Malai Paneer – A tale of gluttony

This is a tale of gluttony and sloth. Rather, this is a tale induced by gluttony and sloth. Rather, gluttony -> sloth -> tale.

I had North Indian fare for the first time in months. I love paneer. So I could not resist the idea of ordering in from a new restaurant nearby that had been receiving rave reviews from coworkers recently.

“What is the best paneer dish you have?” I asked over the phone.

“Malai Paneer,” said the waiter, with a dreamy voice that ended in a sigh.

Oh, well, that decided my fate then.

It was as he had promised. The paneer was succulent and soft, the spices and the aroma took me to culinary heaven, and the yummy butter naans they provided made the perfect complement.

I was sated and happy. After a few days of sleeping little due to work, I had chalked up this Friday for Sabbath. Time to sleep. I had wanted to write a longer blog post today, because I have a lot of important things to recount from the past week. Full meals tend to take me by surprise. My body, as used as it is to a meal averaged over a day, and at the maximum two, likes to shut down and sleep when it is treated to rich, creamy food.

Even as I write this, my hands are falling away from the keyboard and it is taking multiple and valiant attempts to keep my eyes open.

I really want to talk about fall colors, but I will have to leave that for next week.



I have heard Kavakos play before, in Atlanta.

I have heard the Sibelius Violin concerto before, and have wept during the second movement. The Sibelius compositions have, for the longest time, reminded me of myself, striving to find myself in a place as stark as the lands that inspired him, as melancholy as the lone violin that attempts to put chords to human frailty in the face of the insurmountable nature surrounding it.

The first time I heard the music, I was mourning someone dear. I skipped down the steps of the Atlanta symphony hall, lost in thoughts, brooding, and I met a young man, too tall and too thin, who asked me if I’d mind coming with him for a cup of coffee. Around us, the rich patrons of the symphony, dressed in their Sunday whites, waited impatiently for their cars to come and pick them up. We headed off to a little cafe off Peachtree, and I remember the pavement was hot under the heat of the Southern summer.

This time, I was making another boring powerpoint presentation, when he came up to me and dangled tickets in my face to the Kavakos performance of the Sibelius Violin concerto.

“A good birthday gift, don’t you think?” he asked, all smug and pompous.

There was dinner afterwards, at that pretentious, expensive French place. I like their oysters and that is worth putting up with the rest of it, during the rare times I can afford it. When we went, everything was sombre, unusually for a weekend. I saw the colors of the French flag placed everywhere, and I heard people speaking in hushed voices about Paris.

“Je suis Paris,” one of them said quietly.

Oh, we can be as liberal as we like, and celebrate all that is diverse, in race and religion and gender, but not all that is diverse should be celebrated, if we know what is good for us, and most of us don’t know that or choose not to know that, most of the time. They have fancy names for everything – confirmation bias comes to mind often. And there is talk of bell curves and outliers.

I met a friend today. He had taught me to play darts and poker. I have become good at the second and continue being terrible at the first. He speaks about the Channel, and about the oceans, and about Canada. It is very clear to me how his thoughts are going. The waitress comes by, buxom and lovely, and asks if everything is all right. I nod, while his gaze lingers on the curve of her hips.

“What happened to Lucy?”  I ask, hoping that I got the name of his last serious date correct.

“Didn’t work out,” he mutters. “Never mind. I have got a surefire way of getting the next one right.”

Curious, I ask him what it is. He tells me, excitedly, about the Game and a Red Pill. I try to keep the skepticism out of my voice and features as I ask questions. Well, I wish him luck. The concepts of alphas and betas remind me of bad fan fiction, but if it works for him, good.

“Women want alpha fucks and beta bucks,” he assures me.

I focus on my hot chocolate as he carries on with the fervour of someone who has found faith.


Annual birthday entry

There are some occasions every year that I make sure not to miss writing a post on. One of them is my birthday. It usually serves as an annual introspection entry too, since it is close to the end of the year. I have heard that the Christmas holidays make some introspective. I have heard that birthdays do the same. Since they happen to fall close in my case, it is a regular introspection-fest in the last six-seven weeks of the year. Looking back, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 all had birthday blog entries holding varying levels of thought and emotion, some immediate and some stretched over that year. What I have cared about has changed over the years, as has the people in my life. In 2011, there was the freshly displaced ‘I’m not a girl and not yet a woman, in a strange land’ pathos. In 2012, there is a great amount of roller-coaster emotions (the Atlanta Symphony, Marcel, Skyrim, Sibelius, Kautilya, Babylon). In 2013, there is great determination to move forward, amidst a terrible job search and general living circumstances. In 2014, there is a painful writer’s block as well as the continued determination to make the best of circumstances and self.

One of the major reasons I keep this blog is to go back, months later, years later too sometimes, and read between the lines of what I had written, and to see what has changed. Some people find self in meditation, some in lucid-dreaming, some in physical activity, and I find mine in my own words and the spaces between them.

