Keep the change. Just keep everything.

Tipping irks me.

I admit, no dollar leaves my wallet without my full-throated resentment, but my hatred of tipping goes beyond that. It’s not a question of percentage or quality of service; I’m annoyed that a decision that’s supposedly left up to me comes with strings attached. Tip well or get some saliva in your soup. Tip too well, and you’re the chump who got mugged at the Olive Garden.

And yet, I’m a decent tipper. Never under 15%, and I’ve occasionally gone up to 25%. And then there was that calculation error that caused me to leave a 33% tip, and a shocked waiter probably. Perhaps it’s the pressure of the social contract living in the USA or that I just like to keep visiting my favorite restaurants. Or, who knows, I might be fighting some imaginary Indian-lousy-tipper stereotype. I remember tipping in India to be brutal: people rounded off 49s to 50 and 99s to 100. Tipping was just a convenience to avoid additional math. And then I came to New York City, where we tip cab drivers we’ll never see again for not getting us killed. We tip baggage handlers at the airport so our checked-in bags follow our itinerary. If I were to visit as many countries as my bags have, I’d be wearing a beret-turban-sombrero.

Even if the original idea of tipping was to provide us some control over how we reward our servers and perhaps as an incentive to them to treat us well, I doubt it serves that purpose. Even if our tips rose and fell with how well we are treated at various places of business, no two customers would agree on a definition of exceptional service. So, using tips to fix service is at best a dream.

“But Bharat, waiters are paid much less than minimum wage, and the government assumes they’re getting tipped while taxing them.”

It bothers me that waiters aren’t paid a living wage only to the extent that their rent is somehow my responsibility. I hate the idea of forcing restaurants to pay their servers more. But other types of business owners are under the governmental hammer for wages, and even health insurance. Yet, for some reason, making sure this poor bastard affords his annual physical is somehow my responsibility. I don’t mean to go all Mr. Pink on you, but tipping is  neither scientific nor fair. Female waitresses get tipped more than male ones, and being large-breasted and blonde makes those dollars flow more than all the free dessert in the world. So most customers aren’t rewarding the prompt service of the nice lady at Applebees; they’re just signaling with their wallet their appreciation for narrow waists.

And the stress, oh my god the stress. How much is enough? Am I being cheap? What if I’m overtipping? What if I’m setting a new baseline and the next average tip appears small? Frankly, I prefer restaurants that levy a constant service charge and exempt me from the mental calisthenics of balancing privileged guilt against a thick wallet on a full stomach. When a meal is done and I’m working up the social decency to resist loosening my belt in public, the last thing I need is to worry about is putting my waitress’ kids through college. With the service charge, I know beforehand that everything I see on the menu is going to cost a fixed percentage more, and I can decide whether I want it or not.

When it comes to tipping, I think at least some people make rules up as they go along. There’s this one-upmanship of out-tipping the other guy so you come out looking like the big shot. Tipping bartenders five bucks for pouring beer into a glass with minimal spillage is a little silly; sure, it’s a good way to ensure you never have to wait for a drink in a crowded bar maybe, but at an academic social?

But I guess someone should make up for those sickos who leave these:

It's a good thing these people believe in hell

It’s a good thing these people believe in hell

Of Elvis and Green Cards

He’s relevant, really. (Wikipedia)

“Excuse me, do you have a light?”

I was asked this while walking around one evening, a month after I came to America. I replied that I didn’t have any matches or lighters. The question was presumptuous because I wasn’t smoking. She was middle-aged and sat on her stoop tapping a cigarette on her pack as I examined my face for wrinkles and wondered if my breathing sounded like emphysema. She regarded me for a few seconds and said nice evening or something. I look Indian enough, and Indians are almost one-sixth of the world’s population, so I allowed myself some annoyance when she asked which part of Pakistan I was from. I corrected her. She apologized, but with a look of close enough.

India has symmetry. And theirs is out of scale, astronomically. (1.bp.blogspot.com)

“What do you do?” she asked.

“I’m a grad student at St. John’s.”

I knew how this dance went. First I say that I study pharmaceutics and then they say, “Oh, pharmacology!” While I was explaining the difference and ignoring the beads of sweat near my ears, I was offered some lemonade. I said no thanks; she shrugged and smiled. Always taught to decline first and relent after persuasion, the withdrawal of her offer seemed sudden to my Indian eyes. But clearly the American way was to state what one wanted, and take others at their word—a little crass, I felt, but refreshingly candid. She wasn’t done being candid.

“When you get your degree, you gonna go back, or stay here and try to get a green card?”

“I’m not sure. Depends on the job-market I guess.”

“If you stay, does that mean your parents are going to move here too?” she asked.

This was 2007—not everybody’s shit had hit the fan—and it was understandable for some Americans to think of their country as a large zero-sum pizza, where more immigrant families meant less for everyone. Actually, I liked her honesty. It’s like America was her teenage daughter, and she wanted to know my intentions. Far more respectful than the oh-we-are-glad-to-have-you-here-if only-American-kids-studied-science-as-much-as-you platitudes. I was honest. I told her that my mother couldn’t see herself leaving India, but my dad was amenable. A half-belch-half-grunt came from inside the house. There was a guy in her living room—I’m guessing, her husband. He didn’t look at me once as he was engrossed in a game I still can’t call football.

How did Americans come up with ‘Get the ball rolling.’ (eslpod.com)

“Looks like he’s engrossed in the game,” I said.

Trust me, when you suffer from an Indian accent, and have to repeat every other word, words with three consonants in a row like engrossed are to be thought, not spoken. America may have a lot of foreigners—you’ll meet most in New York—but you can spot an Indian a mile away. Of course you can, he looks Indian. But he’s also the guy who’s over-pronouncing consonants to wash his accent off, scrubbing harder than Lady Macbeth. You won’t see a Français or a Brit doing this. Their accents are sexy. Why do you think they like to get together with their kind so much? To preserve their accents. Indians in America treat other Indians like rival drug-runners pushing on their corner. (People understand me better now—it’s been five years—but I still pronounce ‘w’ like a German.)

English: Adolf Hitler

Even he sounded better than me. And that’s not fair. (Wikipedia)

“Did you hear a lot about America, in Bombay?” she asked, ignoring my statement.

How do I explain to her what America is to non-Americans? The roads looked so clean in the movies that as a kid, I thought Americans walked barefoot. USA was the Narnia where money grew on trees and everybody sat around a fire chatting about how good they have it—taking breaks to wind their clocks back or forward an hour—and they all talked funny. And their movies had real people kissing instead of the images of actual birds and bees native to 90s Bollywood. And the strangest disposal tools. Whenever my uncle visited India, dad told us to put out a roll of toilet paper for him. Why can’t he use the bidet shower spray, I wondered. Maybe Americans don’t like their asses getting wet. Perhaps dry buttocks were the symbol of Western opulence. But I didn’t want to come on too strong with how enamored I was.

“Sure. We get most of your TV shows, and we like Hollywood movies,” I said.

“And sports? Do you guys play the same stuff we play? I’m a huge football fan.”

“Well, mostly cricket. That’s what most Indians care about. I grew up playing it.”

“What about the skin flute?” the belching grunter asked from inside.

“I’m sorry, what?” I said, as the woman started giggling.

“The skin-flute, I’ve been playing that since the fifth grade,” he said.

“I haven’t heard of it. It’s a musical instrument, right?”

Their laugh still echoes in my head whenever my brain makes the you-are-such-a-loser powerpoint presentation in case I get too optimistic.

“Ignore him. What about music? Do you get our music?”

I had to be careful. Admitting that I owned two Backstreet Boys CDs had gotten me picked on for an hour the other day—by a girl. I had saved myself, not convincingly, by blaming my sister. Just like I blamed the France ’98 for my liking Ricky Martin (The cup of life, ole ole ole…nobody?). Next trip to India, I’m dumping them along with the Spice Girls albums. (Seriously, who am I to ridicule the Bieber/Perry/Swift fanboys and fangirls.) I decided to stay vague.

Elvis Presley, 1973 Aloha From Hawaii televisi...

Hunka hunka burning green card (Wikipedia)

“Sure. American music is popular in India; mostly in cities.”

“What about Elvis? Do you like Elvis?”

“Sure. My dad’s the fan though. He likes Elvis and Englebert and Neil Diamond.”

She got excited and proclaimed, “If you like Elvis, you’re cool.”

By that scale, I guess I’m kind of cool. Amazing huh? Getting a full scholarship to grad school is great, but as far as assimilation goes, it pales in front of a man in a jump-suit who liked prescription drugs. Whatever works, I guess.

“Actually, I’d love some of that lemonade.”

Why you should probably do it

Seriously people, just do it.

Because if you don’t you’ll keep wondering. Should I have? What if I had and it made me feel better? What if I inspired others? Then everyone would have done it. I’d be a pioneer. What if Abercrombie made a brand of what I was wearing when I did it and distributed it poor hungry kids in Nigeria — you know — with some food.

English: The image of Abercrombie & Fitch today.

But they’d have to starve to wear it (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The worst is not doing it, because someone else might do it if you wait too long. If they do, your doing it means nothing. Well, it might mean piracy or plagiarism, but who knows—that shit is hard to prove. And if they do it, you’ll have to find something else that you want to do but aren’t doing — something else to obsess over, a different cost-benefit analysis. That’s not easy. Then you’re still the same person, but with another thing you’ve almost done. Almost doing is like not doing, but you’re the annoying not-doer who keeps talking about that which he is going to do, which is cool, if your friends are like that guy in that movie whose mind was like an etch a sketch every fifteen minutes. (By the way, there’s this incredibly dirty and funny joke that I can’t enjoy because I know the punchline, but he can, again and again.)

Memento (film)

…and the farmer says…damn it, where’s my polaroid? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History is full of doers — the not-doers are eliminated for space-saving — and doers are full of history. Not-doers are full too, of other things. The best not-doer appears on the brink of doing all the time, without talking ad nauseam about it of course. Over time, the not-doers don’t reproduce, because that involves doing. So they’re weeded out. The doers remain. It takes a lot to be a not-doer. Doing ends up negating the not-doing. Depending on what you do, how much and with how much intensity, you can figure out how long you must not-do before convincingly appearing as a not-doer. Of course, appearing is doing, and that’s a conundrum.

Why would you not-do anyway? So you can plan more, think more, and maybe do it better later? But you won’t. Because you didn’t. Only you know why. None of those reasons will change. You’re not doing it better. You’re just better at not-doing, also you’re regaling people (not really) around campfires with stories of how good it’s gonna be when you finally do it — which it will be — it will be awesome. But you won’t do it. So it’s hypothetically awesome. Which is fine, but it takes a million hypothetical-awesomes to make an awesome. You can disagree with me on that, but to prove me wrong, you need calculations, which of course, involves doing. So you can never know, better trust me. If you can trust, without doing that is. When you do do, which you won’t, trust me, I hope you can…oh what’s the point? You’re never gonna do it.

Air Max 90 CL

They have the right idea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not saying you’re not equipped to do it. You probably are, who knows. Checking for qualifications requires me to do something. So I can’t know. Knowing involves doing, and doing what I need — to know — also needs doing. So I can never know if you can do. I’d like to give you the benefit of doubt, but that means I must do. In fact, even doubting is doing. So I can be certain. Being is not doing. Or it would have been “to do be or not to do be,” which let’s face it, (or not) is not quite as pithy.

Those who did things did them because they needed to be done. Now you’ll say that needing is doing too, but things can need. Things can’t do. So needing is not doing. QED. No I can’t translate that for you. You know why. But do you? Can you?

Draft skeletons in my closet

6:30 pm

I’m sitting down to write something. And it’s gonna be the shit.

What to write about? Nonfiction—no that requires a lot of reading, too late to start now. How about a nice story? That’s right. When I get up, I’ll have a novel…that inspires tears…from Hemingway…in a fetal position cursing god for making me more talented. I need characters, plot arcs, story lines, a central theme…

You know that non-fiction idea is looking better and better—the heart wants what it wants.

7:00 pm

What do I begin with? Lesser men choose titles, rough measures of article size—but I’m not a wimp. First, the font. Because the only thing worse than getting kicked in the nuts is writing a treatise on macroeconomics that’s a Nobel shoo-in only to learn that Stockholm despises Helvetica. (Why do you think they bumped me for Krugman?) Too many choices, but I’ll know it when I see it.

7:15 pm

I keep going from Georgia to Courier New to those special typewriter fonts I downloaded from dafont.com and all the way back to Georgia. Times New Roman? What am I, an animal? But I admit that Times New Roman tempts me like Jon Hamm probably does to Ted Haggard. No, I need the right font. Courier New is the best—everything I write looks serious. Like a philosopher who’s finally decided to make metaphysics his bitch.

