Saturday, January 29, 2011

La Dolce far Niente...

...that's Italian for the "the sweetness of doing nothing". And boy, do they have that right! I am beginning to feel some of these European countries really have their priorities sorted out. I mean, the Italians have a phrase like this which pretty much advocates laziness, the Spaniards have their 'siesta' or afternoon nap - another beautiful concept. After yet another hard week's work, I feel sweet idleness is the true road to nirvana.

I mean, seriously, why is doing nothing so bad? Is it because the work ethic is so deeply instilled in us that to do nothing is seen as defeatist? Why do we push ourselves so much, constantly striving to reach who knows what - more money, a bigger house, a better car. And we slot our pockets of relaxation - one Sunday a week, one week off every six months or so. And even then there's this pressure to "do" something, "go" somewhere.

The more I think about all this, the more I find myself wondering what is the point of all this rush - waking up in the morning as soon as possible, rushing through breakfast, spending 11 stressful hours at work running between meetings, briefings, mails, desperately trying to finish a piece of work in the vain hope that it will give you some time to breathe, hurrying back home because its late, rushing through dinner and then trying to squeeze in some quality time with family before collapsing into dreamless sleep. Then there are vacations which have to be planned, social networking to be conducted, keeping oneself up-to-date with the latest news and views. And we do this day after day. No wonder we often wonder where the day, the week, the year disappeared.

Why this tearing hurry which leads nowhere, like running on a treadmill of activity? All we are doing really is sprinting through life, just hurtling towards the eternal end. What we really need, what I really need is to just Stop and Take a deep breath. Spread my time for "Niente" through the day rather than just once a year. Cut down on all the fevered activity and consequently cut down on a lot of stress. It is time to take control of our lives, to realize that the present is what we need to enjoy. The past is done with and the future may never be ours. If you are not at peace with yourself and able to savour your own company, then all the activity in the world cannot help you.

Peace is not to be found in travel to exotic lands or in going to the poshest clubs. Even something as simple as sitting beside your window looking out at the rain can be peaceful or watching your baby sleep or realizing how each petal of a flower is a work of art or looking at the shapes the clouds make in the blue sky... So to adapt a popular tagline, 'doing nothing IS possible'. I just hope one day I can achieve this. Best of luck to me and to you! :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Forever

"I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour...
I'll be there for you, like I've been there before...
I'll be there for you...'coz you're there for me too!"

Yes, these lines are from the popular and much-loved US sitcom, FRIENDS. I caught myself humming this tune the other day and realized that I knew the words to the whole song. I had memorized it without even realizing it. And that's just one example of how this serial becomes a part of your life. I am a huge FRIENDS addict and have seen not just all the seasons but also multiple reruns of the same. In fact, FRIENDS is one of those rare serials whose appeal does not diminish over time and which is consistently funny.

FRIENDS started off in 1994 and continued through 10 seasons right until 2004. I remember watching an episode on Star World (or was it still Star Plus back then?) and then catching another on Zee Cafe on the same day. FRIENDS was and still is, one of the best ways of passing a lazy Sunday or enlivening a tired weeknight at home. Every episode with the sitcom's central characters, Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe was sure to generate several grins, a few chuckles and a couple of belly-laughs.

The gang who hang out at Central Perk the New York coffee house, became such a big part of my life growing up that my friends and I often refer to their exploits or try to decide which FRIENDS character we are most like. Here's a short roundup of the six key characters around whose lives this serial revolves:

Ross Geller (David Schwimmer): Thanks to him, we know what the word "paleontologist" means. He works in this capacity at the New York Museum. He is quite geeky with his love for dinosaurs and fossils and is not street smart at all. He is Monica's brother and has been Chandler's college roommate. He has long had a crush on Rachel and has an on-off relationship with her. Despite being a decent guy who wants nothing more than to settle down happily, much to his chagrin, he has been divorced three times. The first time (to Carol) because his wife turned out to be a lesbian, second (to Emily) because he said the wrong name at the altar and third time (to Rachel) because he got married when he was drunk. He has two children: a son Ben from his marriage to Carol and a daughter Emma with Rachel.

Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston): She starts off as the spoiled daughter of a rich doctor who runs away from her wedding. She finds her feet with the Central Perk gang by learning to live on her own by first working as a waitress and then using her natural fashion sense to work as a buyer in fashion house of Ralph Lauren. She also knows Ross and Monica from high school and shares a room with Monica. She is always very stylish and the kind of girl all the guys fall for. She is also credited with giving us "The Rachel" - a layered haircut that she popularized on the show and which was then adopted by women all over the world.

Monica Geller (Courteney Cox): The mother hen of the group who loves being the hostess. By profession she is a chef and is often rustling up some delicacy or the other. She is also known for her obsessive-compulsive and competitive nature. Everybody knows Monica will get mad if there is any kind of mess around. Monica has a history of being extremely overweight and some flashback episodes show her like this leading to much hilarity. Monica eventually finds love with Chandler Bing and marries him.

Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow): The singer of "Smelly Cat"! Phoebe is an eccentric masseuse and musician. Phoebe is known for her toneless self-written guitar songs which everyone pretends to like. She is in her own words, "flaky" but is also street smart having to be on her own on the streets of New York City. Her previous lifestyle and wild stories often shock her friends. She also has elaborate stories about her previous lives. She has evil twin sister named Ursula who is completely self-centred and with whom she doesn't get along. She has also acted as surrogate mother and given birth to triplets for her step-brother and his wife. In the last season, she marries Mike Hannigan played by Paul Rudd.

Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc): He is a struggling actor and food lover who shares a room with Chandler. They initially live across the hall from Rachel and Monica. Joey finds fame (and stalkers) with his role on Days of our Lives as Dr. Drake Ramoray. Joey is a womanizer with many short-term girlfriends throughout the series. To woo the girls, he uses his standard catchphrase, "How you doin?" to great effect. Joey's key charm lies in being a child at heart and a loyal friend.

Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry): He is the wise-guy of the group and is always cracking sarcastic jokes about everything. He used to work in a vague analysis job for a large multi-national corporation but is not happy at it so he quits and becomes a junior copywriter at an advertising agency during season nine. He has had an unhappy childhood with his father being a Vegas burlesque dancer and his mother an erotic novelist. Chandler hates Thanksgiving since his most vivid memory of Thanksgiving was when he was nine years old and his mother and father told him they were getting divorced so his father could run off with the house-boy. Chandler therefore refuses to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way. So every Thanksgiving episode has a backstory about Chandler. As Joey says, "It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Chandler bumming us out!" Though he started off as the one with the most problems with commitment, Chandler is the first of his friends to settle down happily with Monica.

Due to its popularity, the show has also seen several celebrity stars appearing in guest roles. These include Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, Julia Roberts etc. And one of the best parts about FRIENDS is that the actors became good friends even in real life. They negotiated jointly for pay hikes and insisted on being treated as an ensemble cast without any member being given more importance than the other.

Essentially FRIENDS was a story of six young people on their own and struggling to survive in the real world using the comfort and support of their friendship. It struck a chord with so many viewers because one could identify with each one of the characters at some point of time or the other. We have all been a little geeky, a little sarcy, a little control-freakish, a little crazy and so confused a lot of the time.
For those of you who have watched it, you know what I mean. And for those of you who haven't, go watch an episode don't know what you're missing!
Here's a toast to one of my favourite serials, something that has brought so much laughter into my life: a promise to be FRIENDS forever!

Picture courtesy: Google Images

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Auld lang syne

The story of my life as written on a T-shirt - "So much to do, so little time".

Have been completely submerged in work post X'mas. Hoping that this is just a phase and will pass and really worried that this may be for keeps. I am used to working hard and generally average around 10 hours at work each day. But at this time of the year, when winter finally, unbelievably and enchantingly, descends on my city and all I want is to warm myrself in the sunshine, I am spending around 12 hrs cooped up inside office. And while I get all existential and wonder why I am screwing my happiness like this, my fingers (and toes) are crossed hoping for a better time soon. that I've got the self-pity out of my system, let's talk about happier things. I have quite a few good novels stacked up and waiting to be read since I went on a book-buying spree recently. Currently reading Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants". It's a voluminous tome but pretty interesting so far. Also finally purchased Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". I had really liked "The Kite Runner" and I've heard good things about this one too. My Sherlock Holmes is not over as yet either. Also pending is the third book in the Millennium trilogy, "The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest". Have lost interest in this though due to its long-winded writing style, replete with unnecessary details. Also have a Frederick Forsyth ("The Afghan") and Wodehouse ("A pelican at Blandings") waiting. If you are a book-lover, you will understand the joy the very thought of these treasures brings me. I am a member of a library near my office and those hurried walks in the evenings to reach the room full of musty books is sometimes the high point of my day.

Since we are into the New Year and New Decade, its clearly the time for resolutions. I hadn't thought of any new ones this year since I realize that a 'copy-paste' of last year's would work fine. The goal I've set myself is to do at least one new thing - join a gym, a music class, a language class, learn to drive. Start with minimum one activity. My focus is also going to be on watching what I eat since am beginning to gain weight. But two weeks into this year and the report on this is pathetic. In fact, am dreaming about a Cheeseburst pizza even as I write! Who would have thought the perennially skinny kid, whose mom tried everything under the sun to make her gain weight, would one day have to think twice about food. Blame it on our sedentary lifestyle. Gone are PT classes, the Lock 'n Key games, the long walks to the Metro station, the running up and down staircases. Just some of the things the last decade took away with itself.

I remember my graduation and MBA days as some of the best of the last decade. I studied what I really wanted to, saw some academic high points, gained the confidence to participate in more extra-curricular activities and made many good friends. I also started working in the middle of the last decade and stepped into a whole other dimension of life. I gained financial independence, the satisfaction of tackling new and different challenges and best of all, the chance to travel to lands beyond India.

The last ten years were also a period of great change for me emotionally, turning a shy, reserved girl into a much stronger person than she could have ever believed possible. This girl saw some tough times especially in the last few years when death and disease struck at her family. She felt ravaged by pain unlike any she had known before. But she also discovered a small flame of optimism in her that refused to go out. And so she hopes that this decade will bring a better time, a happier time. For her family, for herself and for you too. Touchwood!

Happy New Year and may God bless us all!