2015 has been an eventful year.

In January,  fresh from tasting the wines at Sonoma, I returned to work on a major deadline and that went wonderfully. I was first introduced to the waltz at the after-party by a patient friend. It is a remarkably sensual dance, though it has less flamboyance compared to some of the popular dances these days.

In February, work was laid-back and I attempted to get back to writing. I heard about a friend’s job search travails after a MBA program and hoped for the best.

In March, my life was thrown into a set of major changes and I had to adapt.

April saw me moored on a new shore, starting over again. Starting over again is something I have become remarkably used to, over the course of my life. I fear that I won’t have this resilience the next time, but that is a story for another day. The first months of the year was emotionally a difficult period, and I had to change my living circumstances with short notice in order to improve the quality of life. This was highly stressful but worked out well in the end.

In April, I spent a great deal of time at the Ballet. I visited Los Angeles and saw that it was a city unsuited for someone with my temperament. I wrote; it was ugly and ill-formed, but it was progress. I spent hours in the Getty museum of art admiring watercolour paintings of ships. Rodin was around. I grieved the previous few months and what I had once found great joy in, and I sat down making lists to start attempting to rebuild. The plan was to binge-watch Star Wars and let the hurt wash itself out as I watched their Yoda. Somehow, I never got around to that, but I did binge-read Adam Smith and Mises.

May saw me in Seattle and I met old lab-cronies. I was very glad to meet an old, dear friend who had made tea for me so often in our lab. He spoke to me of humanoids and I listened, rapt, to his war-tales. There was an attempt from Babylon about mending fences, and I tried too, but we clearly spoke different languages at that point and I don’t think either of us really understood what was said by the other person. It happens. Too much water under the bridge.

June saw me running around to get my trip to the motherland approved. It was a warm and lazy summer, and much of it was spent sipping orange-juice on the patio and reading. I did a successful apartment-hunting for the second time this year and won a bargain price near Stanford for a short-term rental.  Sibelius scoffed and complained about the air-conditioning. I dared him and he spent three days scouring Craigslist before admitting defeat. All was forgiven…eventually.

In July, I was travelling with family. I returned to work tanned and a few pounds lighter. There was significant finality in this month as we made our long-delayed decision to stop being a binary system. Whenever I have been asked by anyone about the ‘better-half’, I have always had only instinctual response. It is taking me a long time to break that reflex. You have loved someone for a very long time by choice, and been loved too, and that love has crept into the crevices of you changing the person you are, and it is a wild and new world you wake up to when you have decided to give that up after more than a decade of a mostly functional binary system.

In August, Sibelius dragged me to the symphony multiple times. We watched terrible films, ate tiramisu, avoided responsibilities and got fat. Worried, I ran to the swimming pool. Unbothered, he went off to torment his internship mentor. Since he seems to have semi-switched from his discipline to mathematics, I taught him Mathematica and the power tools of MATLAB. He took to it like a duck to water and was so smug until I tried explaining support vector machines.

In September, there was a racing car I got to drive. There was a lovely woman and I spent a great deal of time in her excellent company. She taught me to bake. I know how to bake cookies. She also taught me to make jam and can it. One of the coolest skills I have picked up in my life, even if I am not a jam aficionado. There was a traumatizing episode at work where they had professional make-up artists come in to help us look good for official photographs. I needed copious amounts of acai bowls to get over that.

In October, work took full-focus, though I managed to get a great deal of writing done too. There was rain, for the first time after a long while. I picked up some Japanese. I think I can handle ordering takeaway and ask for instructions on roads if needed. I drove to Los Angeles and saw an excellent rock concert. I received news that an old friend has finished his doctorate and was planning to take a research position soon.

November now. Looking forward to Thanksgiving in familiar and beloved settings. I have missed that.

Jumper season. I have managed to acquire a few ugly ones, somehow, thanks to a Korean friend’s post-pregnancy clothes-offloading in favour of making away with some of my best scarves.

I don’t have Christmas plans as of yet, but I think work pressure for the annual January media circus might take precedence.

Living alone has worked out exceptionally well for me so far. I have come to understand that I like being on my own, with my thoughts and quirks, writing and working at my own pace, without having to match someone else’s expectations.


Closer | Juice-cleanse | Suffragette | Rain

It rained on Monday. It was lovely, even if a few drivers on the roads drove as if they were suddenly moved to Lima.

Friend is a health-nut that goes overboard.  The latest fad that was rooted into her head was a juice-cleanse. It was supposed to reset her system and remove toxins. It sounded dangerous to be drinking juice and eating nothing for five days and I told her so. She was all strong and determined about it, so there was nothing to be done. There was nothing to be done while I watched her obsessively juicing beets and greens. At least, I could do nothing about it until she daintily fainted at her desk. I bought her lunch at an Italian place and she wolfed down creamy pasta while I chimed in with my ‘I-told-you-so’s. Hopefully, this has ended the obsessive relationship she had with her Vitamix.

