Rigged and Rigmaroled

As We Journey Through the Daily Grind

The Ugly Duckling Revealed

Posted by Rani on June 26, 2009

Oh spare me the beauty-is-from-within lines. Face it, if you aren’t a pretty face, no one is really going to pay attention. Having said that, and as one who is not uhmm….(un)conventionally beautiful (damn), I have, over time, come to believe that beauty is as beauty feels (and does, definitely).

As Ms.Paltrow said, “Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.” — aye aye.

If you want to feel beautiful, you have got to pay some attention. No, the ill-fitting clothes and unkempt hair don’t not matter just because you’re loaded with attitude (the vice-versa converse also holds true). Ahh, so here’s a quickie self-help guide:

1. You can’t change some aspects in the way you look. Don’t even try. You can’t get shorter or taller, fairer, thinner (unless you put in some diligent effort and this is just a quickie guide). So, as any stylist will tell you for $50 an hour, highlight assets and camouflage the rest. But most of all, revel in who you are and how you’ve been created.

2. Dress well. Really. Spend some money already.

3. Love your hair. Again, don’t try to change it (too much). I have wild, unruly curls and I always say you gotta love your curls. Just take good care of your tresses, find a good stylist, and be happy. Your best investment really is a good hairdo and shampoo.

4. Feel good about yourself – others will notice. This includes the whole nine yards of self-development, relationship building blah blah. Yawn. Go read a management book on how.

5. And since beauty is also as beauty does, be good. Ask your mom how.

Yes, I walk into a room with too many models and I feel insignificant. The ugly duckling resurfaces. Then I remember I had a 4.2/5 GPA in B-school (gloat gloat, in your face, baby) and I feel good. Well, not really. These girls are bombs, and they make you feel blah though they probably haven’t even noticed you. Oh, that’s worse. So then I tell myself I’ve read Tolstoy and Kundera and Marquez. Well, something’s gotta work. And something usually does. These moments are rare (phew), I don’t think I’m a piece-of-art, but I do think I’m okay. More than.

 “I’ve developed into quite a swan. I’m one of those people that will probably look better and better as I get older – until I drop dead of beauty.” – Rufus Wainwright

Posted in Out of the Box | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

“Just” a Housewife

Posted by Rani on June 26, 2009

A recent discussion with a friend led me to think of how we view the homemaker (housewife) role. A lot of stop-gap working women see the domestic life as their ticket to easy street, assuming the hubby can afford it (ahem). Being a homemaker means you no longer need to get to work at a particular time, there are no deadlines to meet, no crabby bosses to please. And, your hubby and kids are happy since you’re making these wonderful meals for them and watching soaps in your free time. The women who have to continue to work (since hubby still doesn’t have a six figure salary) resent the demands of being forced to maintain work(ugh)-life balance, which they could’ve had only if they weren’t darned working, grrr.

Cut to the other side – women who were “forced” (for want of a better word) into the domestic life. They would have wanted to work, have a career, make their own money (!!) but domestic demands regulated they be home. For them, being a homemaker is opportunity lost, endless time in cooking and cleaning, and just no rewards for all the work. Yeah yeah, the kids have their moms full time and really I love my kids and want only the best for them, but but…. you get the drift.

The perfect middle path, as Buddha ‘d liked it, would be that you want to be where you are. No guilt about latch-key kids, no feelings of opportunity lost, no negativity. Just happy, even if it’s a constant race against the clock.

As daughter to a stay-at-home mom, I know I was glad for a “full-time” mom growing up. The highlight of our day was the evening snack mom would’ve creatively (yes, that’s the word) made rivalled only by the school snack, oh the anticipation of opening that snack box. But today, as a woman looking at another woman, I wonder about the choices she made. Her domestic life definitely was not the easier route.  No deadlines? When you have three kids that need to be sent to school in time, breakfast and snacks ready, you can’t get slack on timelines. No people to please? I like to think we were non-fussy, but I know we were none too easy to please either. Work-life balance, cutting some slack? When there are no boundaries between work and life, it all becomes one fuzzy whole, and no one cuts you any slack. Would my mom have had it any other way? Perhaps not, she’s one to be happy with her choices. Or perhaps yes, just to see what lies on the dark side of the moon.

So really, where does this pivotal role fit in? I’m old-fashioned enough to believe a woman needs to focus more on home. Oooh, there, I said it. Before the feminists cry foul, I also believe it always takes two to tango and both partners definitely need to be involved in making a house a home. Also that focusing on home cannot and should not be at the cost of your individuality. In reference to an earlier post (here), I finally believe you make a choice, including whether you’re going to be happy with that choice.

Posted in Women's Options and Choices | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Art of Cooking

Posted by Rani on May 3, 2009

As a good friend once said, you can go on about gourmet cooking but when it comes to your daily meal requirements and you’re the designated (usually by force) cook, it has to be a sustainable and replicable process, as should all processes be. Add time-bound, and we have the usual operational suspects.

