Thursday, June 11, 2009

London Calling

So, as promised, here I am to write all about my London trip.

The first day pretty much adhered to Murphy's law.

As I may or may not have stated here before, I am pretty broke at the moment, and have a huge electricity bill to pay next week. I know, I know, it is suicide for broke people to visit London, but I had plenty to occupy me that did not involve spending (much) and so decided to take the plunge. I had my 'free' day of pampering (note the quote-unquote) and my book-signing, and my time with friends, and my cheap tickets, and so. Off I went, with a song in my heart and a swing in my step and random bits of rubbish in my wallet.

I started out by missing the coach.

I have never travelled at 8.00 am and therefore, thoroughly forgot to account for the morning rush. I left half an hour to get to the station, as it usually takes about ten minutes by cab. This time, it took ten minutes to get halfway down the main road. I missed the bus by about two minutes. My friend (Kanchi) was there on time, face anxiously glued to her watch. So obviously I paid for both of our tickets, it being my fault, and sadly waved goodbye to about 34 quid before we even started out.

Once there, we found our way to the studio without any trouble, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves drinking juice and getting styled and made-up according to our request. Kanchi made some very good industry contacts (the stylist and photographer) and we dressed up in our favourite clothes and had pictures taken on a variety of different sets. To my complete and utter shock, I was not in the least bit camera shy, and when we got to see the pictures at the end of it, they were absolutely gorgeous. 

So where does Murphy's law come in?

FRIENDLY MANAGER: So, ladies! Do you like your pictures?
FRIENDLY MANAGER: Good! They start out at £70 each.
US: ...
FRIENDLY MANAGER: So these are our different, very expensive, deals. Would you like some time alone to discuss which you'd prefer?

For those of you unfamiliar with the pound and the student budget, let me put it this way...I would not shell out 70 quid for a winter coat, much less a photograph of myself. I could just imagine my housemate's reaction, considering how I'd hyperventilated when confronted with a 4-month electricity bill of £80 each. "OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, DON'T YOU HAVE A MIRROR IN YOUR ROOM?!?!"

Such sentences were going through my mind.

So when the very nice lady came back, we informed her that we could not afford anything very much, which meant, in a nutshell, anything. She was shocked and very sorry for us, because those pictures really were *sob* awesome. So she kept bringing the price down and offering us different, secret deals to suit our wallets. She did not succeed. Finally we ended up getting a few pictures between us, at a price that we will take to our graves (even though it was much much cheaper than the original). I got about four. That was all I could afford. When confronted by the Best Deal Possible, and the reproachful line "So what CAN you afford?" I finally cracked and said "OKAYFINE". Then I hyperventilated for the rest of the day, partly because of my financial condition and partly because of all the pictures I had to leave behind. 

Damn you, Murphy! Bright side: at least I got four gorgeous pictures, plus a few good ones of the both of us thrown in free.

The above narcissistic line is a testament to just how good the saleslady was. I mean, I'm a Visual Communications student and I have friends in the photography department. If I really wanted pictures of myself I could get them for free in our free studio that VisComm students get to use for free. Did I mention free?

Of course it took a long while trying to decide which pictures to take with us (Good God, what has happened to me?) The next event on the charts was my book signing, the main reason I had come to London in the first place. All I had in my hand was an address. Using the studio's computer, we discovered that it was very close to where we were. However, it required two buses, a long walk, and a certain amount of intuition to get there.

We took the first bus. It was packed. The driver had no mercy. I was almost cut in half by the door. I was lucky, and got away with merely being violently flung into the opposite wall. Kanchi was very nice and sympathetic and supportive.

I was finally forced to admit that I would never reach my destination in time. So I consumed a £1 burger of sorrow (it was delicious) and then set out to meet two of my good friends from back home,  Anisha and Prashant. I would be staying the night with Anisha, and had promised to cook them my special chicken. I hadn't seen them in ages, and was really looking forward to it, so of course my first reaction on seeing them again was "OMG GUYS I AM SO STUPID AAAAH YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST DID!!!! *passout*"

They were very comforting. I did not receive a lecture on the value of currency. I was calmed down and comforted without being sedated, which I had not thought possible. And then we all made dinner together, and Anisha's Spanish housemate told me how to make a Spanish omelette, which I intend to try out asap now that I'm back home. I sniffled and sneezed throughout, since - did I mention? - it had been raining the entire time, but I had an awesome time being with them again.

The next day, I had my eye out for Murphy, and was all ready to dodge him whenever he tried edging into the picture. I sneezed and sniffled my way to Earl's Court, where the awesome Kanchi was waiting for me, and then we spent the morning and afternoon at the Graduate Fashion Week courtesy of our good friend Aj who had a (very awesome) stand over there. I was absolutely thrilled to be there and get to see it, as he is my housemate and very good friend and I've been watching his project develop all year. We also got to see all sorts of brilliance by this year's UK Fashion Graduates, plus a real live fashion show which was all kinds of awesome. And we got a goody-bag with useful things in it, which is a rarity. And as many free Skinny Cow ice-creams as we wanted. There were many brilliant graphic design things for me to go "oooh" at, and as Kanchi's in the fashion industry, she made even more useful contacts, and all in all we had a great time.

Afterwards, we made our way to Saravana Bhavan.

Now, Kanchi and I are two lonely South Indians in a sea of North Indians. In the UK, naans and rotis and butter chicken are easily available, but dosais and vadais are few and far between. Saravana Bhavan is the most delectable of South Indian havens, and there is one branch of it in one corner of London. We decided to make the excursion, 1) because we are dosai-deprived and 2) because we were studiously avoiding Camden Market due to lack of funding, and figured this would be an inexpensive and productive way to spend our time. We were later joined by Aj, which meant we spent about two blissful hours there, consuming between us sambar vadais, medhu vadais, masala dosai, onion rava masala dosai (my staple) and...wait for it...TAMIL NADU FILTER COFFEE.

MUM *on phone*: Hi! It's been a while, what are you up to and how are you?
ME: Mum, I'm busy concentrating on my onion rava masala dosai, can I call you back?

Kanchi and I had to catch a coach at nine, and a tube strike was due to begin at seven. We evaded Murphy by getting to our station well before the time, and passing our time with Kanchi's friend in the free seating area at the food court. We were full after stuffing ourselves with dosais and the like, and so could wait until we were back in Birmingham to have dinner (at 12.30 am). I stayed over with Kanchi to avoid cab fare, and reached home the next afternoon. Since when I have been curled up under my duvet with books, movies and cold medicine, which is actually quite fun. Naturally, it is bright and sunny now that I'm spending my time indoors again.

So, all-in-all, it was a great trip. I got to spend quality time with my friends, especially Kanchi who will be leaving me soon *sob*, I have some great pictures and some greater memories, I got to look around at the GFW and its accompanying awesomeness, I ate authentic South Indian food which I had been CRAVING for, and Murphy's barbs were totally worth all that.

For those who don't know, Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will.

And for those interested (read: parents) I have since managed to sort out my financial troubles.

Also, tomorrow is my first day at work. Wish me luck, everyone :)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A 'quick' update, like I'm very busy at the moment.

So, many things, both interesting and entertaining, have occurred since the last time I posted (considering how long ago that was, it would be tragic if nothing had happened). Many times I thought 'Wow, this would make for a hilarious blog post!' and then never posted. A proper detailed post made now would run to several pages. This calls for bullet points! 

So, since my last post I have:

- Had to flee from an ancient and half-crazy gentleman with a lopsided turban who tried to kiss me while I was innocently skipping churchwards down the road.

- Been granted a big bookshelf by a benevolent landlord, and promptly purchased six awesome books for 1p each (!!!)

- Been invited to a book-signing in London (which is tomorrow), after adding one of my favourite authors and bloggers on Facebook.

- Won a makeover (complete with manicure, pedicure and facial) plus photoshoot at a studio in London (also tomorrow!) for me and a friend. Which means happytime with Kanchana - we get to spend some girlie time before she leaves and I am :(

- Found out that a good friend of mine from back home in Madras (Kirtanaaaa!) will be here in September to do her MBA in Aston. Proceeded to bounce around the house for 1 hour.

- Helped a friend get ready for the Graduate Fashion Week in London. Have been granted passes to visit said show on Tuesday. Wooo!

- Seen Star Trek. Jaw dropped in wonder. Resolved to see it again in IMAX. 180 degrees of Spock. Joy.

- Compiled a list of chick-flicks that EVERYONE has seen except me (eg. Notting Hill). Resolved to watch said flicks but not yet managed to begin. Have, however, watched Terminator Salvation, American Gangster, Ricochet, the Bourne trilogy, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and other similar stuff.

- Handed in a final submission (branded myself using 'Artitude'). Did well but not as much as I'd have liked. Have managed, for the first time in my life, to Set Goals. Lets see how that works out for me now. I have pledged to teach myself web design, and design a website for my portfolio and freelance work from scratch, by the time uni opens again.

- Investigated Creative Writing competitions online. Did you know, ladies and gentlemen, that you can Win Money? I have resolved to try my hand at it, but am doubtful about whether I will succeed in Meeting Deadlines.

- GOT A JOB. As a Retail Operative at Primark. Will be operating tills and such henceforth. Nice people, nice workplace, free coffee, tea and milk. SCORE.

That is all. Well, that is all that comes to mind at the moment.

I hereby solemnly swear to write about my London trip, which promises to be both exciting and eventful.

Til next time then. 

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mum and Dad's Excellent Adventure

Before I commence, I should mention that this is a long overdue post. The events related here occurred about a month ago, but there were submissions and other random occurrences that prevented me from writing, and afterwards whenever I had the time, I worried that I was not sufficiently 'inspired' at that moment to do the topic justice. Honestly, I feel that way now as well, but I've realised that if I sit around waiting for the 'muse' as it were, this will probably never get written. And I cannot deny this story to people who have the privilege and pleasure of knowing my parents.

I have to admit that at the time these events occurred, I was not in the same city, or even in the same country, so my perspective is that of the third person. Nevertheless, perhaps this makes it all the more entertaining, as the story was related to me by my mother, who has a very unique outlook on life. I loved her point of view so much that a large part of the story will be related through iChat transcripts (I saved the conversation the second it ended).

So now to the point. The setting: the day before my submissions, me scrambling last minute as per usual, alternately Googling images and pulling my hair out. Suddenly, Mum pops online on iChat.

MUM: *brightly* Hi! Are you there? Watcha doing?
ME: Sort of. Working. *hint hint*
MUM: I had an 'interesting' day...
ME: *imagines some vague relative re-emerging from the mists of Time to come over for tea* Oh, really?
MUM: ...we chased a thief and caught him and got back Daddy's cellphone that he had stolen!
ME: ...WHAT?
MUM: Read again.

So now, we pause for a little more backstory. A couple of months before my departure, much to my displeasure, Mum had hired a live-in houseboy. No more wandering around the house in 'comfortable' clothes for me, but to be fair she really needed the help, and my grandparents needed some form of Hindi-speaking servant around. I would have found him much easier to tolerate if it wasn't for his habit of 'affectionately' squeezing the life out of my dog after bellowing 'Saaaaaam' in the tones of a wounded bear. Ugh. But anyway. Once I moved to the UK, I developed the habit of saying 'beat him' whenever the houseboy was mentioned, even though I didn't really mean it and Mum obviously would never do such a thing. Eventually, the aforementioned went on leave indefinitely, and Mum had to hire another houseboy. This one was unreliable, smoked and had a cellphone that rang a lot, making him even worse than the previous one. I urged Mum to sack him, but she felt bad about 'sending him out into the cold' for some reason (even though it's not in the least bit cold in Chennai, ever).

Now back to the story.

ME: Was it the houseboy? Beat him!
MUM: I sacked the houseboy yesterday. He didn't have a chance to take anything as we watched him leave, but he did not take his things.
ME: You finally sacked him? Why?
MUM: His work was bad and he smokes and is shifty. Anyway... basically what happened is, the boy didn't return, but sent the fellow who brought him (Manoj) to collect his pay and his things. This character was standing around near the kitchen door (by the cupboard where Dad charges his phone) while Mum ran up and down getting the pay together. The next morning, Daddy couldn't find his phone, and when they tried calling it, they got the 'switched off' message. Uh-oh.

MUM: So we thought and thought and reconstructed everything and concluded this Manoj had taken it.
ME: ...and?
MUM: I told Daddy I would not let him get away with it but try and catch him!
ME: Wow. And then and then?
MUM: I called the boss Chakravarty and he said he'd already sacked Manoj, but offered to get us another servant. I said heck with the servant, I want our phone!
ME: *highly impressed*
MUM: So we hatched a plot to snare the guy without him suspecting anything, and went to the office but he didn't show up. So the boss and his brother got into our car and we hared off to Alwarpet and finally caught him there...
ME: Oh, boy.
MUM: We put him in the car, with Chakravarty and his brother on either side and Daddy and I in front, and said give it back or we'll take you to the police station.
ME: Haha!
MUM: Daddy looked stern and drove, and I did the talking.
ME: You sound like Mafia!
MUM: I told him, look, we're really not interested in having you beaten up by the police. So just give us the phone and we'll let you go. Anyway, he denied it most unconvincingly, so Daddy starting heading to the police station, and then he suddenly said he had it at the place where he was staying.
ME: *speechless*
MUM: Are you there? Do you want to hear the rest?
ME: ...yes please. I await it eagerly.
MUM: So then we hared off to St. Mary's road and reached a fancy house like a fortress where his sister and aunt work as servants. Chakravarty had asked the lady of the house to hold his bags and not let him take them. So we stopped and Chakravarty's brother went in to search his bags, but the phone wasn't there. He brought the bags out, and then...
ME: ...and then???
MUM: And then the chap takes the phone out of his underwear where he had hidden it! It was in the car with him all the time!
ME: ...I hope Daddy's not using that phone.
MUM: Well, he had wrapped it carefully in plastic, so it should be clean...I hope.
ME: Tell him to trade it in for the C905.
MUM: You tell him. Anyway, while we had been driving, I turned around and gave the boy a lecture and advised him to change his ways and turn over a new leaf. Told him he'd land in jail or worse if he continued like this, and other people might not be so charitable. He said "I want to go back to Calcutta!" I said, "Well, go to Calcutta, but be good and do an honest day's work and you'll be okay."
ME: *disbelief* Wow, I'm not around so you're adopting random thieves.
MUM: Well, he looked small and miserable!
ME: ...
MUM: Anyway, after that he had the gall to say "I don't have money to go to Calcutta, give me some money" even though Chakravarty had sacked him for swindling them out of 50,000 rupees...
ME: Please tell me you didn't give him money. I bet he's a drug dealer. Beat him.
MUM: Anyway, we left him walking across the road with his bags. That's the first time in my life I've chased a thief and caught him!
ME: now we don't have a houseboy? :)

Anyway, it turns out we may get Wounded Bear (aka Robby) back after all, but everyone's feeling a lot fonder of him after the above experience, because although he had no manners, he also had no loudly ringing cellphones or cellphone-thieving friends. So, it's all good. And I am highly amused by my Mum's thief-reforming tendencies. All this interesting stuff seems to happen when I'm not there!

ME: See, it's all that houseboy's fault! Beat him!
MUM: You come and beat him.

Well, neither of us are going to, obviously, but I hope someone does.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Procrastination - A Case Study

So here I am, almost 22 years old, the first semester of my second BA concluded. And I am thinking, what am I doing here, hanging about doing yet another college degree when I should be TEACHING by now, having attained the highest qualification possible in my area of expertise...PROCRASTINATION.


What IS it that makes people like me procrastinate? Are we lazy? Let me think about that one. As eyewitnesses can attest, I have almost limitless supplies of energy - when it comes to any activity that does not have any kind of immediate usefulness. Of course, I do my fair share of lying around, but no more than any other human being my age and much less than some. It's very easy to get me interested in something, there are very few things I actively dislike, I generally go along easily with any plan, I don't mind walking for long periods of time, if someone has a project due and needs my help, I generally agree instantly if I think I can do a good job of it, and don't mind working hard for it either. But when it comes to my OWN work...ah. That is an entirely different ball game altogether. The kind of ball game where I sit down on the sidelines and watch with interest, even if no one but myself is on the field.

Like...take now for example. I have an interesting and not overly complicated project due at the start of the second semester. I've had the whole of our 20-day Christmas break, plus a few weeks before it, to work on it, think about it, redo it fifty times if I so desire, cast it in bronze AFTER learning how to do so, etc. And yet here I am, two days before submission, sitting on my ass (should I say 'arse' now that I reside in England?) with a hazy idea of what I WOULD have done if I had the time now. And instead of panicking and starting, I look for ways to procrastinate further and thus sit and type out a long and a overdue blog post on procrastination.


Now comes the complicated part. I WANT to work. I WANT to excel. I WANT to be the best, because I know that I am good and thus far have been clinging to mediocrity because of my weakness, my addiction, my drug - procrastination. If I was just lazy, a few good slaps and possibly a prod or two with a burning brand (I could manage these things with the aid of my most excellent and wonderful friends/housemates) would be able to snap me out of it. But it is hard, oh so hard, to break a procrastinator of his/her habit. Especially when that habit has been ingrained almost since birth. I don't even know why I do it! I love to write, but when presented with a deadline, I will put it off like it is some undesirable deed which I am being forced to do by evil and sadistic people seeking only my discomfort. I love to read, but during my Literature BA, I read almost none of my prescribed books (this did not stop me from ranking then, fortunately) seemed too much like work. I read about a billion other books during those three years though, and carefully saved up my 'textbooks' to read after my course was over (still procrastinating on that one by the way, it's been over a year).

But what really burns me up is the frustration of latent talent unused. I can write, and I can write well, and I have possessed diaries and blogs for more than ten years...but I kept allowing them to fizzle out and die. I could have accumulated years of writing practice and been really good by now, I could have been publishing books by now for heaven's sake, if I had the focus and set some kind of goal for myself instead of leaving it as a vague idea, an item in the list of 'things I must someday do if I ever manage to motivate myself'. I write poetry, and I'm not bad, but I write an average of one or two poems per year, because I never make myself actually sit down and write one. I used to draw a lot as a child, and I am artistic, but I've hardly developed that talent at all...I could have been really, really good by now, and as it is, I am again stuck in the 'average' category on the list of 'people who can draw'. If I ever actually sit down and think about all this, I get so frustrated with myself...which is why I probably procrastinate on doing it.

I think my problem might be that I am afraid to think too hard about things that are important, and so I don't. I avoid them like the escapist I am, and try to worry about things as they come. But maybe they wouldn't come if I worried about them a little earlier. I don't even know if there is a specific cause for procrastination, and whether I can find it, but I certainly would like to know if there is a cure...though I suppose it would involve willpower.

I am quite annoyed right now. I don't want to be like this, and I don't even know why I'm STILL sitting her blithering about it instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Ugh. Cheeta, you disgust me. *slap*

Anyway, enough bitching about the self :-) Off I go now, on a mission to do the right thing! But first, a bath is in order. And - if you have any anti-procrastination tips for me, spill them! I beg of you.