Monday, November 28, 2011


I have lost my mind.

Yes. That is what it must be. 

For a change Town and Country is not a thought on my brain. I have invited Rohit, Meera, the baby and another couple we are friends with (Lucy, from  Post 218 , and John) to dinner. I have invited all these people to my house. Or more like, in my little shoebox. I own no furniture other than a desk and my bed.  So I am getting creative with hosting a carpet picnic.

So when you are invited to dine at Desi Girl’s house, it is a north Indian foodie affair. I generally make 3-4 dishes and then some rice spiced with spices and onions. My signature dishes are tandoori chicken, chicken curry and paneer (yes homemade, I can make paneer from scratch). I can make several types of dals, chole and of course a variety of subzis (vegetable dishes). I think I have mentioned that the one thing I am inept at cooking is roti. Seemingly simple – wheat flour and water, rolled into a dough ball, rolled into flatness and cooked on a “tawa”. Yea, this is one area of Indian cuisine I suck at – the flatbreads.

When you live in a house, with a normal kitchen and have space to chop vegetables, marinate chicken, knead dough and soak rice, making a four-course Indian is no biggie. You can make four dishes over two days and you are in good shape. And the most amazing thing about Indian food, at least the way Mom and I cook, is that if you cook the food the night before and then heat it up the next day, allows the flavors to really come together.

So. The fact that I have 18 inches of counter space is going to make cooking VERY painful, and maybe not even probable. And oh, have I mentioned my friends are coming tomorrow?

I pace around the apartment, until it makes me feel dizzy. I did not place my Fresh Direct order in time so there is NO way I can get groceries dropped off in time. I could go to a grocery store in the neighborhood and then cook all night.


I could do something revolutionary. I could take care of myself and not stress myself out into giving myself a bleeding ulcer by wowing my friends with a gourmet dinner. They already love me. How about instead I love myself. Take care of myself. And order pizza from Luigi’s.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I'm still in my jam jams and drinking my second cup of coffee. And of course, I have not heard anything from the super. Shocking. I being the daughter of an architect, don the eye of a wannabe contractor and go into the bathroom. The bathroom ceiling seems to have dried over night. And more importantly, the light fixture looks okay. I am not crazy enough to turn it on, just in case it is still wet. Maybe the leak was a fluke; I think and sit down at my desk.

I return to find a missed text message from Town and Country: How are you?
Desi Girl: Good. And you. (I refrain from telling him about my plumbing woes. I am pretty sure he doesn’t care).
Town and Country: I am waiting for my flight to take off. Going to Minneapolis…
Desi Girl: Willingly?
Town and Country: Yep.
Desi Girl: Why?
Town and Country: Meeting with investors. I'm kinda hungry.
Desi Girl: They will feed First Class once they are airborne.
Town and Country: I wouldn’t know.
Desi Girl: Why not?
Town and Country: I’m in coach.

He is? Well this is surprising. I mean – true he is not one of those super showy rich people. He doesn’t drive a BMW or Mercedes. He has nice things, a nice house, but it is not all flash and glam. Which is what I do like about him – he’s a real person. I just didn’t expect him to travel like a regular person.

Town and Country: Okay taking off. Very stern attendant just reprimanded me for texting after the doors were shut. Will text when I land.

Ugh. I don’t like it when he does that. It makes me feel like we have something real, people in relationships text one another when they land and take off. Not friends. Now I am going to get stuck in the nebulous, looking forward to his text, not wanting to look forward to the text, and then being disappointed when the text never comes.


The following evening I’m minding my own business, sitting at my desk in my blissful little Upper East Side apartment, working on the computer. I hear my upstairs neighbor come home. The floor above my head creaks a little then goes silent. I reach for the remote and channel surf, looking for something to create a little noise so I don’t feel totally alone.

I know television is a mind-numbing idiot box. But sometimes I can go several days without coming into contact with anyone, so there are days, like today when I just need to hear voices in conversation. No surprise, an episode of Law and Order captures my attention and draws me in. At the halfway point a commercial comes on and I get up for some Diet Coke.

Because the “kitchen” is just outside the bathroom, I can hear dripping from inside the loo. Hhhmm. I set the Diet Coke on the counter and switch on the light. What in the Sam Hill? The ceiling above the tub and sink are wet. This is disconcerting because there is a light fixture above the sink that I hope does not get wet, short circuit and set the apartment building on fire. 

