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Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Work Life Balance

I wake up bone tired at 8:00 am . I finish my morning routine and then rush to make rava dosais for the husband before my meetings can start . I manage two eat two pieces of a dosa < almost a half> from what’s left of his breakfast before heading to my meetings . My lunch is a single Omlette followed by a cup of tea. Dinner is a single raga patty , because I don’t have energy left in me to make anything for myself . My head is pounding and my stomach is cramping.

Monday kicked off the second week that I worked from home . As day bled into night and Monday turned over into Tuesday , I moved from meeting to meeting , constantly on my phone , my thoughts and plans blending into mush and fading away. Today , in particular was harsh. I had a meeting from 9:00-9:30 , 9:30-10:00 , 10:00-11:00, 11:00-11:30 , 11:30-12:00 , 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm followed by a final meeting from 3:00 – 3:30 pm. My brain had half turned into mush by the 1:00 pm meeting but having exerted the remaining half during the 1:00 pm meeting , I was completely fried by 3:30 pm.

But the stories weren’t going to write themselves so I soldiered on , until I closed my laptop and crashed into the dreamless sleep like the dead at 6:00 pm. Still sluggish , I wolfed down what remained of dinner and opened the laptop to write the post on Sofia that I wanted to write , only to find that the words didn’t flow. My brain was fried , finito and wouldn’t take any more fuel , thanks to the PMS exhaustion that tired out my already tired brain.

Wisdom comes with age , but in my case it came with exhaustion. I am not a superwoman and I realized today that I shouldn’t pretend to be one. Working women have to bear additional loads during times like these, as our roles of primary care givers and career professionals intersect more often than not , and therefore its all the more necessary to take well timed breaks and naps as we focus on running a long marathon on two divergent tracks.

I make a resolution to plan my day better and take frequent breaks at home and speak to my husband about contributing a little more towards chores at home. I make a resolution to eat clean and conserve enough energy to make myself some dinner everyday. I get up to make a glass of Glucon D , but sit down , hit the publish button , hoping that tomorrow would be a better day.

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Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Day 3

I wake up as the alarm starts chiming and I am in a rare mood. I am in the throes of a PMS migraine and am cramping severely and suffering from lack of sleep. But I wake up , take bath , make some kickass pasta and consume a ton of filter kaapi. I also make it a point to dress as if I was going to work. By 8:00 am , I am raring to get started.

Morning 9:30 am : My elaboration for the next release is complete with the exception of 1 story and I make it a point to brag about it. People sound cheerful over the Phone . I jump to my 10:00 am meeting followed by another meeting at 11:00 ending at 11:30. I set up follow-ups and send meeting minutes and I am suddenly out of gas and lie down for a small nap.

Afternoon 12:45 pm : I wake up a little refreshed and continue working.

Afternoon 1:30 pm : I jump headlong into calls. First there is an hour long covid-19 update call. We are working from home until we hear otherwise and we are not supposed to be coming into work. I check my twitter notifications as people keep asking covid-19 questions. The conversations make me happy . This is a group of people who are super serious about their cricket and its very refreshing to exchange tweets.

Afternoon 2:30 pm : I am hungry and want to sit this meeting out but they have a question for me and so I join in. 2:30 becomes 3 , 3 becomes 4 and 4 becomes 4:30 . My lunch has gone cold. I heat it and settle down for another call

Evening 6:00 pm : I step out of the house after a week. We take the car out for a spin with the intent to grab some takeout. But the NYmag covid piece that I read before stepping out is scaring me out of my wits and good intent. We drive around the nearly empty Phoenix roads for 20 minutes. It starts raining cats and dogs and the roads start flooding. Its time to drive back home.

Evening 7:30 pm : Bhajji for dinner. The smell of Besan , oil and fried bhajjis is intoxicating. Accompanying the Bhajji is the standard rava kesari . I have fond memories of this combination because in a bout of superstition , I had Amma make this for every single world cup game India played during 2003. It worked for most matches but when it failed , it failed spectacularly .

Night 9:45 pm : I dial in to what is supposed to be a 15 minute scrum call. The call runs much much longer.

Midnight 12:00 am : I start writing this blogpost and exchanging tweets and thoughts about test cricket with a bunch of fellow tragics. It has been a good day.

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Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Day 2

Google home keeps waking me up and I ask the assistant to cancel the timer and set a timer for five minutes after. All of a sudden , I’m back home in Coimbatore saying “Amma five minutes” or “Appa five minutes” before burrowing back into the blanket.

Morning 8:30 am : The alarm goes off for the nth time. I’ve overslept. I log in urgently and skim through my emails. By the time I go to take a bath and finish my morning routine , it’s time for my scrum calls. It is not as chaotic as yesterday was – It is a long call though. We are all getting used to the asynchronous working patterns. The call is done and I go about scheduling meetings and setting up touchpoint calls. I start listening to my work from home playlist and start typing away stories . All of a sudden , I feel like I am in prison. There is no one in the room , there is music playing and I am working but I can’t shake off a feeling of malaise. I also have a faint headache , but I keep pushing on because I am in the zone.

Morning 11:00 am : I have the first meal of my day. It is Maggi Atta noodles , three pieces of toast and coffee. I get the feeling that the headache will go away. I come back to my desk / bed and keep typing away. The feeling of malaise keeps growing by the minute. In a moment of desperation , I let my husband share our workspaces . Soon enough , there are more typing noises but sadly no human interaction. I decide to listen to podcasts and 81 all out comes to the rescue. The malaise decreases and all of a sudden , I am back home in Coimbatore , in our drawing room. There is a cricket running in the background. Appa and I discuss the game and I am nodding to what Appa says in deference to his age and experience that comes from having played the game.

Afternoon 3:00 pm : I take a second break – It has been a long working day. I settle credit card bills , get on twitter and rhapsodize about cricket. I was actively calling for the game to cancelled because of covid-19 but I am also missing the game or any sport for the matter. I read my emails and realize that people are calling for suppression until July. I WhatsApp a colleague who lives in the same community and we exchange notes on supplies. The apartment management sends an email requesting people to not flush wipes and other toilet paper replacements down the pipes as it may clog the ground floor toilet. We live on the ground floor and this is one more thing that I have to worry about.The faint headache is now a full blown migraine. I look at the period tracker app and realize that this is my regular PMS migraine. I know I have to take my pills but I don’t and I keep working on.

Evening 6:00 pm : There is an argument at home that makes me lose my temper. I don’t react and walk away and that is making me even more upset . Then there is the migraine. I shut down my laptop despite not reaching my work target and stretch. I have to finish dinner prep. I have some tea and make Chole with the intent to have Chole and Patties for dinner. I check my emails , make some Amazon orders and get into the shower. I crash on the bed , close my eyes and get back to sleep lulled by that amazing bath.

Night 10:30 pm : I end up taking the painkillers and have to stay awake , waiting for it to kick in. I collect laundry from the dryer , plan the next day and update the blog post. I’m lined up for meetings tomorrow and I am actually excited to talk to people over the phone for an extended period of time.

Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Day 1

I am a self confessed lazy bum and home bird. I don’t get out of bed if I don’t have to . I don’t step outside home if I don’t have to . Therefore , I thought that this self isolation thing was easy. This was on Friday , when the work from home routine started.

Morning 6:00 am : Google home keeps screaming . I wake up , thinking that I’ve overslept but I have not. I check work emails , take inventory of the refrigerator and log onto Amazon Fresh. They have the items I need in stock but no delivery window for the next three days. I try a multitude of websites before giving up my search and placing an insta-cart order , keeping my fingers crossed that the store I ordered from would have inventory. I look at the clock and it is 7:30.

Morning 9:00 am : I complete my morning routine of bath , prayers and filter coffee. My husband and I chart out our work territories. I work from the bedroom and he works from the living room , at-least for now. I connect to spotify from google home and start replying to emails and queries.

Morning 9:30 am : Scrum Call . My network is patchy , but I make a concentrated effort to listen carefully and give precise updates. The VPN keeps logging me out because Cox Internet keeps throttling my service. Frustrated with this , I tether internet from my mobile device thankful to my privilege and pay check that allows me to have this functionality.

Morning 10:00 am : Insta-cart notification – Of the 18 items I requested , only 3 are available. I am defeated and somewhat angry. The rational part of my mind reassures me that I did the right thing by not hoarding supplies and that I would have to address this on a day by day basis.However the emotional part of my mind chides me for not hoarding supplies and anticipating this day. I shut my emotional voice up , chalk it down to anxiety and continue working.

