemail here, as it's considered impersonal...which it is....