She did manage to lose 5-6 pounds.

Will see the suffragette film tomorrow. I have held a keen interest in that history for a few years. It is likely the film is dramatically untrue to the actual movement, but I am going for Meryl Streep. I am yet to get over her acting in Osage County.  I also have a soft-spot for older women who look classy and dominant, and come across as if they have put their lives together after a great deal of struggle.

I walked into work on Monday morning to find the new hire, bleary-eyed and caffeinated, staring at data logs. NIN’s Closer was playing on the speakers.

“Can I help?” I asked, feeling unexpectedly overcome by sympathy, which is a rare thing on Monday mornings.

On cue, a tormented Reznor entreated hoarsely, “Help me!”

“You get me closer to God!”

It put into mind a crucified monkey. Not at all the sort of help I was prepared to offer. So I first went and switched that for Debussy, luckily before the screechy instrumental section started. I did manage to help afterwards, showing him the magic of regex to search for what he was trying to find through tonnes of logs.


a day for the dead | never have I ever

Nov 2 is the Day of the Dead, in the Catholic Calendar. At least, it used to be. They might have shifted it around. They can be arbitrary about such matters. It was a day of going to the mass at the graveyard, leaving garlands white decked against old, grey gravestones. It was a bigger deal in school, I remember. The nuns had a mass to mark the occasion as well as some more rituals. It was marked in my father’s family, I think. I cannot remember very well.

What I like about religion: candles, stained glass-windows, Latin chants, and rituals. Rosary beads under fingers, holy water on the forehead, the comforting cadence of the nuns reciting hail-marys.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated here too. I know about this because I have seen various ‘multicultural’ events hosted at the symphony. They make a big fuss over this (not the occasion, but the multicultural aspect).

I remember the New Testament sentences from Luke about letting the dead bury the dead. It has been ten years and counting, and I still remember my catechism lessons. I wish my memory was this sharp about everything else.

It isn’t the best idea she has come up with. Still, she manages to nudge us into playing, her wilful smile and cajoling words paving the way for that triumph.

So we begin, most of us half-hearted, and she is the soul of innocence as she states she has never had a crush on any of her professors. The rest of us sigh and carry on, and an enterprising son of Southern Europe is even brave enough to talk about an amply proportioned chemistry teacher. Oo la la la, says the Frenchman, and we carry on.

Never have I ever had a crush on a married person, she continues daintily. We sigh and tell her that her obsession with Brad Pitt definitely counts. She tosses her pretty head, glares at us, and dares us all.

The rest of us are considerably less innocent and more circumspect. Carefully, we negotiate and avoid topics that are scandalous.

She looks cheated in the end, and I feel sorry for her, though I don’t feel sorry for having spared her. She really, really does not need to know what most of us do in our prototype vehicles over the weekends. She also does not need to know about the gutters in which our minds dwell most of the time.

However, as always, I am curious as to how exactly anyone can be so…untouched by the world, by the blatant commercialization and advertising of sex and sexuality?


Ten Forgettables

  1. Every now and then, I get a business card that stands out. This week, it was a business card from a Vital Issues Engineer.
  2. It is possible to have a crush on somebody’s code. Deallocating memory and catching exceptions.
  3. We are working such long hours that I know how my colleagues take their tea and coffee, which is more than I ever knew about the beverage preferences of family or friends.
  4. Lady Gaga has such dance moves. So fit, so flexible.
  5. How do I become less distractible? Recommendation systems on Youtube are the devil’s weapon.
  6. A friend has her first dee-jay performance. Will go. In Halloween get up even. (Wednesday Addams).
  7. So many birthdays these two weeks. Family and flames of various intensities.
  8. Mine is coming up too, and I’ll get my standard Dorian Grey lines out for that in the next update.
  9. Comcast has been a bit pesky of late, trying to talk about equipment that was returned. Should have kept the receipts around from three years ago.
  10. I think I am a cat, secretly. I seem to love and hate company in equal and unpredictable measures, and alternate extreme shyness with extreme boldness. Either that, or I am random Tumblr posts taking human form.

Dear Future Husband | All About That Bass | Marilyn Manson (The Theatre At Ace)

I returned after a set of late evening meetings to find Sibelius staring raptly at his laptop screen. There was a woman in the video, decked in pastels and flowers, and possessed of much cleavage, sashaying and swaggering aided by wide, innocent eyes and pouty, red lips.

She was wearing too many layers for it to be porn, but what do I know? It could be some preppy Ivy-league erotica. So I asked. He was quite sheepish and then turned the volume on.

“Dear future husband!” she breathily addressed us, continuing to tell us a laundry-list of what she was looking for.

