Monday, December 31, 2007


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

Possibilities Are Endless

A developmentally-disabled guy is bagging our groceries at Shoprite earlier today.

He asks, "Did you get that hat in India?"

"Yes, I did. I lived there for six months and just got back. It's a cricket cap. Cricket is like baseball --"

"I know what cricket is. It's like baseball, but the bat is wide and you throw like this [he winds his arm up and throws an invisible ball overhand toward the floor]."

"That's right. I didn't know what cricket was, really, till I went to India."

Pat says to him, "You know more about it than most people [in this country]."

We thank him and wish him a happy new year. I walk away inspired.

Straightening up for the New Year's dinner we'll host for our friends David and Gerard, I see a postcard of a show for an artist with whom I was friendly when I lived in Chicago, Riva Lehrer. Much of Riva's art focuses on physical disability.

Riva's work and the conversation with the grocery bagger this afternoon remind me that all of us have gifts and ought to express them. Also, the qualities that society sometimes thinks ought to limit us differentiate us and can serve as our core motivation and means to connect with others.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Left Ear, Or How to Listen Fully

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

Earning a "C" on a Hearing Test

"Say the word, 'hotdog'."


"Say the word, 'cowboy'."


"Say the word, 'knees'."


"Say the word, 'bold'."


"Say the word, 'railroad'."


"Say the word, 'death.'"


"Say the word, 'sing'."


"Say the word, 'peer'."


"Say the word, 'halt.'."


"Say the word, 'lengthen'."


"Say the word, 'inkling'."


"Say the word, 'hostile'."


"Say the word, 'hopeful'."


"Say the word, 'juice'."

Jews? "Juice."

"Say the word, 'car'."


"Say the word, 'bashful'."


"Say the word, 'smarmy'."


"Say the word, 'showoff'."


"Say the word, 'woolen'."

"...? I don't know."

"Say the word, 'panic'."


"Say the word, 'tearful'."


"Say the word, 'deflate'."


"Say the word, 'winner'."


"Say the word, 'shelter'."


"Say the word, 'airplane'."


The audiologist to me: "Let's try it again at 10 decibels higher."

I look at her questioningly.

"When you get more than five wrong, we just raise the decibel level just a little bit."

Oy! I still can't hear everything. In my left ear, I hear just 76% of the words correctly the first time, and then only 84% when she raises the level.

This shocks me...frightens me...makes me feel like a failure. Since 10 days of steroids miraculously restored my excellent hearing after a sudden hearing loss three years ago -- where out of nowhere, I could hear only 60% in my left ear -- I've been breezing through these twice-yearly checkups. I had assumed that Thursday's would be no different.

Listening as Well as Hearing

The doctor tells his automated dictation software program: "Slight decline in threshhold and discrimination in the left ear."

"What does threshhold mean?" I interrupt his dictation.

"The level at which you first begin to hear two-syllable words." And "discrimination," I can figure out, means my ability to hear the words that are being said."

I *hate* that hearing test guy's voice. I never want to go into that booth again. I dislike the experience typically anyhow, but now it's a chamber of doom.

"You're doing fundamentally well," says the doctor, "All of the other tests were good, so come back in three months, rather than six, and let's do an additional hearing test then, beyond what you did today, where we'll put background noise in your left ear at the same time that you're hearing the words in that ear."

"Could this be from stress? I mean, the assignment in India was great, but it had stressful moments, too."

"No. We're finding that [otosclerosis] isn't stress-related, but typically is triggered by an inflamation -- inflammatory cytokines are the trigger, not the cause." My doctor and the web have already told me that no one yet knows the cause.

God's message to me: Do not take your hearing for granted. Enjoy it immensely while it lasts, which might be till you die, and which might be till you wake up tomorrow.

I don't hear the message till I'm writing right now. Instead, I hear, Poor you! You're following the doctor's regimen and you're still not stemming the disease. And then I have to remember what he told me when he put me on it:

"There's no cure and no established treatment for it, and other doctors will tell you I'm nuts, and you could try this and go deaf anyway, but if you don't try it, and you go deaf, you'll always wonder why you didn't try it."

It=Actonel twice a week, Caltrate every morning and Monocal nightly, plus only food that isn't pure sugar, and that doesn't as readily turn into sugar in my body, and so no sugar, honey, corn- or rice syrup, potatoes, flour (pasta/bread), rice, corn, many types of fruit, e.g., mango, melon of any kind, pineapple, only the equivalent of half a tomato at any meal....

If I remember correctly, he explained that blood-sugar is the engine that runs our ears and that foods that are high in sugar pull the blood-sugar away from our ears and focus it in our stomachs(?) or other parts of our bodies, rather than by our ears, where I need it, or something. In any case, I didn't really care about the full explanation and was willing to do whatever I needed to do to keep my hearing.

How babyish would I sound if I said that I felt like having an ice cream sundae right now?

If there's anything I could be addicted to -- other than self-reflection -- it would be sugar. Fortunately, I recognized it and stopped eating refined sugar, honey, barley-malt, corn- and rice-syrup nearly 18 years ago, and so when the doctor put me on this regimen more than three years ago, it was not impossible, just difficult. It's ironic because the very thing that jeopardizes my hearing health (let alone the rest of my health) is the thing I've always craved my whole life.