I forget the Diva Cola break, find my shoes, pull a sweater over my tank top and march up the stairs to investigate the leak. I knock on the door. A minute passes. I knock again. Nothing. But I can hear someone moving inside. I knock again and say, “Hello? Say I live below you and your bathroom is leaking all over mine!” The door finally opens and thin and lithe Asian man wearing only white boxer shorts appears. “Yes?” he says in a quick, clipped tone. “Uhm, yea. So your shower is leaking all over my bathroom,” I repeat. I really wish he would put on some clothes.

“I took a shower,” he says. He has an accent and is still wet. And I know he took a shower, the after shower is all over my loo! “Yea, well we need to let the super know….” “Fine, call him, let me know,” he says and shuts the door.

Aiy! Really? I mean I guess this is MY problem. He is negatively affecting my bathroom. But you know, if my bathroom leaked all over someone else’s and we were in a rental I’d be able to muster up some compassion. I get back into my apartment and call the super. Lo the shock, immediately I go into voicemail. So I leave a message and hope the Super calls me back. Soon. I feel pretty confident that this Super is not nearly as great as the previous one.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


The upside of dining with someone who seems to have more money than God, is that he paid the $77 bill for breakfast --- $77?! for eggs, chocolate croissants and breakfast beverages???!!! The downside to spending time with Bhaiya, was that he clearly disagrees with my life. Or at least I feel like he disagrees with my life. But he really didn’t offer any solution. And leave New York, is not a solution.

Besides, I don’t think I can do this --- leave New York. It took everything I had to get here. And now that I am here. I am building a life. But I feel like I still have stuff to do. And yes, sure when I moved here I really thought, I’d date a nice desi men, THE ONE, and then we’d move to the ‘burbs of Westchester and live out our marriage, get a mortgage and have some munchkins who would talk me into getting a dog that I would barely like walking. And it would be one of those wannabe seven pound dogs that yip instead of bark and of course I’d name the pooch, Killer.

But I don’t know, something small inside has shifted, a subtle but critical shift. I don’t know that I need kids. Yes, a husband would be great, someone to hang out with on the couch. Someone to have dinner dates with. Someone to get the dry cleaning and close out the honey-do list. Someone to take long walks in Central Park with. Someone to come home to and eat dinner at the dining table rather than do what I do, sit alone in the dark, on the floor eating Thai food and watching the telly. And what about all the things I want to see in New York, and the world. I'd like a life partner for that. And what about writing - I have yet to really push myself on that front.Who said my life has to look like Bhaiya's? Who said these are the rules? What if they are not the rules I want to live by?

Yes, yes – there are days I detest New York. Like in the really hot summer days, when the City smells like dog urine and overheated garbage. In the winter the ineptitude of removing snow from the streets is stunning. Yes, I understand that this is not Minneapolis, but it sure as sugar ain’t Miami. Removing snow should not be so foreign to the Public Works Department, it just shouldn’t. And if it is, then perhaps the City needs to fire some employees and get some new ones.

And this is an expensive place to live. Luckily I moved from Minnesota, which has to be one of the five most expensive states to live in, so the sticker shock was not totally mind numbing – but I pay a lot of money in taxes to fund the lifestyles of people who I think should get a job. It is not like anyone is helping me make ends meet.

But where would I go if I moved from here? I cannot go back to Minneapolis, I would only re-enter what I left and why leave if I was going back? I mean sure, I told myself if New York did not work out I could always go back. But I think that was more to cushion the blow that I was leaving. To give myself a golden parachute on the off chance I was one of those folks who could not cut it, who could not make it in New York.

And I have to live in a big city. I like the pace, I like the energy. I like that people are real and raw. Not pretending to be nice and like you. But for some reason, Boston, DC, Miami, and San Francisco don’t appeal to me – mostly because I would need a car if I lived anywhere other than Manhattan. And while I did not divorce my car, we sure are separated with limited contact.

I grab my phone and dial. “Tate,” I say when she picks up. “Yes,” she says. “I need help. I need a job,” I say. “I am on it. I will reach out to everyone I know. We need to update your resume, can you do it tonight and send it to me by morning?” she asks. “Yep.” This is one of the many, many things I love about her. She is Ms. Action Jackson. “What about your family and the business?” she asks. “What about it? This is about me taking care of me. My life needs to be about me. Besides, rent ain’t free,” I say. "Amen," she says.


We sit down a table for four in the middle of a very bright and sunny dining room. This is much nicer than standing in line to get a table at Sarabeth’s. The waiter comes by and pours bottled water into our glasses. I shudder. I wonder how much that is going to cost. I never order bottled water. I barely even buy bottled water from the store for my home use. It seems like such a waste of money, especially since New York City tap water is clean. I clearly don’t make the kind of money required to run with Bhaiya. Besides, now that I live in a walk-up, there is NO WAY I am carrying water up the stairs. 

“Can I get you coffee or tea?” the water asks. Bhaiya nods and I order first, “coffee please.” “Green tea,” Bhaiya says. “Any juices?” the waiter asks. “I’ll have an orange juice,” I reply. Why not? If I am dirnking overpriced water, why not get some juice too.

“Let’s have some baked goods,” Bhaiya says. We get up and survey the massive assortment of freshly baked croissants (chocolate, almond, plain), muffins (banana nut, chocolate chip, cranberry bran, apple cinnamon, blueberry), breads (whole wheat, white, rye, pumpernickel) and the sweet breads with icing (pumpkin, zucchini, lemon poppyseed). I half-laugh and he gives me a funny look. “What?’ he asks. “Do you remember when I visited, the girls were about 4 and they were mad crazy about chocolate crossies?” I ask. They could say chocolate but not croissant so every morning there was the renewed and frenzied request for chocolate croissants. He nods and piles a few onto the plate. I sure hope he is eating them because I was thinking about having an omelet for breakfast. I am ravenous from working out and need some protein. And some fruit, which I pile onto my plate.

We return to the table, the fastest waiter in the world returns and I order an omelet. And some bacon. Bhaiya orders an egg white scramble with veggies. Okay, well, at least that is better than wheat germ and flax.

“So how are things?” he asks. Hhhmm. I never know how to answer this with family. I get the feeling that Bhaiya disagrees with decisions I have taken in life. Not that I blame him. I guess right, he cares about me? Right? We are cousins. And his mother, Massi, is like a second Mom to me. And though he has never said anything, I think he thinks I should have never worked in a family business, but I don’t really think there is a lot of choice about such things. To be a card carrying member of the peace in my immediate family, it is best to not muddy the waters. It is best to tow the party line and do what it is expected of you. I think this has come more easily to Desi Brother than me.

And the subject of marriage is a hot one. Bangalore Cousin has really pushed me with the desi dating. Bhaiya, on the other hand has asked a few times why someone living in Minnesota was resigned to marrying a desi, when the state was filled with blondes. While I know Bangalore Cousin was really pleased to see me move, Bhaiya seems to have mixed feelings on that. I think he thinks I should have just gotten married 15 years ago and had some kids. I sometimes think he cannot relate to me.

“Things are okay,” I reply. “I love New York – but I am thinking that I need to find a new job. Can you help me? I know you are pretty connected in the finance community and I’d be willing to do something entry level, like answer phones or be a receptionist – the security of getting a paycheck and health insurance is worth it,” I say quickly. It makes me uncomfortable for some reason. I give help. I actually am the first person to offer help. But I am the last to take any. So it is killing me to ask him for help. And I am not asking him to fund my lifestyle or pay my rent. I am just asking who he may know and can help me network.

He nods. I can tell he is thinking. He wipes his lips with the napkin and sets it to the side. “I can see what I can do,” he says. Even though he says it, I don’t believe him. “But I think you should leave New York,” he says.

The look that must come across my face must be one of horror, terror and pain, because he quickly says. “Look, I understand the appeal of big cities. They are alluring. Exciting. Addicitive. But these are not places to live,” he says.

Really? Tell that to the 8 million people who live in New York City and call it home. I think they would disagree.


I get to the Ritz and for a moment I stop to think well, this must be “how the other half live” – a half that I will never be a part of, which is fine. I don't need tons of money, I just want to be comfortable and not stress over paying the rent every month. Luckily I feel like I fit in here, I am wearing a cute outfit, brown skirt, hot pink silk shell and a pale pink cardigan and since it is still nice enough to wear sandals, I did!

But It is just stunning how much money some people have. I mean I am going to gym for free to save $100 this month. And based on this place, should be interesting what we spend on breakfast. I kinda hope I can afford it. I mean, I spend $70 a week on groceries.

The last time Bhaiya stayed here, his family was here, and their suite was bigger than my one bedroom Heights apartment. Hell the bathroom in the suite was almost the size of my old apartment. I pace across the lobby a few times before sitting down in an oversized leather chair. It is almost too deep for me to sit in, because I slide back towards the seat back, my feet barely touch the floor. Ah, the joys of being 5’-2¾” tall. Good thing I have these heels on, otherwise I would not graze the marble below me. I sit there for several minutes. I mean yes, Indians are notorious for being tardy. It has been some time since I have seen Bhaiya – but I remember him to be punctual. Or am I making that up because I admire him and cannot find fault with him?