I enjoy cooking but only “fun cooking”, as I put it. The kind you whip up in style, and lets you finish with not a drop of sweat on your brow. But since I am mostly home-bound (literally) now, the fun cooking quickly petered out to mandatory ward-off hunger-pangs gigs. Read I was in the kitchen a lot more. Also read I felt “domesticated”, a feeling I have resisted too long to succumb to now. And hence was devised my 5-point plan:

1. Lose the coconut. Raised on coastal cuisine, I love it. But it’s just too much work. Yes, even the break-into-chunks-and-blend “shortcut”. The only shortcut I allow is when I can buy the coconut, scraped and ready, with the only work being to add it to the poriyal (or thoran, depending on where you’re from).

Alternative: onions are your friend – make good use of them. Duhh, not in your poriyal, in your sautéed veggie dish.

2. Go Continental, or any cuisine that has more all-in-one meals. Pasta with its sauce base, steak (albeit usually accompanied by mashed potatoes and blanched veggies – how difficult is that?), chinese noodles (all veggies thrown in), chicken biriyani….you get a wholesome meal with usually less than half the effort of a typical Indian meal.

On single-dish complete meals, we don’t feel short-changed, as it were, if we ensure the following:
a. a mix of nutrients
b. a mix of textures: crunchy, silky, chewy (in a good way) – its all got to be there. Even your single-dish pasta provides exactly that with its mix of pasta (obviously), cheese, peas n’ carrots etc.
c. a mix of colors: continuing with the pasta example, we have the green peas, orange carrots, green leaves adding color to an otherwise “bland” looking dish. And red ketchup (ugh! but it works for many) for the finale.

3. Keep it balanced – don’t forget the carbs: an “easy” breakfast of eggs, bacon, veggies, and juice seems fuller (that means the next meal can come that much later) if you throw in some bread even. Mashed potatoes if you want it fancy.

And then, don’t forget the vitamin givers. Read salad. Proteins usually manage to sneak in through some lentil, meat, or egg.

4. Cook wisely: if you do want to go Indian, make more rice at one go. Yeah, you Northies – rice. I love chappattis but not the time it takes! With enough rice to last at least 3 meals, you only need to worry about the rest and not the “main dish”, again

Keep a base of onion-tomato gravy, chicken (or veggie) stock and the like ready, always. These go into more than one dish usually, and it’s so much more culinary when you can just mix all the ingredients in a pre-prepared base.

5. Love your pressure cooker. Yes, the noise gets to you and it is a little scary sometimes (!!) but besides saving cooking gas, it means that much lesser time in the kitchen.

And God help you if you’re the one who has to do the dishes finally (I don’t, much to my domestic help’s chagrin). Invest in those stovetop casseroles and pans – you cook in them, serve in them, and leftovers are stored directly in the fridge in..you guessed it, them. If this breaks the bank, then just go with steel dishes that serve all the above functions.

Cooking, I have found, can be enjoyable even when it’s of the mandatory kind. But I strongly believe (as is my credo when it comes to other things also) that working smart, not hard, is the answer. And really, if the people around you are the kind who appreciate a dish better when so many more hours were put into it…then, fake it!

More is not always more, but not everyone has to know your less is more. Don’t be apologetic about your “shortcuts”, proclaim it. You’re just not allowing the stove to reign. You do.

Posted in Cooking (the easy way) | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

Accountability, thy name is (wo)man

Posted by Rani on April 24, 2009

Too often have I heard the words “I had no choice”. Particularly from women, who see themselves as “victims” of a society or system that holds them back and doesn’t let them be. And then from the great working class who sees work as a necessary evil and would love to leave but..yeah, “I have no choice” (no no, this is not another post on jumping off any darned cliff!).

I think we always have a choice. Its often just that the options available are not what you might want. But we need to get that we choose the path we tread…… So accept it already.

A woman whose husband doesn’t want her to work (with all due respect to his reasons) thinks she has no choice but to stop working. Yes, she does have a choice — (in its simplest and most basic form:) maintain domestic harmony and go with his wishes, or stand up and discuss why she wants to work, why he does not want her to work and how they can resolve it. There is a choice, but it don’t come easy.

Each choice then opens up a vista of new options — if I choose to maintain domestic harmony and go with what he wants, how will I now handle it? With grace and acceptance that it was my choice finally? Or with resentment that this was imposed (when it really wasn’t, I chose for a peaceful home!!)?

Get it — we are a product of the choices we make, and the sooner we take accountability for it, including for those really aaargh choices, the sooner we learn to live. And enjoy. And really, feel a little more empowered that the (sometimes) terrible options notwithstanding, I chose my path, rocks and pits et al.

Just like the nothing of a free lunch, so goes it for free will, or the lack thereof: there isn’t. It exists, you just have to look really hard to see it.