"Exodus" 24:7 -- Naaseh v'nishmah

The biblical Hebrew phrase, in English, stated, "We will do and we will listen."
This phrase embodied what I did with accepting the doctor's strict regimen -- Do first and listen for understanding later.

This statement was the people's response to Moses as he read them the sefer ha'brit (Book of the Covenant) at Mt. Sinai. The sentence with their response included the phrase, "Vayikra b'ozney ha'am," i.e., literally, "And he [Moses] read it in the ears of the people."

Directly after he read the sefer ha'brit in the "ears of the people," they responded, "All that God has spoken, we will do and we will listen."

Since first learning it as an elementary school student in a Modern Orthodox Jewish Day School, "Naaseh v'nishmah" captured my imagination. How committed would the people at Sinai have been to be able to make that pledge, I marvelled. Whether sacrilegious or not, often, when I committed to anything, growing up, I heard that phrase in my head and it spurred me on. The pledge of loyalty to God appealed to me, and then it served metaphorically as a pledge of loyalty to any secular enterprise that needed my dedication.

Also, the focus on deeds liberated me; it was a reminder not to over-analyze everything...which of course has been historically nearly impossible for me, but this was at least a vision or an aspirational statement for me to call up.

Peace Hunting in Shul

Last night, Pat and I met our friends Kathy and Julie for dinner and Shabbat services. During the past week, I had had the bad news about my ear and almost ceaseless chores to do -- came with the territory of being gone for six months, and yet I was resentful nonetheless -- and I felt at some remove from my reality, having been in a parallel, different one for the past half-year. As a result, I felt a bit reluctant to meet them, wishing instead for isolation from the over-stimulation of being home.

Dinner proved the longevity of our friendship, though, as I was comfortable around them like I was with my family. That was a huge relief.

After dinner, shul was the perfect dessert. Rabbi Cohen introduced us, "I'd like to welcome Pat and Sarah back from a long time in India, to light the Shabbat candles." I was shy, but then sang like I was young again, remembering how it felt when we learned to sing the blessing as girls. And then she asked us to join her and the cantors at the bimah, to sing "Shalom Aleichem."

Just sneaking peeks out at the congregation, full of gay, lesbian, bi and trans Jews and our friends and family, I stared mostly at my prayer book, like we were taught to do in elementary school -- no showing off that we could recite the prayers from memory. What a miracle to see so many from my community after having been a community of two Jewish lesbians (ourselves) for the past six months.

Welcoming the congregation into Shabbat, Rabbi Cohen made reference to how in dire need of peace the world was, referring Benazir Bhutto's assassination. How privileged I felt to have such a warm, concerned community to return to.

Say the word, "grateful." Say the word, "shalom." Say the word "Amen."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Purpose-filled Purpose

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

My Own in the World

What I need to write about feels much more personal than revealing that one of my family just had a brush with cancer (which I did in recent postings); it's about continually searching for my purpose in the world.

I'm still searching for my ideal role. I do feel closer and closer to it, and I do feel that IBM has enabled me tremendous freedom in charting my contribution to the company and its clients and colleagues, yet the problem with vacations is that they provide extra time for reflection.

I'm coming off of a peak experience in terms of the leadership development mission I just advanced while in India, and I hope it's understandable that inevitably, I'd be wondering, How can I top that? How can I be my most useful and also my most creative in my next mission, which hasn't yet been announced, and so I cannot write about it.

It's fun, but daunting, to daydream about my purpose. Last April, one of my mentors suggested that I write my vision -- all in the present tense in service to the power of suggestion, in cases where I haven't yet achieved the item -- and here are excerpts from it:

  • I am moved to laugh routinely and often, and to help others laugh
  • I am spiritually connected to people, including people who seem different from me initially
  • I transform these connections into art through writing that is appreciated worldwide, by thousands, or even millions
  • My writing helps others and me, particularly to feel less lonely in our experience
  • I have work that enables me to:

    • Meet interesting, kind people
    • Write reflectively
    • Lead
    • Be part of a profound mission
    • See the world
    • Give charity to causes I value
    • Afford more experiences and things that are high-quality, stylish and stimulating

  • Along with physical exertion and self-expression...I become refreshed/recharged by appreciating as well as producing:

    • Visual art
    • Music
    • Reading.

Earlier today, I read an article on Flannery O'Connor from a past issue of "The New York Times" that I had left on my night-table prior to our departure for India, and it reminded me of an author's advice in her careers for creative people book; she suggested, for inspiration, also thinking of "a creator" whose creativity I admire. I love Flannery O'Connor! How can her creativity inform my future creativity?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Unearthing the Gifts

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

Not the Spiritual Kind

This morning, we'll go to my mom's in Stamford and meet my sisters and their families for lunch and to give them the gifts we brought from India. That means that we need to unpack!

I'm doing this while Pat showers because I've an urge to blog and because it feels difficult to get started with unpacking.

The spiritual gift of today will be seeing them again for the first time in half a year, but I'm preoccupied with not forgetting the material items we bought for all of them.


Blogged; Pat and I went downtown to the car dealer; it didn't have the car I was looking for, though I sent my specs. to the dealer three weeks ago by e-mail to give it time to locate the one I wanted; I was frustrated and said so firmly, and they'll try to accommodate me by Wednesday, but I'll believe it when I see it....

I'm reminded that there were moments in India, where service people would promise to call us back and then not do so or make other false commitments and I'd find myself thinking viscerally, Why do they have to lie to me systematically?

And then yesterday, twice I was reminded that that's how service people can be, unfortunately, the world over, since the car dealer had written back to me, "I have the very car...." and then didn't, and because our phone provider had promised to restore our service by the 22nd and then when Pat called yesterday morning to say it still wasn't working, she got, "I apologize. It will be ready in an hour."

You can guess that when we came back hours later it still was not restored. This kvetching/complaining, in India, was called "cribbing" or "winge-ing."

We did, though, enjoy ourselves a bit, too, having lunch at Raymond's on Church Street, having a quick look at the Montclair Book Center and then spontaneously deciding to see a movie and picking "Atonement," since it was the movie that was playing next; we had wanted to see the one with Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, since they're among our favorite actors, but it wasn't for another hour. We loved it. Very good, memorable. Vanessa Redgrave was amazing.

In the evening, we fell asleep, watching TV, and then forced ourselves to stay up till 9:30 pm, though I had a dream while in the bathroom prior to getting into bed(!)

The Spiritual Kind

Today, I have an opportunity to enjoy more than just the material gift-giving. I get to see the people -- other than Pat -- who mean more to me than anyone, including the family member, who recently had the cancer removed and who was just given a clean bill of health.

Our nephews and niece will be taller and that will unnerve me, and I don't know how to predict anyone else's changes. I'm so grateful to have a family that's so excited to see us. It's really a big gift -- not to long for familial love, which I know some people do. How weird for familial love to be unrequited for some, but it is. Thank God, not in our case.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's New?

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

If I Didn't Come Home a Horse...

...then what was new? I think my eyes were new and my own sense of my outsider status was expanded, so that in addition to all of the other facets of my somewhat rare identity, now, I was a repatriate.

Prior to my time in India, my eyes were less alert to the ample opportunities for gluttony in Shoprite. In India, there were numerous times, where we couldn't find basic provisions in the market, e.g., reasonable fruit, or any yogurt, or skim-milk....

Passing the local grocery's bakery, I said to myself, "Don't forget the starving children in India;" when I was very young, in the late '60s, it was a common phrase of adults, who wanted us to finish the food on our plates.

And then I felt a layer of distance from everyone around me. Standing in the pre-Christmas, giant line to check out, I thought, (and I meant no disrespect or trivialization of the mission of many soldiers today) This must have been the experience of soldiers, who came home from more remote, less western locations: No one standing in the check-out line -- other than soldiers on leave -- felt as much like an apparition as I did, I was convinced.

It was tough to act natural. I had to tell the cashier how I had just returned from six months in India and how good it was to be able to shop for the variety of fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, she rose to my occasion and looked at me for a moment, smiling kindly, and then returned her focus to scanning and bagging the items.

Re-reading my comparison of myself to a soldier just now was embarrassing. Compared to a soldier, my work was not death-defying, nor my accommodations spartan. It was simply the closest analogy I could think of. Probably, it would have been much better to compare myself to a fellow expatriate. Michele was there for nine, not six, months, and so reading the latest of her posts on repatriation was helpful.

Also, I was so fortunate that Pat was retired and able to accompany me, so that I didn't have the experience Michele had, of getting re-acquainted with her spouse. Pat was a witness along with me. Part of us will always be extra-outsiders from now on, I think, as no one really can understand the experience without having it. The beautiful part is that it made us even closer as a couple and as best friends.

Was India a Dream?

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

A Full Chandra (Moon) Over My Right Shoulder

How would I know the word, "chandra," if it had been just a dream? And yet, even as spooked as I am by the fiber-optic, frighteningly-fast Internet access I have here from my home in Montclair, it feels almost like it never happened.

This morning, I woke up at 4:30 am, having fallen into bed at 9:30 pm without having remembered to eat dinner. In my home office, the calendar on the wall was the June page, so it must have happened that I was away for six months.

"The New York Times" slapped against the driveway just now, though it's still dark out. In Bangalore, it would be light by now and I'd just open the front-door on either side of which a carved, wooden elephant-head was mounted, to a short walkway lined with roses and hibiscus flowers; I'd hear the maids in the kitchen of the house across the street and I'd bend over to pick up our copy of "The Times of India," which was a racier version of "USA Today."

We could have subscribed to the "Deccan Herald," or "Economic Times," both more respectable publications, but the owner had subscribed to this paper, and besides, how else would we know all the Bollywood celebrity gossip?

This morning, I'll need to put on my down jacket and a hat and mittens to retrieve the paper from the dark, wet asphalt; there was snow on our lawn when we returned at 11:30 pm on Saturday night, but the non-stop rain of yesterday washed most of it away. I won't hear my neighbors when I walk outside because our houses are further apart and because it's too cold for the windows to be open.

I'll come back in the house and will try to remember to kiss the mezuzah. Our mezuzah and Vikram's (the owner's) elephant-heads -- they're fundamentally different from one another, yet both appear at the entrance to our homes. In our case, we also have a mezuzah on every doorway in our house, other than bathroom and closet doors.

"Domestic harmony and success" both are associated with Ganesh, according to the eBay page I found when I went hunting for "carved, wood elephant head," so I could learn Vikram's purpose at posting them.

The Ravi (Sun) Also Rises

The chandra's starting to dip below the trees and it's light out now.

Thinking of all the non-western moments I experienced over the past six months, I'm at a loss at how to integrate them gracefully into my current experience. I was about to write about my current experience as being like the experience I had prior to going to India -- waking up and getting the paper, going to the plentiful grocery store to buy whatever I wished, talking to U.S. neighbors and family freely without worrying about time-zone issues -- but I realize that those experiences are not the same now. I will never not know about India in parallel with how I live each day in the United States.

I was trying to figure out why I didn't yet (might never?) feel graceful and articulate about my India sojourn and I found some solace in these famous travel quotations. The one that struck me especially was, "If an ass goes traveling, he'll not come home a horse." -- Thomas Fuller.

Fundamentally, I'm still me, but with some new colleagues, friends, work accomplished, rituals witnessed, sights seen, bits of another language learned, pools swum in, clothes, books, jewelry, gifts and a rug (which was shipped, and which hasn't yet arrived).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nearly at Home, at Heathrow

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

Guiltily So

I'm struck by how at home I feel, just being somewhere western, even though it's not yet New Jersey. It's a guilty sort of feeling to be so relaxed in a way I haven't in six months. I don't want to be provincial, but it's refreshing not being the only one with an American accent, or not being the only one without an Indian accent.

And it's fun to hear an Israeli accent, too. I feel so, so much less self-conscious than I have this past half-year.

It's also a sweet feeling to be back in Heathrow, having succeeded at my assignment, rather than still being in Heathrow just prior to the start of it, being optimistic, but necessarily wondering how it would go. Now, I know how it went.

What I'm Looking Forward To in Chronological Order

  • Our house
  • Pat's and my bed
  • A long bath
  • Breakfast at our favorite diner with the Sunday "New York Times"
  • Mail review
  • Shoprite and Batampte half-sour pickles
  • Whole Foods and almond butter
  • Our furniture
  • Our neighbors
  • Our family and friends
  • Swimming at the YMHA
  • NYC
  • Synagogue
  • Getting my ears checked - routine checkup
  • A six-month teeth-cleaning at the dentist
  • TV, DVDs, movies
  • Car-shopping....

This posting is not as spiritual as I imagined it could be when I thought I'd spend time, blogging while waiting for our connection. Instead, I'm reduced to fantasizing about creature-comforts, and thinking of immediate ones, too, e.g., changing the head on my electric toothbrush, and running it under the tap to rinse it, for the first time in six months. I'm signing off to brush my teeth.

Friday, December 21, 2007

So Happy I'm Sad

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

From Mattafix to Michael Franks

At 3:30 pm, I left IBM at Subramanya Arcade, Building 1, singing to myself, "I don't know why I'm so happy and sad..." which is how I always remember Michael Franks' great song, though the lyrics are actually, " happy I'm sad...."

My happiness was more of a satisfaction at surviving and ultimately mostly thriving in India, and my sadness stemmed from saying so long to sweet colleagues and not knowing the future. I might never be back in India again, or I might. In 2005, I didn't know when I'd have occasion to return and look at me now.

Was there another IBM location in the world that sat by a mosque, and across from a Hindu temple and goatherd? One of the goats, I noticed yesterday, was dyed hot pink. I don't know why.

How far I was from the IBM site, where I worked in the early part of the decade, at Madison Ave. and 57th St. in NYC.

Now, returning, effectively, to what I know, I need to stay inspired. Fortunately, for what seemed like the third time this week, during my commute today, I heard the song that includes the powerful, hopeful lyrics, "You shall rise." I found it on YouTube.

The best part of the lyrics were, "...where others turn and sigh, you shall rise," and "...Sooner or later, we must try living." At lunch today, an Indian colleague asked that I mentor her. We agreed that both of us have a radical education philosophy, that is, that *the* purpose of education is to inspire social change.

I figured that she'd keep me from feeling too alone in my idealism and that our joint enthusiasm really might change some part of the world for the better. I said, "Yes."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Culture Trail Mix

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

Travelin' Thru

At 3 pm (Eastern Time), my relative will receive the pathology report, which will show the latest on my relative's cancer. I should be asleep by then, as it will be 1:30 am (India time).

I've the urge to treat myself to blogging as a distraction from the wondering.

This week, I have felt unusually aware of the culture I'm in and the one from which I hail. Dolly Parton's "Travelin' Thru" feels apt; all of us are on a journey and God made us for a reason, I agree.

Om Noel Om

Tonight, Pat and I were invited to a colleague's home for a farewell dinner; Pat didn't feel well and I went alone. The family are observant Hindus and yet they had a little Christmas tree, including cotton-snow.

"You're so flexible," I said and asked what inspired them to post it. My colleague pointed at her young child and said, "He likes the idea of getting gifts."

Even in a Hindu home, where I took off my shoes upon entering, Christmas was a guest-star.

I said, "You know, right after we got that e-mail message today, encouraging us to be inclusive and simply wish colleagues "Happy Holidays," rather than naming a specific one, I received Christmas wishes from a colleague in Singapore.

We laughed and then I said, "During Diwali, I didn't mind being wished a Happy Diwali at all, as I was certain that few people assumed me to be Hindu, whereas whenever someone wishes me, "Merry Christmas," I believe it's because they assume I'm among the majority of Americans and am Christian."

"I very much identify with what you're saying. It's a matter of identity," my colleague said. I felt better.

Nanu nininda agalootidene

(This is Kannada for, "I will miss you," according to my driver Channa.) I will not miss the cat outside our house that is crying through her heat, but I will miss the authenticity of daily life otherwise -- the constant motion, the continuous enterprise; yesterday, I saw a man pedaling a woman and a baby -- his family probably -- on a Hercules bicycle, not even a motorcycle, and earlier this week, I noticed that even the pickle shed near our home read, "Shashi Enterprises" over the tiny awning.

I will miss my colleagues and Channa, and Kavitha, our maid, but I won't miss feeling isolated from my Jewish and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

The first Friday we're home, we're meeting our dear colleague, friends and fellow congregants for dinner and then synagogue. I wonder if I'll be over-stimulated there the way I was here for so long by the sheer number of people, animals and vehicles in one form or another of action here.

Yesterday, two men traversed the traffic on a small scooter, the one in the back, holding onto two, tall sheets of plate-glass, and the day before that, two men on a motorcycle passed us, one holding a slim cardboard box that read, "Anglo-Indian Toilet Seat Cover."

This morning, I heard Sarah McClachlan's "I Will Remember You" and verged on feeling maudlin, but kept it at bay. At my colleague's house, she said goodbye, sending me off with two exquisite gifts -- a black and red wool shawl in a pattern I'm dubbing Indian tweed, and a pair of moonstone and peridot silver earrings from Rajasthan.

Putting on the earrings and wrapping the shawl in the way she recommended, I felt transformed from my western self in sweater and jeans into someone almost Indian. Almost....

Once home, I checked my e-mail accounts and found a new video from Princeton and IBM alumna Sandra Grace. It was refreshing in its ample lesbian imagery and felt so foreign compared to Pat's and my daily low-key existence here in Bangalore.

Sandra Grace's tragicomic "Do You Have a Lover?" tune (see her web site) was like food to someone starving for lesbian culture, including the tongue-in-cheek variety.

And now, it's about 60 minutes till the test results come back. I distracted myself with Rajasthani jewelry description and a replay of a bit of dinner dialogue, and ultimately with lesbian pop, and yet, the distraction is incomplete.


Maybe sleep will distract me further...but first, last night, I dreamt that Channa drove us out to the middle of a huge lake that had "Steel" in its name in Hindi or Kannada. The water was serenely calm and gorgeous, almost as though it were meant to be lapped up, and yet it was disconcerting that we could see only water in every direction. The car stayed aloft and I watched Channa swim back to it to put away a notebook in which he keeps my daily transportation bills.

I returned to the edge of the water to remove my shoes and socks, so that I could swim freely, but I never got back to the center -- just remained at the edge, continuously preparing to plunge in.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I've Been Quiet

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

...but My Mind Hasn't Been

Another of my family has come down with cancer -- not Pat or me. In deference to my family's privacy, I planned not to blog about it, but then I found a whole weekend went by and I felt unable to blog about anything else.

I tried to imagine blogging about silly topics, like seeing two mansions in Bangalore -- one that had, "Taxman's Haven" etched in a black marble block on its white marble fence, and another, "Abracadabra," which my friend Chitra told me the owners named "Abracadabra," since magically, they were able to finance it when they had thought that they wouldn't be able to.

And I considered commenting on the incongruity of riding down 100 Feet Road in the Indiranagar section of the city during a warm, sunny, Bangalore day earlier this week, listening to Dean Martin's "Let It Snow" on the radio.

Or that we bought a rug this weekend -- from Kashmir, in the Mughal style.

Or that we're nearly packed, or that based on my recommendation that the hair stylist do whatever he thought would be most chic, my hair is shorter than it has ever been...and I love it...and how Pat told me simply to respond, "What haircut?" if people at work seemed shocked by it.

Side-effects of Another's Illness

When I was just 17 and my dad had cancer, my immediate urge was to wish to have a baby. Now, at 42, when a family member has cancer, my immediate urge is to consider my own mortality and to thank God that I'm well currently, and at the same time paradoxically, to feel excluded that I'm not part of the Cancer sorority and fraternity. What a sick sort of envy!

Cancer is becoming business as usual. Pat said that it'll become like other, albeit tragic, illnesses that are managed via medicine, e.g., HIV. Cancer will never be casual in my mind, as it shook me so early on with my father's death from it.

Ideally, my family member ought to be fine, as it was caught at Stage I. Still, I feel very far away right now, and look forward to seeing my family relatively soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tiger- and Zebra-stripes in One Day

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

My Own and the Real Ones

Today, I wore a no-sleeved, dark-on-light-pink, silk, mock-turtleneck shirt that featured tiger-print, and since no-sleeved blouses are considered provocative on women in India, a long-sleeved shirt over it, left open. I amused myself, wearing tiger-stripes for our outing to Bannerghatta National Park, and Pat and our friend humored me.

We drove through a eucalyptus grove on the way. At the park, while Pat was some distance ahead, photographing one of the animals, our friend picked up a fallen leaf and told me to smell it. I was reminded immediately of my father's mother, my sabta (Hebrew for "grandmother"), and couldn't remember why.

In the car, Pat talked about how Halls used to sell eucalyptus cough-drops as candy, but when they were unpopular, they re-branded them as cough-drops. At that moment, it hit me that my sabta once must have eaten one and given me one, too, when I was very small.

At the gateway of another part of the park, our friend called us over and said, "This is what I remember most from prior visits here." It was a hinged sign that read in Kannada and English, "Open the door to see the most cruel being of the world."

As Pat opened it, she predicted that it would be what it was: a mirror.

The sign reminded me that I did manage to get Pat to see tigers while we were in India, just not at that resort that I wrote about some weeks ago. I was reminded, as I had asked the hotel keepers there, under special requests online, for feather pillows! It occurred to me later that even if the hotel had a vacancy, it wasn't interested, given where it was situated, in accommodating a guest's feather-pillow request.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Facebook's Allure

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

Facebook Is to Blogging What TV Is to Reading/Writing

How can I stay disciplined with my blogging when Facebook lures me away? Blogging used to be my guilty pleasure, but it has become my necessary outlet.

Facebook truly is, and will remain, a guilty pleasure -- the way that watching TV, rather than doing our homework was when our parents were out; we'd listen for their return, for the tires on our gravel-driveway, and then we'd race to our homework positions....Kids whose households have computers have it easier these days; they're already in their homework positions, sitting at their monitors, and so they just need to exit out of Facebook and toggle over to their homework.

Of course, they don't (and neither do I(!)) necessarily ride bikes as often as I did, though, having ready-made, if 2-D, escapes right in front of them/me.

Here, in all of its frivolousness, Facebook has felt like a pop-culture way to be not so far away from home; a way to procrastinate; and a way to learn things about colleagues and friends that I'd never have guessed, e.g., that one of our senior executives and I are "Soul Mates," according to the movie rating app.

And besides, how else can I keep up with my teenaged nephew and niece so pictorially?

Time for dinner, which Facebook can't provide...yet.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Music and the Moon x 2

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

Sangitha, Chandra and Shashi

These are recent vocabulary words for me; here, there are two words for moon, and they are common names for people, too. I know two Shashis, for example.

Tonight on the way home, we listened to sangitha (music) on Radio City, 91.1 FM, during a commercial on Radio Indigo and I heard a gorgeous singer, Adnan Swamy. His song included the words, "Tera bina," which Channa said meant, "Without you...."

His voice's romantic beauty moved me. I'm not sure I've found the right one, as my connectivity's poor tonight and I cannot hear much of it, but I've found a YouTube version. Watching what I could of the video, he reminds me of an Indian Barry White, i.e., I can't imagine him ever singing anything other than love songs filled with longing.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Road Trip

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

Through the "Time Tunnel"

Now we know: If we want to hear music mostly from Pat's college-days and my childhood, we need to listen to Radio Indigo's Time Tunnel program on Saturday mornings. During yesterday's ride to Mysore, we heard:

  • "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat & Tears as we pulled out of Palm Meadows; Pat spoke of seeing them, and Laura Nero, Friends of Distinction and others when they came to her campus
  • "Big Yellow Taxi" re-done by Amy Grant and both of us swore she sang, "...charged 25 lakhs [instead of bucks] just to see him...." We have been here for nearly six months.
  • Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Waters" as we sped down Outer Ring Road -- Pat recalled her landlady from the summer during college when she worked in Door County, Wisconsin, exclaiming, "That'll never be a hit."
  • "My Baby Takes the Morning Train" by Sheena Easton -- As Pat was singing along softly, I thought, How remote the lyrics are from our own experience...but then, not really; Pat's retired and typically does have dinner ready when I come home (when we're in the States, where our kitchen has an oven)...

"Have you ever asked yourself why cowboys ride horses and drive cattle, and not the other way around?" asks an older man with a sort of British accent -- Pat just peeked in and sang giddily: "Leavin' on a jet plane; don't know when I'll be back again." We started to do a little bit of packing, a sort of partial dress-rehearsal today and it's got both of us a bit wired, in a good way -- "That's right! And that's why the hottest energy drink between California and Dubai is called Power Horse and not Power Moo Cow!...Power Horse, the energy drink with the black stallion!"

This radio commercial has been the most persistent of all I've heard while in India and all these months later, I still don't grasp its logic, and still, have never seen a can or bottle of it in any store. After the commercial, the tunes kept coming:

  • "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glenn Campbell -- how can I help you understand just how incongruous music like this is while watching street scenes of Bangalore whiz by?
  • "Never Find Another You" by the Seekers
  • The Byrds' "Turn, Turn, Turn"
  • "Midnight Special" by Harry Bellafonte, which the DJ told us featured Bob Dylan on the harmonica
  • Elvis' "Suspicious Minds"
  • "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
  • "Jive Talking" by the BeeGees
  • Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"
  • "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye
  • "Urgent" by Foreigner
  • "Shattered Dreams" by Johnny Hates Jazz, which if remember correctly, was popular when I lived in Jerusalem in 1985.