After ten minutes, I wonder if I am being blown off. I expect it from dates, but not family – so I text him to let him know I am in the lobby. Immediately he texts back that he is grabbing his sweater and coming down.

A few minutes later, my mind has wandered off so I don’t recognize Bhaiya until he is about 10 feet in front of me. I don’t realize that it is him, because he is gaunt and sallow looking. This is not say he was a huge, rotund man. Bhaiya has always been very fit and fat conscious. Growing up on several occasions he has politely pointed out that Dad’s side of the family has a propensity of being overweight and that I might want to steer clear of heading down the path to fatness.

But the man that stands before is very slim, not trim. It is almost stunning how ghostlike he looks. “Bhaiya?” I ask as I rise to my feet. “Hey, Desi Girl, how are you?” he asks and he gives me a hug.  “I am good – but what about you?  Where did you wither away to?” I ask. I am little worried that he will tell me is sick, he has that sickly look to him. What could he have? Cancer? A brain disease? What could have brought this on? He actually laughs at my comment and says, “I gave up coffee and only drink green tea.” Whaaaaaa? Green tea did this to him? While this is better than a nefarious disease, my mind goes back to “I gave up coffee” – what a horrendous thing to admit! “Why? Would you give up coffee? You were a bigger Starbucks addict than I am,” I say. “For my health. I feel so much better now that I am off coffee,” he replies. My brain cannot comprehend what he is saying. “Shall we eat?" he asks.

“Sure,” I reply and pray that he has not gone crazy and orders wheat germ and flax for breakfast.


The following morning I lace up my sneaks and lock the apartment door. As I bound down the stairs, hot pink water bottle in hand, I think about the upsides to working for your family. No one says anything when you take two extra days of vacation. And when you own the joint like Dad does you cannot get fired. You can take some liberties with expenses. Not so liberal like buy a condo in Aspen, but enough to where you can buy nice pens and fun notepads.

I pop out of the building and head east to York Avenue. On the weekends, the City is so peaceful at 7:00 am. There are some downsides to working with your family, like working with everyone you are related to. And our business has really been a feast or famine game. When we are busy, we cannot keep up with the workload, the 1990s was proof of this. We went months without billing clients. But then the 2000s were the opposite, we would send invoices for $500. You are the last one to get paid when money is lean and you get stuck doing all the unpleasant jobs like trying to concoct ways to capture the bat, Bruce Wayne (yes we named him) that lived in the basement. Suffering through three days of no toilet when the building’s sewer line disconnected from the City line in the middle of January. Shoveling snow from the parking lot and shop vac-ing water one year when Spring came too fast and too early and flooded the basement.

And forget about taking a sick day. I had perfect attendance from first grade to senior year. Clearly I don’t get sick. In fact I have been sick about three times in my life. Twice was from food poisoning. That was dreadful. The first day you feel you are dying and the second day you wish you were dead.The other time we thought I had pneumonia. Turns out it was a really super bad flu.

I get to the gym and wait for the front desk attendant to review my guest pass. Once she finds is satisfactory, she nods her head and lets me in. When I moved to New York, I was making a Minneapolis salary. Luckily I don’t really spend money. I don’t have a gigantic television. I have a small flat screen that Meera gave me and since I live in 312 square feet I can lay in bed or sit at my desk and watch it just fine. I don’t have a car (I mean I have one in Minnesota but trust me it is almost free to have that thing there, the insurance is $90 a month on an SUV).

I don’t go on vacations. I visit my parents three times a year, and while Minneapolis-St. Paul for some reason is an ungodly expensive airport to fly into, I don’t spend anything when I get there. Unless of course I shop, it is afterall Minnesota, Mall Rat Heaven. So yes, my recreational spending does go into my clothes, shoes and handbags, but again – I live in 312 square feet there is only so much a girl can have. Oh and books, yes, books. I do have an extensive collection of books.

But it is the little things that add up. When I lived in the Heights (which really was only three weeks ago, but feels like forever ago) I went to the Planet Fitness in the Bronx. It was $10 a month and I could walk there, I'd cut through Fort Tryon Park and then head across the Broadway Bridge.

Now that I live on the Upper East Side, I need to find a gym and -- man oh man --- are they expensive! I mean probably not if I earned a New York salary living in New York. And of course, since I am a mighty fan of the discount and don’t believe in full price (I can count the number of things I have paid full-price for) I am in search of a deal for my gym membership. So until I find that deal, I am going to utilize the free gym memberships advertized in the paper until I find what I am looking for.