Or does it? What if I just look pretentious like those people who drink Chardonnay and say things like avant-garde and milieu?

7:45 pm

I imagine myself as a heroic Thomas Jefferson punching declarative statements on a typewriter before realizing that Jefferson died forty years before the typewriter was invented.

So everything he wrote was by hand. How did he get past the first sentence? How come no one crushed his spirit by saying, Your ‘s’ looks like an ‘o’? (Yes, I’m looking at you mom.)

8:00 pm

No, Courier New won’t cut it. Who am I kidding? I routinely end sentences with prepositions, and I recently declared my closet desire to shamelessly split infinitives, and I used ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’ in the previous sentence. I need a non-prescriptivist font, preferably one that doesn’t smell too Victorian. (Not that I know what Victorians smelled like, but I hear they showered sporadically.)

I can’t think straight until the words staring at me look alright. That’s how Christopher Hitchens did it right? May his soul rest in…wait, what?

8:15 pm

Maybe the font is fine, what about the screen brightness? I don’t want it too bright, do I? A soft light that prevents eye-strain without making me squint is what I need. But first, some music. Nothing but the soft gentle stirrings of Adele to boost creativity. Did I say Adele? I meant Metallica, with beer, and a shotgun.

9:15 pm

Alright, so that episode of Breaking Bad was awesome, but I really need to write now. Hell, no way I’d have been this inspired if I’d started typing away without … you know … inspiration. Hey, how about this for a story — a guy with a low-profile life in Smalltown, USA gets cancer and decides to cook meth…no wait…I’m getting close now, the idea is not far away. Come on…

9:30 pm

I can’t be creative on an empty stomach. I need some Chinese. All that stops me from being Tom Wolfe is sesame chicken with pork fried rice. Great, no cash, meaning I have to tell my credit card number to the post-doc at Hunan palace who likes to repeat every digit loudly, his accent disappearing with every number. But he forgets the chicken wings every time.

I guess I’ll resume after dinner.

11:00 pm

That’s it. I’m not getting up until I write something of value. I almost sympathize with people now—how empty and bourgeoisie their sundry lives will seem after reading my outpourings? But should I write now? My mind isn’t the sharpest after bingeing on Chinese. The people deserve better; I’ll start writing tomorrow early morning, fresh. By 8 am, I’ll be emailing the New York Times.

9:00 am

Is Courier New really the right way to go?

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Sartorial maladies

Coffee…and a defense (Part I)

“To be honest, I don’t remember that evening much. There are some things crystal clear in my mind, but most of it is kinda murky.”

“That’s a good thing. Witness memories tend to get murky too. That’s why their credibility drops exponentially with time. Delay and stall is a good tactic for you.”

“That would be true if I were guilty. I’m telling you there’s no way I would’ve touched her like that without permission. This is why I need this thing to be wrapped up as soon as possible.”

“Look pal, like it or not, this is a game of he said, she said. Circumstantial evidence has been enough to convict in many cases. Your DNA in her house is not a good thing. In fact—”

“I was in her house. I went there to pick her up. My DNA is bound to be there. What does that prove?”

“Nothing so far, but it does make it difficult for us to make this a clean sweep. If there wasn’t enough to link you to her apartment, this thing would’ve been open and shut.”

“In my opinion, the more I stall, the guiltier I look to people.”

“If your opinion was worth a rat’s ass, you wouldn’t be paying me $400 an hour for mine. So just listen—I don’t care how guilty you look to the public if you don’t get convicted. No one, I mean no one has emerged from a rape trial spotlessly clean. There will always be some people who think you did it, and others who’ll talk about it. Your image will improve over time, and nothing else.”

“I thought she was a good person. Why would she accuse me of such a terrible thing?”

“Good. At least you’re approaching this kinda rationally. Remember, the burden of proof is on them. They have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you did it. Based on the evidence they’re going to present, they don’t have it. While it might be tough, I think we can beat this if we keep our heads. Just tell me exactly what you remember, starting from when you picked her up.”

“I remember taking a cab from the corner of 95th and Amsterdam, and getting off near 34th and 1st. I buzzed her apartment, and got the wrong one as a sleepy Latina brusquely told me. I called her cell phone, and she buzzed me up. She told me to help myself to a drink while she got dressed. I did.”

“Sharp as a tack. Details are good. Remember, we can call the Latina to establish your credibility. Keep going, and avoid using words like brusquely.

“It had started to rain. She waited under the awning of her building while I spent five minutes trying to get a cab. We reached Bleecker and MacDougal around 12:30.”

“Do you have a credit card receipt for that cab ride?”

“I dry-cleaned those pants. Who knows where that receipt is.”

“Alright. How was her demeanor during all this? Had she already had a drink or two?”

“No. Not as far as I can remember. We entered some club. I ordered our drinks and took them to her. This was interesting. I was gonna have a Glenlivet neat, but she told the bartender to make two usuals.”

“What the hell’s her usual?”

“Something with white rum and mint and some other stuff. No, it didn’t taste like a mojito, but it was strong like hell.”

“And then?”

“We were chatting about how cold it had gotten recently, and how it was very unlike last October. She said something about the pool in her apartment complex, and how much she missed…”

“Missed what?”

“Well, it wasn’t really clear. We were in a club, you know. After asking her to pardon me a couple of times, I was too embarrassed to admit I still wasn’t sure what I heard. So, I just kept nodding and tried to furrow my eyebrows like I was considering what she was saying very deeply.”

“I bet she knew you were bullshitting too…anyway, did you order a second drink?”

“No. I think she refilled our glasses. It was the same thing. And then we danced.”

“Sure, how long was that?”

“Two or three songs. Then we left to go to another bar.”

“How were you feeling around this time?”

“Heavily buzzed. I remember I wasn’t walking perfectly straight. She seemed worse.”

“Yet, you went to another bar. This might be a problem.”

“How is it a problem? A man and a woman meet for drinks; it is in the best interest of the guy to get the woman as sozzled as possible. You can’t blame me for that.”

“Look, if she can find 12 jurors to think that you knew how drunk she was while making her drink even more, anything that happened between you could be construed as rape.”

“That is a god-awful law. And what if she had gotten into a car and driven over a bunch of homeless people? Would you still blame me for it?”

“Interesting question. But in this case, irrelevant. It’s good you’re getting indignant now. Get it over with here, so you’ll stay calm in court.”

“The remaining is a blur. I think we went to some after-hours place in Chelsea, I kinda remember sitting in a cab…”

“But you did wake up in her house. Did you slip out like a cat burglar or did you make conversation?”

“Well, she woke up as I was getting dressed. She seemed a little irritated as I was making morning-after small talk. She got up, and made scrambled eggs with toast. We spoke a little about the previous night. She said something to the tune of We really shouldn’t have…I’ve never done this before…looks like I had had too much to drink last night…

“And you left. That was Sunday morning right?”

“Wow, you catch on fast. Is my eye-rolling too quick for you?”

“I would get rid of all that sarcasm before I go to court dude, juries hate smug. Sarcastic righteous indignation often looks smug. Don’t forget that even though you’re chances are pretty good here, this might not be the end of the road.”

“What do you mean? I can’t be tried again if I’m acquitted right?”

“Yes…those hours of watching The Practice reruns have drummed some sense into you, but what you might’ve missed presumably while channel-surfing is that she can sue you in a civil court and inflict serious damage.”

“Civil rape trial? Does that even exist?”

“Yes. She can sue you in a civil court for sexual assault, and the smart money says she will. This whole criminal shakedown might just be a way to collect discovery for her civil case. A lot of people take this approach because the burden of proof on the accuser is a lot less than criminal trials. She can get you for a lot of money.”

“I don’t have a lot of money. No really, my profits are largely plowed back into the business and I take a small salary for myself. I’m looking to expand right now, and rolling in it is not the way to go.”

“Yeah whatever. I don’t mean liquid cash. If the jury finds for her in a civil case, they might ask you to pay a large sum, which you’ll end up paying in small parts for a long long time. Kinda like buying a boat, but without all the sailing and the tan and the obvious affluence.”

“So you’re saying that in spite of being innocent, I actually need to worry about losing everything I have and will work for?”

“Not really, right now I’m saying that you should worry about going to prison. If we successfully get you acquitted, I’ll refer you to a very capable friend of mine, who specializes in civil sexual assault defense.”

“It still doesn’t feel right. How could she do this?”

“I know you’re still on the clock but lemme venture an adverse opinion. Imagine her side of the story. She meets a guy who buys her drinks, and wakes up next to him not remembering exactly what happened. A lot of women take time to realize that their sexual encounters need not have been voluntary. Many still don’t pursue the matter. You just got unlucky.”

“You say it in such a cold way.”

“Come on man, at the last reunion you decided to regale us with the minutiae of a pancreaticduodenectomy…while stabbing hungrily at your steak…it’s just all in a day’s work. You get desensitized after some time. And for me it’s been 13 years. Anyway, let’s grab a bite to eat and we will hash it out further.”

“No you go ahead. I’m gonna go home. I’m not in the mood. We can do this some other time.”

“You’re sure? Hope you’re not too depressed. Do I have to follow you home and hide your razors or something?”

Not a Harry Potter review

Fandango is probably the best thing designed since the vibrator. No other invention has made a man’s patience this unnecessary. All I can say is that at least one of them doesn’t levy a convenience charge.

Sunday morning, or rather afternoon (Sunday afternoons are bowdlerized as mornings), I booked tickets for me and my two friends N and U to the last Harry Potter movie. I sorta owed it to Rowling. You know, the single mom who imagined and articulated her way to billions was really desperate for my opinion. What can I say, I wasn’t always the thoughtful, well-adjusted blogger I am now (nudge, wink). I was, I’m not ashamed to say, a Potter-nerd. As and when they come up with a new movie where Danny boy shows us his constipation face and smiles his way to millions to probably finance his horse-f**king histrionics, I regress into nerdvana and well…I just have to watch.

Let me clarify: I’m not one of those stick up the ass bibliophiles who always insists that the book is better than the movie, but in this case, come on…Rowling spins webs with her words that others can barely convey through CGI. The Potter movies started out being pretty bad, but the last couple of movies (Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Part One), have been dark, gloomy and frankly a little spooky. Kind of like the movie and the actors have grown up with the viewers.

I rarely watch a movie without hearing from a couple of people whether it’s worth the money, and sure enough, Roger Ebert gave me his thumbs up, not to mention the sage advice of skipping the 3D version. Of course, not everyone is as smart as yours truly; so while the lesser intellectuals are scrambling for a chance to overpay for 3D, we will saunter into the regular theater take our reward for foresight.

There we were at the Regal Cinemas at Union Square just ten minutes before the movie started, and sure enough, we couldn’t see three seats together unless you wanted to sit right up against the screen after which you’d feel like you just blew Alan Rickman for two hours.

Image courtesy mylot.com

    And that expression still didn’t change

The thing is, having an IQ in the 98th percentile still leaves about six and a half million competitors in the US alone, and most of them had already taken their seats.

I took a sufferable single seat and sat down while N and U searched for their side-by-side watching experience. N, of course, had bought the forearm-cramp sized popcorn bucket and two cups of coke so large I thought I saw Noah’s ark somewhere inside. He handed me one of the cokes, which in a movie should really come with a free bladder enlargement, or at the very least, an express pass to the restroom.

And oh yeah…the movie was pretty awesome! If you wanna read a real review of the movie, I suggest you go here and here.

Cheers

Social parachutes

We’ve all been there: there are so many awkward situations we face that it is impossible for us to think on our feet in all of them. We’re bound to slip up. We better come up with some cheat-sheets cataloging the prototypes of various awkward situations and the ways we can parachute out of them salvaging a smidgen of dignity. Of course, if you’re getting life lessons from a blogger of questionable social judgment and ethics, chances are that dignity isn’t a priority for you. There! I have insulted the minuscule readership I have. But wait, you’re still reading? What are you made of? Huhhh…lemme go on then. Looks like nothing will budge you. Okay. Here’s a list of some of the awkward situations I (or friends of mine) have faced, and dealt with to satisfaction. Now I know some of you out there have never had a faux pas, or know the perfect things to say in every situation, but the rest of us are fun! Sounds like something to think about on those lonely Saturday nights with a Haagen Dazs and an insufferable Meg Ryan movie.  But now that you’re here, read on…

Continue reading

The bachelor grad student experience

Here are some strange things I’ve learned as a bachelor grad student:

    1. It is ok to wear a pre-worn t-shirt to college as long as you have given it the three-day shame wait. If you re-wear something within three days, you are a slob
    2. If I find a potato chip below my bed, it is mine
    3. A day is wasted if deals2buy.com has not been visited
    4. Winter is appreciated because food does not spoil no matter how long it stays outside
    5. Bed bugs are not your friends
    6. Maggi is full of nutrients. In fact, it has its own food group: Easily made crap
    7. No matter how filthily a bunch of guys live, we are surprisingly clear about which razor is whose
    8. Study tables are for storing papers; mattresses are for curling up and reading
    9. The frequency of laundry is directly proportional to the level of filth a guy can accumulate and inversely proportional to the distance between home and Laundromat
    10. Doing the old ulta-palti to the underwear once is completely fair. It is even in the Geneva Convention. Doing it twice however, is a grey area and needs to be explored
    11. Getting up at 10 am for a 10:30 lab meeting, showering in under 10 min, and crunching an apple on the way is a perfectly good morning-routine
    12. It is not a coincidence that your cooking turn is on the same day that Papa John’s has a ‘buy one get one free’ offer
    13. It is impossible to dress according to the weather when you live in a basement, hence those embarrassing bundled up moments when the sun is shining after a long hibernation
    14. Whether you’re going to that conference in California or making the big trip to India, packing for more than a half hour makes no sense
    15. Always buy dark bedspreads and sheets to minimize washing: if you can’t see the dirt, it does not exist
    16. A headache does not justify a 911 call. (This one’s for you blondie)
    17. Takeout food is not purchased for taste but for convenience of not cooking and more obscurely because there is no dishwashing involved
    18. Shoveling snow is particularly hard, even though most people I meet seem like they’re extremely handy with shovels
    19. In every department, there is always a guy who looks like he’s buried a few bodies around the campus
    20. There is a fire almost every day in a building with chemistry labs, sometimes more than once. The day we have no fire, we have a fire drill
    21. Almost everyone has a coffee maker in their house with coffee powders of various flavors, yet coffee is invariably purchased on the way to the lab

Manhattan delights

A dear friend of mine once described a concept called ‘patel shots’. When I asked him to elaborate, he said that they were postcard-type photos taken by tourists near all the garden variety tourist spots around a popular city. This guy loved all the nuances of NYC that I could show him, but make no mistake, he could give the patels a run for their money (which is bucketloads, by the way!) in the quest for the unparalleled patel shots! (No offense meant to actual patels!)The other part of Manhattan, that only residents can show you, are the quaint coffee shops, the small but amazing brick oven pizza joints run by the temperamental Italian owners whose moodiness is not only tolerated, but appreciated, all due to their culinary genius.What I am gonna give a preview of right now, is a part of the Lower East Side of Manhattan…a little further off NYU campus. For a long time, the lower east side has been associated with the student and worker crowd, which brings with it fashionable pubs, bars, cafes and well slightly proletariat experience altogether. It was not out of character for the rents to be lower here than say the upper west side (endorsed by the sitcom Seinfeld, as it is based entirely in that area).

Now, however, the paradigm shift has come where the quaint coffee shops are quaint not because they cannot afford to expand, but because the yuppie mindset is tired of the chain stores and eateries and now covets the European bistro/cafe experience. Coffee now costs $4.50 at some places, and people are happy to shell out the duddu.

I am in the process of discovering places which serve great food. Now there is one place I ate just today morning. It is a small breakfast place, where there are long lines on weekday mornings just to get a table for two. If you are in a group of four or more, the reservation card handed to you may as well say “Are you kidding me!” The breakfast was awesome, I had a salmon based entree, with some fresh squeezed orange juice and my cousin had something similar. We wound up the meal with coffee, and the check came with the number $50 on it, which I duly passed on to my cousin, whose face had the calm of a person who had eaten there before, compared to my jaw which was somewhere between the table and the floor! The amazing thing is, with unemployment increasing at the rate of knots, the lines outside places like these (and there are many, mind you) have not been affected at all. You gotta love NYC. There are other reasons too.

Rents are going up as people are now wanting to live here. I, of course, am enjoying the delights of this region as I visit a cousin of mine every weekend, and mooch off him while he picks up the tab, with me realizing all the while that pretty soon, I would have to do this for someone else. Duniya gol hai!

This is the first post of mine where I have rambled on without much direction or purpose, and I really feel indulgent today. You might scoff at my desperation to have my blog read that I did not forewarn the readers of this randomly ambulatory post.