Posted in Women's Options and Choices | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Principle of the Matter

Posted by Rani on April 15, 2009

“The less tall your declarations of principle, the less foolish you will look in retrospect”

This was a random comment from some forgettable movie I saw recently, but it echoed what I often say: you never know how you will react till the moment of fire, as it were, actually arrives. Of course, this is not to say one shouldn’t have principles, it’s always nice (and often necessary) to tell yourself this is how you probably would (should, really) react if a situation were to come up….but the key word is probably, and we need to get that. Every single person I know who has made your typical “I would NEVER do that” statement ends up doing some variant of exactly what they had sworn they wouldn’t. After all, you dont know if you turn pink or blue till the litmus test (!!).

So why bother with principles in the first place? Its your Zen-like question on whether a tree makes a sound when it falls if no one is there to hear it. Principles, I suppose, are your compass. Your guide. Without knowing what we probably would (should) do, we become too…in-the-moment. Now, I’m all for living in the moment – but that compass helps. Just spare everyone the traumatizing yeah-I-got-a-compass-(talking loudly) drill.

Posted in Life's lil' Lessons | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

What’s in a Name?

Posted by Rani on April 15, 2009

I never remember names. Never. Not of real people, I seem to be fairly okay there. Of fictional characters in the various (I hope) books I have read. So much so that one might wonder if I have actually read any of the books I claim to or have just taken the much easier route of wiki-ing the synopsis, an act usually reserved for movies.

Possibly the only book I remember names of even minor characters is Gone with the Wind (try India Wilkes for size). H2G2 is a fairly close second. I want to add Lord of the Rings to the list, but I confess I consciously tried to memorize the names with little success. Go Frodo, go Gandalf!

I believe it has something to do with my relating more to the ethos of the story than the actual characters themselves. Bravo, well said Rani. A good weasel out of the more plausible I’m-just-not-paying-enough-attention reason.  I got to cut me some slack, it probably does have something to do with the first reason.

As with all other issues in life, this poses the eternal question on how the heck it matters. As a self-confessed pseudo-intellectual, one of my vices ought to be to wax eloquent and unintelligbly (to the layman, duhhh) on obscure books and throw in quotes and names. Name-droppers, all of them wannabes.

Ahh, I think the real issue is that I tend to simplify things in order to understand it. Which I’m fine with, because I personally think it’s a rare trait that one can simplify a dense piece to make it understandable to the layman AND without appealing to the lowest common denominator. I really am a pseudo-intellectual….but now, in a better sense of the word. I die happy.

<insert afterthought>: if I think I’m above the layman, maybe I am a pseudo-intellectual after all, and no longer in a better sense of the word. Revert to status quo.

Posted in Random When Bored | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

The Myth of Security (of the job kind)

Posted by Rani on April 11, 2009

For too long, I believed a regular salaried job was the acme of security, provided it was with a stable, sound, and well-run organization. And then the recession came. Of course, I had already started my long pending sabbatical (non-euphemistically a.k.a. break-from-work or even less euphemistically unemployment) by design (read I chose to do this, and you can’t miss that ‘cuz I italicized AND bolded it) when the recession hit and to everyone who asked me whether I was worried, I just said it was too late to start worrying now and I might as well (continue to) enjoy the ride. And to all those who wonder envyingly (actually, it’s usually suspiciously that I’ve lost it) how I manage it all with such élan, I have just one answer – jump off the cliff.

Yeah, jump because that’s the only way you really see that free fall is not such a bad thing (uhmm, assuming you were smart enough to equip yourself with a parachute haversack first).  Because if the recession has shown us anything, it’s been the transitory nature of all things including that regular salaried job with a stable, sound, and well-run organization.

So jump. Voluntarily, on your terms, and in your time.

Posted in Life's lil' Lessons | Tagged: , | 15 Comments »

On the Bandwagon

Posted by Rani on April 9, 2009

The greatest challenge in jumping on the bandwagon is that you’re just part of the herd, and the greatest challenge in not is missing the bus, over and over and over. So here we are, new blog et al and writing about exactly what I swore I wouldn’t write about – how the muses deserted me just as I begin to write.

With the perfunctory intro out of the way, I can settle down to the serious business of writing about nothing at all. The writer’s block is real, but laziness is ‘realer’. To rack your brains on something to write and keeping it cohesive is — well, tiring. As is the entire façade of being a pseudo-intellectual, which I believe is my USP. But a closet one. Oh great, I had to come out of the closet in my very first blog ever. Darn. And before the hounds get me, not that closet – just the intellectual one.

Wait, this is about on or off the bandwagon. Right, so do we and must we be careful to not get left out of ‘key developments that redefine society even as I type’? Do we or don’t we jump on the bandwagon? And do I continue to pretend I really care about this, another key skill in being a pseudo-intellectual.

The long and short of it – the bandwagon demands conformity. And so, we pretend to conform. End result –pseudo. A new bandwagon to jump on, and we all live happily ever after.

Posted in Random When Bored | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »