Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Women for Women Sister

About a month or a month and a half ago I signed up with Women for Women and yesterday I finally received my package and the "sister' woman I'd been paired with. She's from Rwanda. I'm looking forward to seeing how the program progresses. But for now, I need to figure out what I'm going to write as an introductory letter. BAH: why is the letter writing process so stressful?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From behind the lens

I'm testing out contacts. Can't say that I'm currently a fan. They drive my eyes bonkers. I feel like I constantly have an eyelash in my eye. Yup, don't know if I'll be able to make the switch.

In other news, a publishing house contacted me about publishing my graduate thesis. Given that they haven't even read the work, I'm not too sure what to expect, but the publisher does seem to be legitimate and the offer sound should it actually go through. However, the choice to actually submit my thesis is fraught with several considerations:

  • the thesis needs work before it's really ready to be published and am I ready to let it go out into the world just yet?
  • what are the implications of giving over partial copyrights to the work if I ever decide to pursue the idea further?
  • do I have the time and self-discipline to edit the work or do I really want to do the work and open those academic insecurities up for examination again?
  • there is a whole debate about publishing before you're ready and it being detrimental to your career... would this be me doing that?

I secretly always envisioned reworking the thesis, expanding the idea, and trying to publish it, but I guess I always thought it would be my PhD topic when I was ready. And although the offer is sweet for a graduate level body of work, could the project ever be more? I think it could. I don't know if I'm the one to write it per se, but I think that the research field is fresh, relevant, and totally ready to be explored in the field of Indian literature/poetry. The fact that no one has done so already sort of surprises me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Which Comes First

I'm not sure if it's the universe conspiring, aligning of the stars, just being more aware or drawn to certain ideas, actively, although unconsciously, seeking out similar thought processes, just part of the age that I am, or some weird twist of fate, but sometimes it feels a little too concidental that I find myself hearing, reading or thinking about similar issues that people around me seem to also be contemplating.

From learning to revamp our identity, live our dreams, quit a job, not get mentally old before our time, or find ways to make things fresh again, it strikes me that a lot of people around me are going through a variation of a similar identity contemplation phase. Maybe it's a pre-midlife crisis? Or a by-product of being part of a generation that has too many options and too much indecision? I don't know if I really agree with that statement wholeheartedly, but I don't really know what causes it. I just know that it seems to be very prevalent.

For me personally (I'm going to break my own blog rule here and talk about work), it manifests in the form of career questions. I have a great job. My coworkers are lovely, the pay is decent, the hours are stable, the students interesting and challenging. I'm encouraged to develop new ideas and given the opportunity to learn about issues related to education and I don't bring work home with me. I do work that makes a difference and effects academic learning. And yet, I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with it. Why?

There are 3 main reasons (and I guess they all center around one main issue: stability vs independence): the M-F 9-5 routine; less vacation time than if I taught full time; and the moments when there just isn't that much to do. The counter arguments: my job is stable; I have 4 weeks of vacation (which will be 5 starting next year) and that's more than many people; and if I was more self-disciplined I'd find things to do in those lull moments.

But then I think about teaching: I'd have summers off and could travel; I'd be only required to be on campus about 20hrs a week; and because of all this, could develop outside interests. Counter arguments: I have to bring work home; the pay is less; I'm still making a difference but only in the classroom, not necessarily institutionally.

What it all comes down to feels like petty grievances that reflect my anxiety about being tied down and commited to one career path. I'll admit it, it sort of freaks me out to realize that this is a permanent job. But I also know that if I left this and went into teaching, I'd eventually feel that way about teaching too. Every 3 months I start contemplating dropping everything and travelling the world, teaching ESL in foreign destinations, and embracing my inner new age flakey girl and living in an ashram in India for a year. Or something equally non-career oriented! I've recently come to the conclusion that none of this really has to do with this job, or any job, but rather with my own unwillingness to view myself as settled. Which is of course ironic given that I'm about to get married in 5 months. Turning into the white picket fence, surburban soccer mom who works a white collar 9-5 job and comes home to watch TV and cook dinner terrifies me.

As much as I long for security and a home of my own with an organic garden and a grey water system, I have to admit that stability also tends to translate into the idea of stagnation for me. And I feel that underlying a lot of what I've been reading, hearing, and talking about lately, there is a common thread that I'm picking up on (imagined or real): how do you settle into a secure, stable life in your 30s and not let being content lead to stagnation and lack of creativity? Again, although this seems to be the question beneath the surface, I find that it is tinged with irony because I'm also noticing that there seems to be new found/renewed creativity emerging in my life, despite and probably because of the fact that I'm stable and not partying like a fiend anymore. I've travelled more, learned more, earned more, explored more new ideas, started more new projects, and felt more inspired in the past few years than ever before.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Talking Out Loud

I have officially convinced both a good friend and my partner that I am crazy. Why you ask? Because on long road trips alone, I talk to myself. Like aloud talk to myself. Yup, it's true. I don't have conversations where I answer myself, but I say my thoughts out loud. If that makes me a crazy lady then so be it. I'm all about the talking meditation on long lonely car rides. It goes with the singing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Feeling the Love

Why does this picture spell love? Because not only did P make dinner for me, but he made mash potatoes and peas (one of my fav comfort foods) and veggie nuggets. The key however is to notice the difference in ketchup on the plate. Mine is on the left and his is on the right. He served me mine just the way you see it because he knows I like my ketchup that way best. It's a little thing but it fills me with warm fuzzies. Yes, that's right. Warm fuzzies!

Tuesday Mornings Make Me Happy

Throughout the semester I start my Tuesday a little later than every other day and it's really fantastic. I still get up at the same time as I do every other morning but I have more time for everything: reading the news, blogs, tea, shower, dressing, everything. Something about having that extra time just makes the day start off more zen. It gives me time to think and relax and that seems to make all the difference.

Today I started thinking about some of the things that make me happy, on this list so far (in no particular order):

1. falling asleep in P's arms
2. cuddling with the cat and putting my ear against her to feel her purr
3. chai tea
4. being able to talk to my mom about pretty much anything and everything
5. the sound of rain
6. knowing that all my closest friends are about to meet my grandma for the first time (have I mentioned that I LOVE my grandma? I'm a total grandma's girl)
7. more wedding related: knowing that I'm going to marry my best friend and that I have a partner who loves me for me and encourages me to follow my dreams, whatever they may be, however many times they may change.
8. star-gazer lilies.
9. Lucy!

That's it for the moment... even if there are many other things that could be on the list, those of the ones I'm currently pondering.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Feeling Drained, Relieved, and Looking Forward to Some Girl Time

Things have been rather stressful for yours truly in the past few days. Between having the family over, finishing grading, life in general, preparing a speech in French (yikes), and telling the future in laws that we are contemplating wedding ceremony options that may not be to their liking, the past week has been long and draining. The worst is over and the bomb has been dropped, mais dans l'ombre de la bombe il y reste encore....

Which is why I'm really looking forward to my road trip to the other big city, ok just outside of it but still... I am nervous about taking Lucy for the 6 hour drive, but she's been doing wonderfully thus far, so it's time to put her to the real test. Only 4 more sleeps!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Surprise Wedding!

I was recently reading Offbeat Bride Tribe (you have to be a member and sign in to read) and one intrepid couple has planned to host an impromptu surprise wedding party. I think this idea is fantastic! I love it! Love it!

I wish that we had done the same. Of course, convincing people to come in from out of town might have been hard, but I think the idea is fantastic on so many levels. The main one of course, is that it dispels any assumptions, stresses, and meddlings that anyone may make in the planning process. Let's face, no one cares what you do for a party, but when you throw in the word wedding, suddenly everything changes. The budget, the attire, the attitudes and values.

We always think of these things just a little too late, don't we?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Quiet Girl's Night aka Things That Make Me Happy

The other night I had a friend come over. She'd never seen our place and I'd been sadly remiss in actually inviting her over. I've gotten so out of the habit of just having people over (just one person), combined with the fact that we live outside of the downtown core, that I just never think of inviting friends over to just hang out. And I discovered that I really miss it. So H, this post is for you because you made me remember something that I hadn't even realized that I was missing. Thanks for the reminder, it was a good night even if the next morning was a little rough.

And, on a side note: pictures of a quiet girl's morning (tea and the cat=happiness)

One Perfect Day

I'm getting married this October and being the bookworm that I am, this has led me to peruse and read an assortment of wedding related books. (Yes, I know the blog is called INDIAphile, but a girl can't always read books about India). Anyways, this book isn't just for the bride, it's an interesting social commentary on the wedding industry in America. (Again, I am Canadian but let's be honest, for most intents and purposes it's pretty much the same thing, especially when we're talking about weddings).

Anyways, Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding has been an eye-opening and re-assuring read to date. I'm not finished (because I can only read so much before I work myself into a bit of an irate tizzy) but it is really showing how much of all things wedding is big business primarily targeted towards women and how much nonsense it all is. All the individualization we do to make the day ours is part of the mass marketing. It's insane and begs the question: Why are we buying into it? I highly recommend this book to anyone, male or female, that is about to get married, has been married, or hopes to get married because I think it's a vital reality check that forces us to re-examine the choices we are making.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Day of Lists

I spent the car ride to work this morning thinking about some of the things I want to do over the course of the next few years. Here's the list so far:

  1. Take some sort of course about teaching (Masters of Education, teaching certificate...)
  2. Learn how to do Thai Yoga massage
  3. Travel to Thailand
  4. Spend some time volunteering abroad (teaching maybe?)
  5. Devote more time to learning crafts and being crafty
  6. Learn a 3rd language
  7. Become involved in a local charitable organization
  8. Learn how to make pottery on a pottery wheel
  9. Have my own yoga yurt in my backyard: aka a yurt of my own! (I'm such a lit geek sometimes)!
  10. See Morocco
  11. Learn how to re-invent my wardrobe by sewing it into funky new creations
  12. Make my own soap
  13. Improve my veggie cooking repetoire, including learning to cook authentic Indian food
  14. Return to India
  15. Take a girls vacation to someplace like Cuba or Mexico or a cabin in the woods...

There are many other things that I want to do, but these are the basics. It may be a lot, but I think a fair amount of them are do-able.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Losing My Religion

God made Truth with many doors to welcome every believer who knocks on them.
~Khalil Gibran

Spirituality isn't a topic that we're supposed to talk about openly anymore but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I used to have unshakable faith, an unshakable belief that there was something out there. I may not have known what or who, but "it" was out there and I felt it's presence in my life. I would argue into the wee hours with my old roomie R about the nature of faith and the liberalness of 'god,' I dabbled in wicca, embraced unitarianism, and generally considered myself a spiritual person.

Somewhere along the line I lost this faith and haven't been able to re-find it. And that makes me sad. I didn't necessarily believe in fate, nor did I believe that 'god' had a plan for us, but I definitely felt like there was something out there giving me signs from time to time and watching out for me.

It's funny, I spent years using the tarot, believing in various 'philosophies' and while I still believe the same things I feel like I lost something along the way and I no longer feel that presence in my life anymore. Did my education do this to me? Or did I spend so much time focusing on education instead of spirituality that I lost my inner voice? Because while I'm an intelligent person, I'd rather be spiritual than intellectual. I always have. But I'm at a loss as to how to find that core part of me again and please don't tell me to find it in church, particularly a christian church. I really feel like the bible and the church are man-made institutions that are the antithesis of what that core idea of 'god' is. Sorry if that offends, that's my position. It is a well thought out position that I made after years of contemplation and self-examination.

Anyways, I'm looking to regain that sense of mystery but it seems to be elluding me. (I know that some might argue my above position is the reason for this, but I know that it's not...) I feel like I intellectually know what I believe, that there is something, but I no longer feel it.

How do I learn to feel it again?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Too Much Work, Not Enough Everything Else

For years now my friends have been telling me that I work too much, which I've always denied because I actually feel that I tend to be pretty lazy. It started with A telling me that I'm a workaholic because I never call in sick to work. At the time I was puzzled because why would I call in sick if I could work? Over the years I have consistently worked 2 or more jobs at a time, much to my friends dismay, leaving little time for me explore other ventures in my life, including thesis writing.

(collecting shadows)

However, in the past few months I've been trying to scale back on the stress levels I experience by cutting out jobs that I didn't need to be doing. At first I found this very difficult because I didn't know what to do with myself when I had free time. Years of never having time have taken their toll. That said, I've gotten over the hump and am finally starting to really enjoy my free time to the point that I am actually really looking forward to the end of this semester and only having one job! In fact, I'm so excited about it that I've suspended all outside of the main job activities to the point where I'm officially screwed because I now have so much correcting and projecting finishing to do that it is frakking stressing me out! Way to cope: write blog post...
I've also decided to unlink my blog from facebook because I feel like it makes me too cautious about what I say. If I want to express ideas about the wedding or ponder spirituality, I find myself thinking twice because it might pop up on the wrong person's page. If they visit here, well they sought it out, so I can be less concerned about it. Other than that, this space is really meant to be for me and I don't want to feel the need to edit myself.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Silent Raga

The Silent Raga

Ameen Merchant

The Silent Raga centers around two sisters, Janaki and Mallika, from a conservative middle class Brahmin family and the events that leads to their divison and reunion. When their mother dies, Janaki is pulled out of school, much to her dismay, in order to tend her father's house until a suitable husband can be found for her. Janaki, a gifted veena player, submits to her father's will. Although she is essentially imprisoned by convention, she continues to develop as a musician, purposely sabotages most of her proposals and focuses on her sister's well-being and education. The bonds between the two sisters are strong and Janaki essentially becomes both Mallika's sister and mother. Janaki's two driving motives are music and Mallika.

The story opens with present day Janaki reminiscing about the past and then switches to Mallika questioning Janaki's return after 10 years of absence. The sisters quickly reveal their present situations, Janaki has married a famous Muslim actor, thus eschewing traditional caste values and Mallika has become her father's caretaker (although he is in an asylum) and works in Madras. Through a series of sometimes deft and other times awkward switches between sisters and past and present moments, the story of Janaki's escape (or from Mallika's perspective, betrayal) unfolds. Both of the sisters' narratives are told not only in relation to their sisterly bond, but also focus on their relationships with their father, or lack thereof. The story , although primarily juxtaposing Janaki's self-sacrifice and ensuing guilt with Mallika's resentment and anger over her abandonment, also tells the tale of each girl becoming aware of their father's selfish and hypocritical ways.

The story is well told and engaging; however, Mallika's anger feels somewhat misplaced for most of the story, as if she is completely unaware of what her sister gave up for her despite her claims of being able to read the unspoken language of people. Of the two characters, Janaki is the more compelling because Mallika`s tale feels naive and stunted, which was probably intentional. All of Mallika`s anger and resentment works to some extent until their eventual reunion when she goes from a to b without much effort. There are elements in the story that clearly signal the book as being the author`s first: the shifts between narrative voices, the way music is meant to work as a leitmotif in the novel, and the novel`s resolution.

Of those three elements, all are forgivable and easily overlooked except for the ending. All of the nicely developed imagery, unspoken tensions, and finely expressed sense of powerlessness and frustration are undercut by the fact that the conclusion comes about too quickly and the emotional resolution is too simple. The author has taken us on this long voyage to get to this moment, this is to some extent the overt point of the novel, the driving force behind the tale, and it fails because it feels more like adolescent wish fulfillment than well crafted prose. As first novels go, this is a well done novel, but it is clearly identifiable as a first novel.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In Search of Inspiration

I'm feeling somewhat uninspired lately. Maybe all the excitement of car purchasing has left me drained, I don't know. Maybe it's the weather, although I feel like I shouldn't really complain. The rain is far better than snow at this point.

I want to go adventuring and feel restless. I go through this every few months. It's part of my pattern. It's predictable and probably pretty normal. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, though perhaps I tend to pursue my fantasies of dropping it all and taking off more than most...

Today I wish that I lived in a land that was always warm and had water I could swim in.

Yup, it's a wet, blah day, and it shows...


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