“Hang on,” Sibelius told me, warming to the subject. “There is another one.”

Apparently, the new codeword for arse is bass. I don’t understand why there is a need for weird slang when there are perfectly usable words in the lingua franca.  A dashing Puss in Boots had once been the star of my favourite nursery rhyme before popular parlance ruined all of that.

“‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places”

It was only Monday evening and I could not justify the Glenmorangie for this, though part of me dimly noted that she looked cute in a vapid sort of way. Of course, she could be the canniest market strategist and this might be her exploitation of a huge market of women made conscious due to various reasons about their bodies.

“You like it?”

“Like what?”

“Her bass, of course!”

I like them with character, unfortunately, and no amount of bountiful, dimpled bass can compensate the deficit of that.

“It is a social anthem of sorts, to kids who worry about their body image,” Sibelius explains, turning the volume off again. “Bringing the booty back. No to body-shaming. Etcetera.”

“Don’t like the music?”

He shudders delicately, all offended, and says that even Verdi was better. Of course, he likes his musicians six feet deep in the ground.


Thanks to the wonders of my credit card company, who have the nicest exclusive offers (their machine learning works), I ended up with prize tickets to see a musician live in LA. The only issue was that I was finding it difficult to procure a concert partner. My usual partners in crime are classical music lovers and they draw the line at Andrea Bocelli. I had to promise Sibelius multiple favours to drag him to the concert. Somehow, it turned into a remarkable journey : we lost our GPS as we went down the 101 near Gilroy and missed the exit that was to take us to I5. Then we decided to let the road take us where it would (hello, Bilbo Baggins!). We went down SR 46, on a whim. It took us deep into California, that vast vista of land between San Francisco and Los Angeles which is of little concern to most everyone. Yet, it was concerning all the same – dryness, parched and cracked earth, hills blistered yellow, dust rising to greet us on the road as we drove by, stillness and deserted farms. “Dustbowl 2016, thank you, Congress”, “No water, no jobs”, “Is growing food wasting water?” and numerous other slogans greeted us all the way until we reached Santa Clarita. The drive down SR 46 was the most harrowing one I have been on. The drought has been a lingering presence in the back of our minds, of course, but this drive made it painfully real and immediate.

“Time to go back to the East Coast,” Sibelius murmured, eyes wide as he took photographs.

When I spotted the exit to I5, I was relieved to be leaving. The place was called Lost Hills, and the entire landscape looked lost. Yet, the I5 was no better. Instead of hills barren, there were plains yellow and baked.

I was brought up in Kerala, amid lands lush and always green, under canopies of trees older than me, where rain was a constant companion and where there were rivers forty-four. Each time I crossed the borders of the state, I died a little, seeing barren lands and vegetation sparse.

“Oh, look!” Sibelius murmured, pointing something out with a sad face.

There was a sign proclaiming that we could get fresh almonds, and there was a plot of land still green, and there were tractors bringing huge vats of water into that driveway.


Los Angeles continues to make my skin prickle – it is too hot, the people are fake and nothing about the place reminds me of the angels it was named after.

Marilyn Manson was in high spirits, and the concert was a delight. He danced and moved his way throughout the songs, singing as if it were his last day on earth, and there was pleasure in watching him give himself so completely to his music and his work. It is always a treat to see someone loving what they do. I have seen him in concert once before, in 2012, with Rob Zombie, and I have to say that this blows that experience out of water.  It is likely that he does better when it is a solo concert without having to synchronise with other bands. I don’t know. In any case, he transported us all into his world, where everything was a bit broken and burnt, but still so brilliant, passionate and vivid.

On the theatrics side, he had foregone his Pope outfit and the stilts. I admit I missed both. He still cuts on the concert stage. I think it made a lot of the watchers uncomfortable. To each his own.

He has also reduced the hump-count (humping the stage, humping the pulpit etc) and instead favored caressing his bass-player. It was cute (seems to be something the bass-player has a lot of experience with, because he didn’t seem startled).

All in all, there is a strange sense of joy in having seen someone come to terms with their chosen life-purpose, on their own terms, because it seems as if he has. This isn’t the mess of 2012 where he went through the motions because people had expected to see him doing so. This seems more about his craft than about paying his bills…though I am sure that he could have paid a lot of bills by reselling the bras that ended up on his stage that night. I wish I was in a job where girls threw their bras at me.

I can drive twelve hours near-continuously on little sleep, because I work for a car-company and I learned to drive efficiently and fast from the best tutors (Japanese, German, Italian – trained on the Suzuka circuit, on the Autobahn, on the Autodromo near Maranello). I drive fast cars, slow cars, manual and automatic, concept cars and prototypes – this has become the second best part of my job. The best part, of course, is making them all autonomous.

I believe in giving references. May these make your weekend as bountiful as they have made mine: