Pizza Panic- PART II

Previously on Anusha’s most embarrassing experience: A waiter at Pizza Hut has just asked our young protagonist to sing before everyone in the establishment because it is her birthday.

At this, he was met with hearty applause and cheers from his fellow coworkers. Hurrah! Hurrah! We shall make this shy little girl make a fool of herself in public! Hurrah! Hurrah!

And in all of this happy hullabaloo, I sat there shocked and motionless, as if all of my wits had suddenly abandoned me. Me sing? At Pizza Hut? In front of all of these strangers? On my birthday? NOW?

It was as if I had been given some incongruous puzzle that I was slowly piecing together. My first, instinctive response was denial.

“I don’t really want-” I was suddenly cut off by the eager voices of my family members.

“Sing, Anusha! Sing! Sing for us!” they chanted incessantly.

All at once, I wanted to run as far away as I could from that place, demanding that my pizza be on the go.

But I couldn’t. I had been conveniently squeezed between my uncle and cousin, leaving me helplessly glued to my seat.

Slowly realizing that there was no way out of it, I meekly asked the apparently sadistic waiter what song I should sing.

He grinned at my forced compliance and asked me to stand on the table that we had previously been eating on.

Still incredulous that this was actually happening, I gulped and felt my feet clamber onto the hard surface of the table.

I looked down to see my family members smiling at me from miles away. They seemed to be saying indistinct words of encouragement. I couldn’t be quite sure because the only sounds I was aware of were my rapid heart beat and the blood rushing up to my head.

I made the mistake of looking away from them and at the other people seated in the restaurant. There were several other families who had ceased their pleasant conversations to turn and look at me in anticipation. They were waiting. For me. To sing.

Having fulfilled his request to stand on his cruel platform, I repeated my question in a quiet, timid voice.

“What song should I sing?”

“‘Vande Mataram!'” someone shouted. The hymn to the Indian mother land? Oh no, I would just awkwardly stumble through the Sanskrit and Bengali, making a bigger idiot of myself.

“‘I Will Always Love you!” came another voice. Seriously? A Whitney Houston song? What were these people thinking?

At last there came, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!” Well I mean, I knew all the words. The song would only last thirty seconds if I sped through it, mercifully ending my public humiliation. It seemed like the best option.

“I’ll do it,” I said audibly. I had had enough of this nightmare. It was time for me to face the music. Literally.

I began to sing loudly and clearly, staring fixedly at the ceiling so that I wouldn’t have to look at my audience.

Only now can I imagine how hilarious the entire situation must’ve been. A small ten year old girl standing on a table at Pizza Hut singing “Twinkle Twinkle,  Little Star” to the ceiling. If it hadn’t been me standing at the mercy of my family and Pizza Hut, I probably would’ve died of laughter.

When I had finally finished the painful ordeal, I heard scattered applause. I looked at my family once more to see jovial smiles and several thumbs up, but I was burning in shame and anguish.

Maybe I had just imagined it, but I thought I heard a child’s derisive laughter come somewhere from the audience. That was it. I had done terribly. All of this had been a cruel mockery of my subpar singing abilities.

My embarrassment clung to me like unpleasantly wet clothing that I wore all the way back to my grandmother’s house.

And while the agony I feel whenever I recall the event has dulled with time, I still cringe a little whenever I see Pizza Hut looming in the distance. I call it “Pizza Panic”.


Concealed Curls

I’m going to start off by stating a simple truth: We all want what we don’t have. From jobs, to homes, to people,  to clothing, to basically everything else, we’re always striving to achieve something that is just out of our reach. And when we finally get the object of  our concentrated efforts and aspirations, when our dreams have finally materialized, we simply move on to the next thing. Oh I got that internship, well let’s see if I can get this job. I finally got got this person’s number! Now why aren’t they calling me?! Oh my plant has just grown a leaf! When will it ever flower and bear fruit?! (While I am exaggerating a bit, I’m striving to make a point).

And while this chronic dissatisfaction with what we’ve achieved so far is beneficial in that it pushes us towards greater success, it’s also unfortunate in that we fail to appreciate what we already possess.

And even in spite of my worldly rant of the subject, I too am guilty of this. I too have obsessed over something to the point of tears. And what have I always desperately wanted, craved, desired, and aspired for, one might ask?

Straight hair.

Yes, you read that right. Sleek, shiny, smooth and manageable. Ever since I was little, I loathed my puffy curls, viewing them as an unsightly burden. All of the glamorous celebrities would have flawless smooth strands framing their gorgeous faces. Oh how I envied them. How I longed to possess their seemingly effortless beauty.

I’d stare in the mirror dejectedly, cursing every strand on my head to its roots. Why? Why can’t you just stay in place? Why must you always rise like freshly baked bread! Why must you always curl into a messy tangle of springs! Why can’t you just be perfect and straight!?

Each day this ritual of self-loathing went on and on, until I’d decided to forever hide my unsightly curls by braiding them into pigtails. And this wasn’t just once or twice a week. This was every day. 24/7 from preschool all the way into middle school.

My friends would sometimes ask, “Why don’t you ever leave your hair out?”

“Why don’t you ever do anything new with it?

I treated these inquiries with a mixture of fear and dread, immediately seeking to evade their hair-related inquiries. There was no way they could see the hideous monster that lay behind the neat braids. No. No. No. There was no way. I would have to distract them somehow.

“Yeah, I totally will guys…Oh hey did you do that math homework last night! Super hard, am I right?”

And so it went, on and on, my constant battle against my gnawing insecurity. Upon reaching high school, I realized that pigtails may appear too juvenile and so gently transitioned to a ponytail. And even this was met with tremendous encouragement from my friends.

“Wow, Anusha! I love your hair! It’s so bouncy and curly!” they cried at the site of my partially exposed hair.

“Aww thanks, guys!” I’d always gush. But even then an insidious little voice would always whisper, they’re only saying that because they’re your friends. It’s hideous. Keep it away.

And so throughout my four years of high school, I allowed my hair only a little more freedom in a ponytail, which I would sport tirelessly on a regular basis. Of course, it wasn’t long until I encountered the same problem that I faced in middle school.

“Anusha, why don’t you ever leave your hair out?”

I cringed. Oh the agony! Why does everyone want to see my horrible hair?! Why can’t they just let it be?! Why can’t a ponytail be enough for you demanding fools!? 

As always, I continued to retreat further into my insecurities, evading the question altogether, refusing to entertain their imploring requests.

Then before I knew it, my first year of college hit, and I was still rocking my ponytail. With all of the new friends and people I met on campus, my hair history wasn’t much of an issue. After all, most people didn’t even know about it. It just seemed like it was a strong personal preference rather than the harrowing insecurity that it was. So I wore a ponytail everyday, what was the big deal?

But it didn’t take long even for my new friends to notice. You didn’t have to be a genius to see that I was desperately hiding from my hair, choosing to always keeping it back and away from my face. And even with my insistence on the hairstyle, something always tugged at me at the back of my mind.

Yeah, Anusha. Why can’t you wear your hair out like everyone else? I’ve seen other curly-haired girls do it, and they look great!

And then I remember a conversation I had with one of my friends  while we were studying for our respective classes. Somehow she had strayed far from her analysis of the demand and supply curves of monopolistic competitions and I from my synthesis of 2-pentanol, and we instead found ourselves watching an extended string of Dove commercials on YouTube.

When we’d gotten to the one where Dove tricks several women into believing that their new product, the “Beauty Patch” significantly improves their outward appearance when in reality it did nothing but boost their self-confidence, we lost it. How could so many women be lead to believe in some magical beauty patch? Wasn’t it so obvious that it was nothing but a farce? A fallacy? A mere trick of the mind? How could Dove create a product that suddenly made everyone more beautiful? Wasn’t beauty subjective anyway?

Could it be that some women’s self-confidence was so lacking that they were desperate for a magical solution to all of their insecurities? That all women were all hiding from parts of themselves in someway?

My friend must have started thinking along the same lines as we both grew silent.

“Do you think some women are really that insecure about themselves?”

Myself being a shining example of insecurity, I answered almost immediately.

“Absolutely. Women have so many things they dislike about themselves. Their size. Their skin. Their facial features. Their hair…” I added as a guilty afterthought.

A pensive silence hung between us for a few moments before she said, “I’ve always been self-conscious about my hair.”

I looked up at her, incredulous. This girl’s hair was the type of stuff I’d lost sleep over. Blonde with streaks of brown, glossy, smooth, well-kept, and straight, it was everything I’d ever wanted.

I was so shocked that for a few moments I was completely at a loss for words.

“You’re crazy!” I gushed, continuing, “Your hair is perfect! What could you possibly dislike about it!?”

And the thing was, I wasn’t just saying all of this because it’s friend code to have each other’s back (even though it is). I was genuinely stunned by the fact that she didn’t see her hair as exactly what it was: flawless.

She laughed at my absurd facial expression before saying, “Yeah, I just wish it wasn’t so flat. I wish it had more volume and life. Kind of like yours…”

Woah. Woah. Woah. Woah. Okay, I thought this girl was a little confused before, but now I know that she was certified crazy.

“What!” I shrieked.

“You want more volume!? I’ve always hated my hair because of its volume! Because of its curls! Because of its inability to stay in one place! Because of its inability to just be perfect, and smooth, and flawless like yours!”

It was like something inside of my had snapped, and years worth of my insecurities had come bubbling to the surface.

“But I love curly hair,” she insisted resolutely.

“What? No way,” there was no way this could be the truth. No one could ever want what I had.

“No really,  your hair is so bouncy and interesting to look at.Why do you think a bunch of people curl their hair? Straight hair all kind of looks the same.”

“I guess we want what we don’t have,” I said before cracking up. We both laughed at the absurdity of it all. Why couldn’t we just be happy with what we had?

Since then, I’ve started leaving my hair out more often, allowing my curls to freely bounce with the wind. I remember looking in the mirror one morning and thinking, hey, I look kind of cute today.

And that’s something I had never, ever done in the past. Rather than curse my curls for their natural springiness and volume, I started appreciating them for what they were. Rather than tearing myself down, I started building myself up. I realized that what we despise could be the object of envy in another’s eyes.

The First Step into Oblivion

Upon entering the threshold of a university in the pursuit of a higher education, the prospective college student is seized by a storm of emotions- fear of the unknown, the sadness of parting with old friends and family, but mostly the excitement of beginning an adventure anew, of meeting new and interesting people, of challenging your own beliefs and views, of ultimately becoming the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

But before you do all that, you have to start with the basics, right? I mean you can’t just eat a massive ice cream cake within a matter of seconds, at least not without getting a serious stomachache. You have to take it piece by piece. Spoonful by spoonful, right? The same goes for the college experience. You need to take it step by step.

So if you’ve decided to live on campus for the upcoming semester, then I’m pretty sure one of your biggest questions is roommates. What’ll they be like? Will we be best friends? Will we do fun college things together- like studying outside or going to football games or going to beery parties or playing Frisbee when the weather’s nice?

At the same turn, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to your fair share of roommate horror stories. Frenzied fights, messy move-outs, miserable miscommunication, drama with boyfriends or girlfriends, on and on and on. So what’s a clueless freshman to do?

Which end of the spectrum will you fall on? Best friends or mortal enemies? Will we be exchanging warm embraces of friendship and brotherly/sisterly love or  engaged in furious combat, with our teeth bared and fists flying?

Now what if I told you that the most realistic option is somewhere in between? That you very well could end up rooming with your next best friend or mortal enemy, but there’s an 80% chance that you’ll be in neutral territory?

If your roommate is a normal, respectable human being with reasonable needs and expectations (which they most likely are), then chances are good that you’ll strike some sort of balance. If you’re an early bird, she’ll turn out the lights when you’re asleep, and the next morning you’ll pay her back by being as quiet as you can as you get ready for the day ahead.

But if the uncertainty of random roommate selection absolutely drives you insane, you might be tempted to room with a friend. I know I was.

Maybe you could avoid the unpleasant surprises, the boyfriend/girlfriend who drops in and never seems to leave, the possibility of being sexiled, the passive aggressive sticky notes plastered around the room. Maybe rooming with someone you know is a safe and smart choice. Hey, it should be totally be in your comfort zone and you have a good idea of what you’re getting into. But would I recommend it myself? Not particularly.

But wait, Anusha. You’ve just listed all of these terrible things that might come to pass if I don’t room with a friend. How could you possibly be in favor of plunging into the unknown?To diving into the abyss?

To these intelligent inquiries, I say yes this is true. But is it not also true that every action merits some degree of risk? Even if you were to strive to avoid the possible repercussions of rooming with a stranger, you’d still have the risk of discovering some crazy quirk of your rooming buddy that drives you crazy! What if they wake up at an odd hour of the night to do their salt water gargling to maintain their oral hygiene? What if they scream vengefully at their computer screen when working on different assignments? What if they like leaving the AC on at full blast mid-December while keeping the window open and turning the fan on?

All of the craziness of rooming with someone aside, choosing to live with someone you don’t know pushes you out of your comfort zone. It gives you the opportunity  to discover how to communicate effectively with someone new, to understand what being a considerate roommate is, to learn how to compromise but not to subdue your own needs.

And even if you and your roommate don’t end up being the best of friends, what about your floormates? Those fine individuals who might not share a room with you but are just a few doors down the hall? Just think about how close you guys might become! From cookie-filled movie nights, to yoga classes, to random tea parties in the lounges, to countless trips to the diner, who knows? Your best friends might just be right outside the confines of your room!  All because you took that first step into oblivion.

The Bitter Taste of Defeat

Sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously. Upon experiencing defeat, public ridicule, or embarrassment, we tend to turn a bright, rosy red, experience a biting sense of loss and self-directed loathing, and struggle to overcome the injuries our large egos have sustained. I know because I definitely was one of these individuals.

Upon experiencing any sort of failure or public embarrassment,  I would proceed to contemplate the incident for hours on end, agonizing over my monumental stupidity or the injustice of my circumstances. My temples would grow hot. Tears would burst forth from my eyes. I would scream at the heavens for deliverance that surely wouldn’t come from my petty problems. But at this point, I would like to say that I’ve grown from my previous juvenile rage and shame and cultivated a healthier mindset when it comes to failure.

Alas, I now feel as if I must give you some context for my sudden discussion of failure and coping. Well-allow me to start from the beginning.

I was born on August 23 in a little hospital in-just kidding. I wasn’t planning on going that far back. And now allow me to outline the real circumstances of the day my public humiliation occurred.

It was in my colloquiam class for a scholars program that my university offers. After  our professor finished his lesson, our teacher assistants promptly stepped forward.

“Now we can hold elections for different members of our executive board for this Scholars program. Those of you who want to run for positions have to come up and give a one minute speech.”

The other bearded TA finished, “And now, who wants to be president?”

Shocked at the sudden call for power, I remained firmly rooted to my seat. There was no way that I would try out for that. And after several, silly college students sauntered before the class and gave their self-important speeches, I voted for the candidate who I believed was best fit for the position. As for the actual voting process, the TAs would ask the potential candidates to briefly leave the room as the counted the votes of the students.

I groaned inwardly at the tedious process. “When would this ever be over?”  I despairingly glanced at my wristwatch, and cringed to see that it was 7:45 PM. I just want this to be over so that I may drink hot chocolate in peace!

Once the student body had selected its president, our TAs continued, “Well, congrats Joey Bob! Now we can vote for secretary.”

Now unlike the position of president, which entailed numerous responsibilities of governing meetings, seeking out new opportunities, etc, secretary seemed to be far more manageable.

When one student asked what responsibilities were involved he replied, “You take notes at our meetings.”

Taking notes? Was that all there was to it? And though I had never before run for a public office, I began seriously considering my options.

Well, Anusha. It would look great on your resume- secretary for the executive board. It wouldn’t take up too much time. And you take notes every day! Do it! Do it! Stand up and express your interest!

The powerfully optimistic voice urged me to get to my feet. To let myself be known. To seize a potential opportunity.  But not to be outdone, another bleaker, condescending voice called, “And what if you don’t win? You’ll look like an idiot! Sit down, you fool.”

Torn between the possibilities of possible victory and certain defeat, I slowly stood and made my way to the front of the class, where the two other candidates stood. As I passed the numerous unfamiliar faces of the voting body, Ii was immediately seized with a sense of disbelief.

Was I really doing this? I hadn’t even prepared! In fact, I had no intentions of running for this particular position until only a few minutes ago. Could I go back? No, that would be worse than never standing up at all.

My legs moved mechanically towards the front, seemingly unaware of the great emotional conflict that was bubbling inside of me. When I was finally there, our TAs signaled for us to start.

Too uncertain to take the lead, I allowed my competitors to start their speeches. Their speeches consisted of previous leadership positions they had held in high school, a passion for note taking, and promises that they were hardworking, meticulous, and efficient.

By the time it was my turn to speak, it was as if they had taken the words right out of my mouth.

Once the crowd had settled down once more, I meekly opened my mouth to repeat those same tired old words.

“My name is Anusha Kambala,” my voice sounded oddly frantic as if the panic was seeping into my words.

“Just like the others, I too have extensive experience in note-taking.” I paused for a few more seconds, thinking of what else to say. I looked at all of the ninety-other faces in my scholars program and felt my knees slightly wobble.

If I were secretary, I would not only make sure that we’d have the best notes, but I’d also seek to make sure that our program had cool programs like movie nights and field trips.”

At a loss of what else to say, I quickly finished, “Thank you for your time.”

Seeing that I had concluded my meager claim to power, my TAs stepped up once more before saying, “Alright, so now our candidates can briefly step outside while you guys vote.”

The results hadn’t even been announced and already I felt the burning surge of shame and defeat rise to my cheeks. It wasn’t long until we were standing just a few steps outside the building.

Standing in the light of the waning day for a few moments, I realized how much I liked being outside. The slight chill in the autumn air quickly woke me from the fatigue of classes.  The fading sunlight was filtering in through the golden leaves of the trees. It would have been even more beautiful if I wasn’t waiting for the results of a doomed election. I looked at my fellow candidates who had also taken a stab in the dark and exchanged a few blithe words to dispel the tension.

“Well that was interesting.”

A few of them chuckled and nodded their assent. And just like that,  one of our bearded TAs peered outside from the door and ushered us in.

Oh my gosh, the votes have been cast. I began to think frantically. Democracy has been executed! I even have a fighting chance of holding a position of power! Who knows! I might even win!

My hopes of success continued to soar as my TA made to announce the results of the election.

“And our new secretary for the International Studies Scholars Program is…” Anusha Kambala. Anusha Kambala. Anusha Kambala. I held my breath in an infuriating mixture of burning anxiety and hope.

“Dolorous Huxby” (note: I have changed the names for the sake of privacy or whatnot). Dolorous’s face brightened as she beamed at the class that had so unanimously wanted her to become the organization’s secretary.

The balloon of hope of potential pride, and glory, and success and power that had just begun swelling in my chest burst with a deafening roar, leaving me deflated and shattered.

I spent the duration of the class woefully distracted from the lecture material itself, choosing to nurse my wounded ego rather.

My internal dialogue, as it always is, was infuriating.

My god, you must have sounded so stupid! an angry voice screeched in my temples.

But it’s good I tried, right? I mean that took some measure of courage, yeah? a weak and optimistic voice inquired.

At what cost, you fool?! Now everyone will see you for the weak, indecisive, and unqualified bumpkin that you are!

And so it went, on and on- one voice brutally tearing me down and the other seeking to build me up in some way.

In retrospect, I was the only one painfully mulling over my bitter defeat. I think it’s safe to say that no one else in my class was sadistically chuckling to themselves, thinking, “Wow Anusha looked terrible up there. Loser.”

Or even if someone were thinking that, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be the best of friends. Ultimately what matters in the wake of crushing personal defeat is your own perception of it. While the freshly deferred dream seethes with a continued longing for success and aches with a terrible sense of loss, one that has withered away with age is far more benign in nature. Yes, you’re still disappointed that you didn’t succeed, but you understand what you did wrong. You’re proud of yourself for pushing yourself past your insecurities and putting yourself in a risky position. You’re optimistic for the prospects of future success. All in all, who knew that the bitter taste of defeat could be kind of sweet?

Hello from the Other Side!

So it’s been about a year since I’ve last been here, and I’d like to use some of Adele’s infuriatingly popular lyrics when I say, “Hello from the other side!” Having been silent for such an extended period of time, some of you might have been wondering- What ever happened to that strange, little blogger? I think she mentioned going to college but never returned to tell the tale…

Well I have! College hasn’t gotten the best out of this one! Or maybe it has… regardless I have many a story to share! From beery parties, to my first semester of organic chemistry, to questionable diner food, to making some of the most amazing friends a person could ask for, college has granted it all! So please join me this summer as I delve into the crazy life of a premed undergrad! With such a young and naive heroine, who know what’s in store?

Restrained Ego

DISCLAIMER: Today’s introduction may seem slightly more profound than usual. By now, you may be accustomed to random and inconsequential tangents and trivial anecdotes on my behalf. Well, we have my immensely insightful uncle visiting from Oman to thank for that. (In retrospect,  I didn’t really have to warn you in advance, did I?)

What is the most common cause of anger? Indignation. Well, what is indignation?  Formally, it is anger that is provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment. Hence, whenever we feel as if we have been grossly misjudged or mistreated by those around us, we are allowing our egos to induce our prideful suffering. At this point, you may be saying, “What is this babbling buffoon talking about? She knows nothing of psychology and human emotions!” To this, I say, wait, wait, wait. Before you completely disregard this idea and continue with your adventures on the World Wide Web, please read on for a bit. It should all come together in a few moments.

Right, so I had just mentioned prideful suffering. But I think we should talk about the ego first. A driving force in our thoughts, actions, attitudes, and endeavors, the ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. When used to the fullest and most positive extent, it’s what makes us so enterprising and confident. What makes us willing to take risks in business, interpersonal relations, or anything we want to achieve. Indeed, the ego is what allows us to move forward in the precarious dealings of daily life, so that we’re not too paralyzed to take the next step.

Much like any other potent instrument or mindset, such as knives, pride, and confidence, the ego when accessed sparingly and positively can lead to greatly advantageous results. Knives: Neatly chopping fruits and vegetables, allowing us to develop our culinary skill. Pride: Renewed faith in our abilities. The ego: Confidence and willingness to take potentially beneficial risks.

At the same turn, these very instruments, when used negatively or in excess, can lead to greatly disadvantageous results. Knives: Physical injury. Pride: Personal injury. Ego: Self-inflicted anguish. Wow that escalated quickly.

Indeed Lee Iaccoa, American automobile executive known for his prowess in business, once wisely said, “There’s a world of difference between a strong ego, which is essential, and a large ego-which can be destructive.”

Quite destructive indeed. Take for instance, the harassment of the archetypal bully. The sneering, judgmental, little person who points out your most nagging insecurities. The individual who most successfully undermines your confidence.

Obtrusively blocking your path forward, the bully points an impudent finger at your chest says, “You’re a loser.” And with these words, he has deemed you are unfit to do even the most basic of tasks. He has claimed that you are a weak and ineffective agent in your own life.

If you have an unrestrained ego, you are greatly wounded by his words, deeply fearful that they may be true. You think to yourself, “How dare he speak to me that way!” You grit your teeth in sheer anger and indignant frustration. Rather than allow yourself to move from the incident, you are constantly plagued by insecurity. What if I am indeed a loser? I couldn’t even stand up to that wretched fellow…This is the guaranteed road to misery and self-doubt.

If, however, you keep your ego in check and minimize the indignation you experience upon insult, I’m certain that the blow won’t be as substantial. In fact, without those same feelings of hurt and anger, we are left feeling content and slightly amused at the bully’s unsuccessful efforts of undermining our self-confidence.

In essence, I say let’s go with restrained ego!

Dousing Ourselves in Coffee

In attempts to make children more at ease in a classroom setting, teachers often cling to the phrase, “There are no stupid questions.” And while a teacher may grit her teeth in disbelief when one of her pupils asks what year the War of 1812 took place, the idea behind the saying is generally solid and greatly reassuring. In essence, the confused and vastly curious student is encouraged to participate in the discussion regardless of potential scrutiny and inward derision, a profoundly positive phenomenon. However, just because I believe that there are no stupid questions doesn’t mean there aren’t questions you shouldn’t ask me.

Confusing? Allow me to explain. While all questions serve to expand the knowledge of the asker to some extent, they can also be used to convey an indirect message to the recipient. For instance: “Did you get enough sleep last night?”

I loathe this question with a passion. Having received it several times in the past, it always treat it with a mixture of surprise and suppressed consternation. It’s not as if I’m making a grand display of my morning fatigue, dragging my feet across the floor and habitually swaying. I’m just a little tired, slightly slower than I am usually. My thoughts may be somewhat fogged. My enthusiasm and energy somewhat dull and absent.

Yet in spite of the obvious symptoms, you must seek to confirm your suspicions and ask me the dreaded question: Did you get enough sleep last night? Hearing the words, I inwardly cringe. Now, not only do I need to deal with this burdensome tiredness, but also with the fact that I look terrible.

My eyes must be bloodshot. I must have had the same lifeless expression plastered to my face for the past hour. I must seem like a veritable zombie. The only thing I need to do now is hold my arms out and groan, “BRAAAAAAAAINS”.

Looking back at the original question, one might say that it’s an innocent expression of concern for the recipient. That the asker simply wants the other person to know that he is perceptive of the symptoms of tiredness and genuinely cares for his well-being.

But as the grouchy and sleep-deprived people that we are, the last thing we want is to have our exhaustion announced and confirmed by those around us. We simply need to get through our day as painlessly as possible before we can put an end to our suffering by crashing or dousing ourselves in coffee. To the witnesses of our habitual periods of fatigue, please bear with us. A comforting pat on the back, a cup of coffee, some well-meaning knock-knock jokes, or anything else polite and reassuring should do it. But please for the life of us, do not ask us how much sleep we received the previous night.

Spicy Stereotype- PART I

Ring of Fire
Many of us view stereotypes as profoundly negative, viewing them as largely offensive or derogatory perceptions of a certain class of individuals.  But the official definition of stereotype is, “a widely held, but fixed image or idea of a particular type of person,” which could be positive, negative, or neutral. While I’m sure you’re aware of a number of positive and negative stereotypes, what about the neutral ones? The ideas that are associated with a certain group of people that don’t necessarily cause offense or self-satisfied pleasure? For instance, take the neutral stereotype that all Indians enjoy immensely spicy food.

As an Indian who doesn’t enjoy incredibly spicy food,  I must say that this perception does not apply to the entire Indian demographic. Don’t be too surprised. Perhaps it’s because my parents never induced me to build a resistance to extreme spice, consistently feeding me the milder of Indian cuisine as a child. But I don’t really blame them.

I’ve never enjoyed unreasonably spicy food, finding that it obscures the taste. Indeed, my aversion to hot and spicy food has only been strengthened with multiple visits to Indian restaurants and the homes of well-meaning relatives.

I remember once my parents and I were drawn to Paradise Biryani Pointe, an Indian restaurant that unsurprisingly specialized in biryani. In spite its simple nature, a mixed rice dish filled with vegetables, spices, and meat, my father’s colleagues were all abuzz for it.

“Oh really you must go with your family!”

“Their biryani is incredible!”

“Yes, yes! The rice! The vegetables! The spices!”

Not one to shirk the experience of excellent cuisine, my dad took my mother and me to the illustrious restaurant the next weekend.

Excited to finally try the evidently heavenly mixture of rice and vegetables, we ordered a plate of vegetarian biryani to split amongst ourselves. Aware of my painfully low tolerance, my parents had even asked for the “Level 1” spice option. Slightly embarrassed for my chronic aversion to heat, I shrunk in my seat.

In spite of my own insecurity, my parents and our waiter thankfully took no notice of me. Taking a few quick notes, the waiter promptly nodded and rushed to the kitchen.

Will the biryani be as good as Anusha’s father’s friends say? Will the food set her heart or tongue on fire? Find out tomorrow. To be continued…

The Neutrality of Normalcy

Colored by perception, emotion, and distortion, the concept of normalcy is a very interesting one. Some despise it with a passion, claiming that the idea is far too bland and predictable. Others, on the other hand, embrace normalcy in its unifying commonality. Like all other convoluted subjects, let us begin by defining it, so that it is no longer in any uncertain terms. “Normal” means conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

Far too often, I see movies, television shows, music, and literature decrying the ills of normalcy. As Lady Gaga proudly claimed in her song, “Bad Kids”, “I’m a twit, degenerate young rebel and I’m proud of it.” As this line demonstrates, many herald and respect deviation from the norm. They view these distinct individuals as asserting their independence, creativity, and nonchalance of inane societal stipulations. And while I admire rebels’ personalities as much as anyone else, I think we tend to judge individuals who identify themselves as normal a little too harshly.

Oh, Frank is a successful car salesman with a wife, two kids, and a dog named Lucy? He’s so normal, one might think with a judgmental roll of the eyes. Looking at this example, I particularly dislike this mode of thought. Perhaps Frank is happy with his modest, successful, and fairly normal lifestyle. Why must we look down upon him because he doesn’t choose to live differently?

It’s gotten to the point where normal individuals struggle to identify themselves as being different or “random”. This was quite the problem for me in my time in middle school, otherwise known as the frightening, formative years when we were desperately trying to distinguish ourselves from the rest of our peers.

I would be having a perfectly decent conversation with one of my classmates, when they would arbitrarily interject some word or phrase into the discussion.

Me (looking out the window): It looks like it’s going to rain.

Anonymous companion: Yeah, those clouds don’t look to good.

Me: I agree. And I think I just heard some thun-

Anonymous companion: Pineapples!

Me: What?

Anonymous companion: Oh, I’m sorry! I’m just so random! My mom just says I’m unique that way. I dunno what came over me.

In retrospect, I pity my anonymous companion for feeling the need to deviate from societal norms simply for appreciation and respect. Why must we ever change who we are and what we do unless it infringes on the rights, personal safety, or happiness of others?

Why does it matter that I enjoy apple pie just as many others do? Why does it matter that I strive for a well-paying career in order to obtain financial stability in the future? Just because many others have chosen the same path that I have doesn’t reduce its personal value.

In essence, we can continue to celebrate rebellion and the creative deviation from the norm. After all, how else are we to expand our intellectual horizons? However, let us not harshly judge normalcy, for it is the common glue that binds us all together.  Why can’t we appreciate the neutrality of normalcy?

In-Flight Redemption- Part II

Previously on In-Flight Redemption: Having just awoken from a deep slumber, our young protagonist has clumsily spilled water on her in-flight companion. Needles to say, she is mortified.

My panic and utter mortification dispelling my previous drowsiness and lethargy, I exclaimed, “I’m so sorry!”

I must have looked sufficiently devastated and mortified, because she brushed off the incident a few seconds later.

“It’s alright,”

“No, but really I am sorry. I can’t believe-”

“As a mom, I’ve had worse stuff spilled on me. Trust me,” she said with a wink. Throughout the duration of the flight, I inundated Kelly with spare napkins, apologetic glances, and polite conversation, with which I strove to redeem myself in some way.

In spite of her quick dismissal of the event, I spent the remainder of the flight cursing my immense stupidity. I vowed to never again fall asleep on flights. Never again would anyone experience the accidental wrath of spilled water on my behalf! Never again would I feel the need to apologize excessively! I would surely learn from my mistakes! I would!

Although my rousing thoughts did douse some of the immense embarrassment and shame I was experiencing, I looked forward to the end of the flight. So that the memory would begin to fade until it was nothing more than an embarassing event in the distant past.

And eventually, my dream came true. We began our swift descent into Atlanta, Georgia. And while I was certain that this woman would never want to see me again, she handed me her business card and prompted me to look her up if I needed any medical experience. Saying I was awe-struck by her generosity is an understatement.

When we finally got to our feet, we shook hands, and proceeded to exit the flight. At the terminal outside, I was greeted by my mother and grandmother, who smiled at me cheerfully. They wouldn’t be smiling if they knew what’d I done, I thought mournfully.

Just as we were about to catch our next flight, one of the workers at the airport held a very familiar looking purse up and claimed that someone had left it in their seat. After scrutinizing the stylish bag for several moments, I realized that it belonged to none other than Kelly, my in-flight companion! But wait. She had left it here, which meant… she wouldn’t have it at the wedding.

Alarm signals started flashing inside my head, urging me to action. It’s only been a few minutes since we’ve left the flight. She can’t be very far. I just need to find her.

I quickly took the purse from the worker, claiming that I knew who it belonged to, and rushed into a bustling crowd of suitcases and travelers. Determined that I find the elusive dermatologist before she left the airport, I keenly observed the confusing mass of individuals, before I finally saw her slender form moving  from a distance. Thinking of nothing else but the purse in my hands and the woman before me, I bolted towards her, yelling, “Miss Kelly! Miss Kelly! I have your purse!”

Obviously startled to hear her name from some stranger, Kelly whipped around to see me frantically waving her purse.

“Y-you left this back in the plane,” I continued panting from the excitement and sprinting.

Quickly realizing what had happened, Kelly’s eyes widened in wonder and happy surprise.

“Thank you so much! I don’t know what I would’ve done without it!”

“You’re welcome, Miss Kelly,” I replied, nearly bursting with pride.

I guess I’d finally gotten my in-flight redemption.