Morning 11:30 am : I’ve been on phone with Cox trying to get my wi-fi back and ready to tear my hear out. My father in law comes back from a morning excursion that I was not aware of. He has been to three grocery stores and has been able to gather some essentials . We finally have enough Milk to last the week and some veggies. I’m extremely grateful that he did this and extremely angry at the same time. He is in the 70+ age bracket and has underlying health conditions. I ask him to stay at home and he brushes away my concerns , gently. I send out an angry tweet at Cox and continue working

Afternoon 12:30 pm : No music , patchy internet and stalled progress makes me a grumpy girl. I run a load of laundry and notice that we are running out of Laundry Detergent , Soap , Shampoo and Conditioner. I start looking online for supplies . Cox offers to send technicians home but I politely refuse , stating that I have senior citizens living with me. I keep writing user stories. The internet comes back and so does the TV . We keep hearing news about restaurant closures , shop closures etc . The leasing office sends an email and drops a notification that all amenities are being shut and requests that we only raise emergency requests and that if we are sick and have an emergency maintenance , they would have to work with Department of Health to determine how to address the same. Non emergency requests are put on hold. If you have one working bathroom , you are lower on priority they say. I completely understand and am appreciative that they are taking these measures. But thanks to the numerous dystopian and disaster fictions I have read , I feel dread creeping in . The husband starts watching Contagion and I munch on salad and keep writing them stories.

Afternoon 3:00 pm : Dial into a meeting. We make jokes about foraging supplies. We disconnect from the meeting and I make plans with the husband to go for a walk and get some air.

Evening 5:00 pm : Mother-in-law works in retail and Father-in-law picks her up. They make a target run and bring back tide. I order shower gel , shampoo and conditioner online. Husband is still watching Contagion. I still need tide and toilet bowl cleaner , but suddenly I am bone tired. I go to sleep , knocked out only to wake up much later.

Late Night 10:00 pm : Dial into offshore scrum . We discuss status . I share a pic of empty store shelves. A friend of mine has doodled Hermione Granger today. I seek her permission and update display pictures. I settle down to hunt for Dishwasher liquid and toilet bowl cleaner . The former I find on amazon and the latter on target. They will be delivered on 03/27. I order them anyway , hoping that my existing supply would hold good until then. I chide myself for not buying one of all supplies when the whole world was in frenzy but the rational part of my mind says that I did the right thing then. Its okay I’ll be good.

I write a stream of consciousness blog post , even as the husband starts watching yet another virus disaster movie , this time , the outbreak.

I hit the post button and move to make myself some coffee so that I can get some work done. Day bleeds into night and night bleeds into day as I settle into self isolation like Dravid used to construct an innings on a vicious pitch. It ain’t easy but with grafting it would become comfortable. I vow to write everyday and I sigh.

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A Random Friday Evening…

The sun is still shining bright as I finally exit the building. The parking lot is empty and I wave to a colleague and start walking towards the car . Five minutes later , I roll down my window , tap my feet in rhythm with the song playing on the stereo and take the salty summer breeze in , which melds together with the AC still warming up to concoct a heady mix that reminds me of peak coimbatore summer with the whiny symphony air cooler.

Madison is a small college town but a minute later , I get hit by the Friday evening Traffic Jam. It takes me two signals and two loops of O Kalala to finally hit the beltline and then it is the weekend officially. Mom and Dad < in-laws> are chatting in the great room, sipping their coffees and ruminating about the days gone past and the days to come. A couple of parathas and paneer bhurji helpings later , the husband comes home and it is evident that he’s had a super draining day. I pour white chocolate liquor into the blender , add ice cubes and vanilla ice-cream and blend it all into a feel good cocktail that we sip as we go about opening mails , paying bills and activating cards . We make plans for the evening and the in-laws settle down to their TV.

The drive downtown is not super bad ,may be because its a Friday. We reach our friend’s apartment , make our cursory greetings to the parents and crowd around the baby , the newest arrival to our gang of work colleagues and significant others . Our phones and laptops lay forgotten , as we play with the little one , breathing in that new born smell and vying to change her diaper. Our bubble bursts when the little one needs to take a nap, and we get back to our laptops , phones , emails and timesheets . The TV drones on , with Jyothika preaching to teachers and students alike . Jokes and jibes are traded and I suddenly feel that this random Friday evening is not that random after all. I smile , close my emails and start writing.

Varadan and Chitra

I was not going to publish this post for two reasons. For one , the spoilers would ruin the movie for a lot of people and I wanted to analyze this particular relationship with its nuances , angst , resentment and all related baggage for a longer time before sharing my thoughts for the world to see. But then I had this long DM with PV and I suddenly felt like writing and so here I am. I’d offer one warning though – stay away from my post until you have seen Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and have had the time and patience to let the movie sink in.

Varadan is a selfish man just like his brothers. But what sets him apart is this inherent inferiority complex and resentment against his father who may have married his mother in a Tudor like set up to consolidate power . <It is implied that Senapati murdered his wife’s father , was a serial philanderer and was an emotionally distant father and extremely controlling one when it came to Varadan> .  Varadan is married to his first cousin Chitra and it is implied that his father imposed the marriage and Chitra on him and Varadan resents the marriage and Chitra by extension .

There is this simmering resentment between the two but  there is also trust and he depends on her to hold things together at the home front. Chitra  knows the family and Varadan inside out warts and all.  She is blunt , calls a spade a spade and is his emotional crutch and de-facto second in command. She is his mirror and there is nothing that is hidden from her including the paramour . Chitra knows about Parvati and is probably more than a little hurt that her husband loves to wind down with the other woman and not with her. But you don’t see her cry about it. Parvati , to her , is one of the many paramours and she has probably seen men in her immediate family stray and cheat that she appears to take this in stride.

Her love and complete devotion to Varadan is not reciprocated in kind and one gets the feeling that Varadan probably sees her more as an ally than as a wife and that status quo continues until they have to run for their lives. Chitra refuses to abandon her man and matches him step by step as they seemingly outwit their foes and gain a safe abode. There’s a lull where they indulge in normalcy  : Varadan , Chitra and their henchmen and then she is caught in the cross fire and is fatally shot.

Varadan rushes to the hospital , never leaving her alone for the moment and you see this vulnerability in his eyes that makes you realize that he loves Chitra in his own way. On her death bed she asks him to abandon her and escape to ensure that their kids at least have one living parent and even then he doesn’t give in or give her the comfort/assurance she seeks . He refuses to abandon her and goes on to lament about his mistakes.  In a very vulnerable moment , she asks if he is alluding to their marriage when he is talking about his sins and mistakes . He is quick to say no , but in true selfish Varadan fashion goes on to make that Macbeth like confession and she passes away as he is ranting , denied of comfort ,  emotional assurance or even a few words of love that she very much deserves. Varadan , the selfish man that he is , knows only to take and even in her death , Chitra is deprived of the attention and affection she desperately craves from her man. But once she is gone , Varadan becomes unhinged and goes on that splendidly choreographed rampage and therefore Chitra’s death is in a way Varadan’s death too.

With Parvati , Varadan is dominant yet passive.  She feeds his ego and he feeds her back < literally > .You get the sense that with Parvati , he is probably playing at his version of happy families , where he is the caretaker , the care giver and the man who does not have flaws. One gets the feeling that Parvati is very important to Varadan. Heck even Parvati , Chitra and maybe even Varadan feel the same about it . But once Chitra is gone , taking away that blanket of emotional strength and support , you realize how important Chitra is to Varadan . May be Varadan also realizes the fact only when it’s too late and the situation is beyond salvation.

Varadan strays , not because he is seeking love , but because he is seeking control. Being with Parvati makes him feel in control whereas with Chitra it is probably the other way around. She knows too much about him for his comfort : his ambitions , inferiority ,  baser instincts , selfishness , self doubt , resentment , suffocation are all known to Chitra and even as he takes a lot of emotional support from her , he resents her because she sees too much and knows too much and Varadan simply cannot come to terms with it and by the time he attempts to man up , everything is done and dusted . There is love behind all these smokescreens but ultimately that love is toxic and is not of any help.

May be , there is redemption waiting for Varadan and Chitra in a different universe – one where he is a little selfless , tactful and sensible and one where he grows to love her. In that universe , maybe Chitra and Varadan would grow into Senapathi and Lakshmi . Maybe there is a better world where Chitra has had enough of this family , takes an out from it when offered and is happily settled in Coimbatore with her children away from all the toxicity , venom and violence. In yet another universe , Varadan and Chitra are running the syndicate together , him providing the strength and her providing the brains . May be in all these universes , Chitra is still unhappy as she only knows to give but not to take or may be she is happy , because she gets to be her man’s emotional anchor . One never knows , because alternate universes rarely exist and even if they do , one can never predict which way things are going to go .

Varadan and Chitra are not real but they felt like real people ( thanks to the brilliance of the actors who carried the part with elegance) with real issues and for a few hours after the movie , I brooded about why Chitra was dealt such a poor hand by the God above and why Varadan couldn’t be man enough to acknowledge all that Chitra has done for him and at least try and repay that in kind.

Thank you Mani Ratnam , for making me feel that .

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96 – A conversation

Love can be one-sided but a love story always has two sides. A man and a woman will have different things to say or have different ways to say things , at least in real life.

That , unfortunately is not the case when it comes to our films. More often than not , you have a man fantasizing about how he would like a woman to respond and 99 times out of 100 the response will be in a tone that that borders the servile. Women do write beautiful lyric but they don’t get the same space or footing and therefore their voices get drowned out in the din. Thankfully , 96 breaks the precedent . The album is nothing but a conversation between a man and woman on equal footing , where their views are given equal space and importance.

Karthik Netha waxes lyrical about love in Anthaathi , elevating the emotion to an omnipresent entity . To him , love is a dance that your mind and heart indulge in as you go about the world , a never ending search that remains your constant companion through life , adapting to you as you change to the rules and roles dictated by love. In Thaabangale , Uma Devi picks up from where Karthik left off . Love and desire have a form and shape she says . They tell their own story she adds , a story in which the racehorse of time takes you to that time and place in the past where echoes of a similar desire and love can be felt.

Yaen is a role reversal of sorts where Karthik gives voice to a woman who is clueless and hurting. Look at the way he paints her portrait  by describing her surroundings – The skies are grey , the clouds are missing , life is a puzzle and the path through it is drenched in tears that are prayers to find the missing. Her eyes are searching for him for he has left the city , but the heart keeps dissuading her search as he has forsaken his roots. The imagery is so vivid that you can envision a woman trying to soldier on despite the pain.

Uma Devi , on the other hand compares separation to a wasting spring  and a long stretch of never ending distance among other things. She compares the woman to the waxing moon of love and that comparison immediately took me back to the famous “Veramendrol valai negizhumme koorai thozhi yaan vaazhumaare” lines that speak so eloquently about separation angst. Vasantha Kalangal is all about Chinmayi and that brilliant guitar in the beginning , but once Uma’s lines take hold , they hold your heart in a vice grip and never let you go.

“Indha Thaamarai kulam neeril thani aaguthe. Athan Sooriyan pagal indri veyyil kaayuthe.

Oru paathaiyil iru jeevan thunai thedudhe. Ada kaalangal thadai meeri thadai poduthey. Nee indri naane dhinam vaazhavadhoru vaazhvaa , vaazhve vaa , nee thaan uyirin uyire “

Take a look at the uvamais in Iravingu Theevaai.  Karthik hails love in Anthaathi, and feels that a content life is one where  love is present in some form of other. Uma on the other hand , feels that a life without her lover is worthless , memories and love be damned. Her comparison of the woman to a lotus isolated in a pond sans her life line is poignant . Her comparison of the man to the sun who’s roasting in his own heat amidst the darkness is equally poignant .

If at all Karthik gets an edge , it is in “Life of Ram ” where his words paint the story of the male protagonist , a man who’s learning his lessons late in life . A man who is a slow learner, but keeps learning and keeps moving on. Karthik’s words help us paint a picture of the man and his past , his present and his hopes for future.  In the larger scheme of things though , this piece does not influence the larger conversation and for that I am super happy.

I set out on a mission to write about the music of 96. It is the best soundtrack to have come out of the Tamil Film Industry so far this year. It also has the distinction of having provided the same scope and space to its male and female vocalists . That in itself is a rarity. Govind then goes one step further and sticks with a single male voice and a single female voice for a major part of the soundtrack. The tunes are lovely , the guitar , flute and violin are soulful and dreamy and yet after multiple repeated listenings , it is the lyric that stands at the forefront – so much so that I am unable to look beyond them. One day , I will write about the music and singing for they deserve their own post. Until then , I am going to lose myself in this conversation and its words.