When Pat heard the Byrds, she said, "I really like this one."

"What are some other favorites?"

Pat rattled them off, "'Mr. Tambourine Man,' too; and 'Hello, It's Me,' by Todd Rundgren; 'Hard Candy Christmas' by Dolly Parton; 'Yesterday' by The Beatles; 'Night in the City' and 'Clouds' by Joni Mitchell; 'Grapevine;' 'Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay;' and Madonna's 'Vogue.'"

Every one of Pat's favorites was from before she and I found each other 15+ years ago. I tried to imagine a Sarah-less Pat, feeling the joy, romance, sadness, wistfulness, buoyancy, playfulness, despair, sassiness of all of those songs. We have experienced so much together over this decade and a half, and still, the majority of our lives have not yet been with each other.

I'm considering all of this, too, I think, because I'm reading That Summer in Paris by Abha Dawesar. I picked up the novel, as it's by the same author as Babyji, which I really enjoyed.

This novel is about two writers, falling in love despite an age difference. The book's characters' is much greater than ours -- 15 in our case and 50 in theirs -- but it's on my mind....

The Indian Clerk, which I just finished, was about two mathematicians from different cultures -- Indian and English -- and now, I feel like I'm reading about another intercultural pair; in this case, the cultures are informed by their age difference.

And 15 years is enough distance that Pat and I also come from different cultures, it sometimes seems, for example, my campus hosted Lou Rawls (old-school by then) and Elvis Costello when I was in college. Still, it works ultimately.

Culture does matter and I guess love matters even more, as long as the couple has basic values in common.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Peacock Plumes at the EGL Office Park

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

Her Name Was Kolapi

My neighbor, when I used an empty cubicle at EGL for a day yesterday, said her name, Kolapi, meant, "The plumes of the peacock. It's Bengali."

When I was very little -- and a long time ago, I really was -- my parents used to take me to a nature center near our house...I'm from Stamford, Connecticut; it was always early in the morning and they'd let me run after the peacocks, who were always gathered on the great lawn there. I loved chasing the peacocks.

I didn't really look at her as I re-told this story, till the end. And then I looked at her a bit sheepishly, saying, "Thanks for giving me that nice memory."

She smiled kindly and we went back to staring at our respective computer monitors.

It's really true that people are not the same around the world. I really don't think I'd ever meet an American named Peacock Plumes...well, maybe a Native American might have a similar sort of name, but....I do have a Native American colleague and friend whose last name is Morningstar.

Intercultural Bounties

Perhaps I quoted this here recently -- can't keep my blog and my school paper straight -- but I thought, Yes! when I came across this on the AFS site, "We relate to each other because we are similar. We learn from each other because we are different."

My favorite moments of intercultural conversation were when something struck both of us as funny, and it was not Indian or Jewish or American humor; it was just universal humor. That's when I felt most comfortable.

I guess I learned most, though, when I couldn't relate directly to what a colleague described as routine, e.g., moving into your mother-in-law's house because that was how she wanted it to be in her old age.

Last night, I was talking with one of my U.S. mentors and told her that I felt like I scaled a mountain and stood proudly at the summit, having made a positive difference here with my work while struggling a bit personally to adjust to the new environment along the way.

Thinking back to 2005, my first trip to India, I really didn't have more than a romantic picture compared with living here for nearly six months so far. I stayed in a plush hotel and was a management development instructor for a section of particularly sweet and polite participants, who even gave me Indian souvenirs, and my colleague and friend Chitra offered me home-hospitality twice in a week. And then it reminded me of Israel terrain-wise and in terms of the flowers and trees.

Living here, I had to recall how often it was necessary to repeat myself because of my accent...and how white I felt, like never before in my life, since I always lived among a majority of white people without being super-conscious that I did...and how privileged, as whole families rode by on motorcycles because they had to...and how I had to steel myself whenever super-high-voiced singing happened, as I never did get the appeal of it...and how, really, it did not remind me of Israel at all, other than the flowers and trees....

And yet I learned more about my profession here in six months than perhaps in the past three years, since the growth here made everything even more intense than even I would have made it, and I found additional friends I want to hold on to, and I will miss my favorite foods, and the Hindi pop songs and videos, and the textiles....

I can feel myself repeating myself from prior postings, but I feel like I'm sorting and re-sorting what I want to keep forever from what I learned from, but want to walk away from due to the discomfort of it...and the thing is, I know I'll never be able to walk away.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Entering the Mood Elevator

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

Going Up

Writing this blog-entry is a means to an end tonight. I feel down and I'm counting on it to help me feel better.

Today, an important meeting went well; I felt stylishly, yet understatedly, dressed and was complimented on my suit and how I looked in it; the weather was gorgeous -- cool, but not cold, and sunny; and Pat was her lovely self.

So why do I feel morose? Or at least, why did I until I forced myself to write something -- anything?

For example, did you know that barewahanagale means "traffic" in Kannada, or that (yesterday's word) aroge means "helpful?" Or that hasu means "cow" and nai means "dog?"

Food Fight

I think I'll feel even better if I recall why I learned the words, hasu and nai. It wasn't funny, but it was absurd; once the traffic picked up, Channa and I saw a dog on the roadside, growling at a cow, since both were trying to eat from the same trash pile. The cow was not afraid; she ignored the dog, who was trying so hard to be fierce.

The scene reminds me that I couldn't book a room for the weekend we wanted at that Cicada wildlife place. It occurred to me later: Maybe, they rejected us because in the "Special Requests" field, I asked for feather pillows.

Fortunately, one of my friends on assignment here told me about Bannerghatta National Park, which is just outside of Bangalore, and which will enable Pat to see tigers while she's here, which is a fond wish.

We will go there. The animals will be less wild than the cow and dog we saw today, as they're fed regularly.

The Only Way

Today, a colleague complimented me, saying that she learned more from me than what I coached her on -- facilitation. She also said she learned how to be " to other cultures while still getting your viewpoint across."

I told her that I appreciated her receptivity to my viewpoint, as it wasn't always welcome in my experience, i.e., not everyone wants to do more than just share about their culture. By "viewpoint," she simply meant my making it into a cultural exchange more often than not, rather than just exclusively learning about her culture.

Every day, during my commute, we pass a building near the Shiva temple, which reads on the three sides that I can see, "Jesu Krupa -- The Only Way."

"Channa, does 'Jesu Krupa' mean Jesus?" I asked.

"Yes, Ma'am."

It worked.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Poor Me

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

Poor Them

Many of the entries are breezy, but this one might not be:

On Brigade Road this afternoon, I burrowed into Pat's side and turned my back on an approaching beggar. Pat put her arms around me and protected me.

The woman was tiny, with matted hair and hyper-alert eyes, and she was carrying a monkey, who was holding a baby-monkey. I was afraid of the monkeys. What if they scratched me? Or bit me?

Pat went into the grocery store a few minutes later and I waited for her on the sidewalk, so we wouldn't have to check our Blossom Books shopping bags. The monkey guardian made her way back up the street. I crossed the sidewalk and stood on the store's steps, out of monkey-arms' reach.

The baby was so, so little. Only its head peeked out from its parent's chest and the parent clung to the woman's small shoulder and tiny waist.

Earlier, a Far Bolder Encounter

Pat and I were killing time, since we arrived before our friends and before the bookstore was open, and so we headed down Church Street to Brigade Road, single-file, since the sidewalk was unfinished.

Soon, walking toward us were two women, wearing, atop their heads, wooden thrones with the image of Ganesh in the center of each of them. We were fascinated and stared at the little chairs as they approached.

Suddenly, the one in front cracked a bull-whip on the sidewalk right in front of me and thrust out her hand for me to give her money.

I couldn't believe that she was trying to intimidate me with the whip-cracking. I was furious. "No! No!" I said very loudly.

They didn't try it again with Pat, but quickly, imitated me, "No! No!" as they walked past. Adrenalin surged in me.

I turned around and yelled at them, "I could hit you!"

They actually seemed afraid, whether or not they understood what I said per se, and they moved away more quickly.

Loving and Struggling With My Location

The Indian friends that Pat and I have had and have made here, the fiction, the food, the flora, the Hindi pop-music all have delighted me. The routine reminders of my privilege have disturbed me.

A non-Indian colleague said recently, "I don't like to see the poverty." What a sincere statement, I thought -- much more authentic than many I've heard, that is, it bothered her to see it. Where she came from, the poverty was there, but she wasn't confronted by it so visibly and so vividly.

Volunteering One's Soul vs. One's Brain

I have spent my time here, rationalizing that by helping a segment of the population advance in its leadership, my efforts somehow have positively helped the economy and the society's future.

And then a local colleague told me that she's active in, which helps the society much more directly than my rationalization of what I've been doing here.

Other than the website, having been named "Crusade India," and the word, "Crusade" having been off-putting, given my Jewish heritage and identity, why did I not want to get involved with any similar organization at least?

Why didn't I want to in the United States either? Why, ever since I've made a corporate salary, have I wanted only to write a check in response to others' struggles, if I didn't know them personally?

That was it: "...if I didn't know them personally...." The poor, anywhere, were just another historically, and still, underrepresented group.

Prior to our arrival in India, Pat had been volunteering every Thursday at a soup kitchen and had made friends with a number of the other volunteers, some of whom might have had money-struggles of their own. One of them was a bathroom attendant.

In my case, I knew money-struggles personally, particularly after my father died when I was 17, and during college, though apparently, not on the scale of the people, who have begged here or in New York City. The difference between them and me has been my much higher level of education or my relative mental health and I have been so grateful for both.

I've had U.S. acquaintances say to me, "I could never take an assignment in India. I find the poverty so sad."

If poverty so saddened them, then why weren't they working for the Peace Corps? Rather, I think they actually meant what my colleague said sincerely, "...I don't like to see the poverty."

I did warn you that this might not be among my breezier postings.