Friday, January 22, 2010

L is for Letters

It seems as if writing letters has been a thing of the past. What happened to the good ol’ communication of putting ink on the paper? I know of very few people now who still continue to write letters. What prompted me to write this blog? Well – I received a New Year greeting from our very close friends, N and N. And enclosed with it was a little hand-written letter. A and I were so happy not just to read it, but simply see a hand-written letter. The feeling of getting a letter is so different than getting an e-mail or just a New Year greeting card or a greeting with the family’s photograph. That personal touch, the personal thought that goes in to writing a letter is evident when you read a letter. The personalizing of it makes a world of difference to a person who understands the value of a hand-written note or letter! When I see that hand-addressed envelope sitting in my mailbox, I have a smile on my face, and my walk quickens to go home and read it.

Have still continued to write letters. I still exchange letters with A’s and my mom. I would write in Gujarati (our spoken language at home in India) at times also. That used to be more frequent when I would communicate with my grandparents. It is an equally good feeling to pen a letter, as much as it is to receive one. Maybe you want to give it a try! It may feel odd initially. With communication having become more quick and efficient, it is highly likely that when you sit to write a letter to your parents or friends or significant other (if he/she stays away from you), you may not have matter to write. What I have felt is that when you sit to write a letter, there are things that come up, which may not come up in routine conversations.

The last I wrote a letter was when I sent a gift for another very close friend’s new born daughter. We were roommates in Mumbai and she’s now settled in LA, and is the mom of a beautiful baby girl. Every time I would write letters in Mumbai to my parents or grandparents in Baroda, she would always say, “When will you write me a letter?” Being in the same town, I never got an opportunity, but she did get a letter almost six years after that!

Letters make for beautiful memories! On a day when you’re feeling low, if you go back to the old letters that you got from your mom and dad, siblings, friends, loved ones, it would bring back your mood. For those who have lived in India or received letters from there would know of the light blue International mail letter. Sometimes, just seeing that envelope does the trick for me. For one of my birthdays, when I lived in Mumbai, K had given me this beautiful letter pad made of hand-made paper. It lasted a very long time and I still remember writing letters on those hand-made papers with a beautiful design on the top!

Some years back, when letters were already beginning to get replaced by e-mails, people would write long e-mails. And it would feel so good to see a long e-mail sitting in your inbox. A has a habit of writing good long e-mails once in a while. But now, getting long e-mails is also rare. They’re also becoming short and to the point.
I hope I convinced you to pick a pen and write a letter to anyone. Just think of the reaction they would have when they see a personal note from you! Happy writing!

SMS English in Daily Communication

SMS is short for Short Messaging Service. And yes, I am aware it used to cover as much information you can in 160 characters when you send a message to someone’s mobile phone. My question is: Why use the same kind of English in e-mails and social media (except Twitter, which has text limits)? There is no dearth of space in an e-mail or other forms of communication. Nor do you have to pay an extra buck for it. I am not against using small words when it comes to texting someone, but gets irritating when transferred to other media of communication.

Most people these days have a good control over the keyboard and have a good typing speed. It makes me wonder as to how much longer it will take if one wrote a complete word in regular English than in SMS English. Writing ‘dissertation’ will probably take two seconds longer than writing ‘dissy’! I have come across some formal mails also where people have used disastrous English to communicate through English, which is not even SMS English probably. Some alphabets like ‘g’ go missing at the end of a word for some people. It is absolutely normal for them to write ‘evenin’ or ‘clubbin’, etc. I may come across as old-fashioned when I write this, but I really wished people wrote regular English in e-mails, letters or other social media websites.

Here are some words that I’ve routinely seen that really makes me wish the above.

Sffring – it means ‘suffering’
Anvsry – it means ‘anniversary’
Dissy – it means ‘dissertation’
Sm – it means ‘some’ (This makes me think about the time it takes to write ‘sm’ and to write ‘some’)
Nt – it means ‘not’ (Again makes me think the same thing)
Hv nt – it means ‘have not’ (would be better if this were written on the cell phone, rather than e-mail)
Sumtyms – I know what it means, but again, there’s literally just two more alphabets to type in the original word of ‘sometimes’
Pychas –I think this one takes the cake. Guess what this means! And I’ve read this word written by quite a few people. It means ‘pictures’!!

Maybe people write this type of English to stay with the flow or keep up with the times! In this aspect, I continue to remain old-fashioned or ancient and write in the English I’ve grown up learning!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

'Egg'ceptions Apply

I've been allergic to eggs since I was five or six years old. It never posed much of a problem in India as there always have been eggless foods to bank upon. A lot of people there do not eggs as they believe it to be a non-vegetarian food item and against their religion to eat it.
Before I came to the United States, A's sister and A had told me that a lot of food items will have egg here. Having come from India, I had never thought that ice-creams and some everyday breads can also have egg!
It so happens that when at a house party or when invited for dinner, I would ask if some food has egg, only to avoid a problematic situation for me as well as the hosts. Several families find it difficult to fathom that a person can have egg and other food allergies. Or some people feel that it is extremely uncommon for people of Indian origin to have food allergies. So over the years, have come across a wide array of things people have told me when I said I don't eat desserts, cakes or anything that has egg or eggs itself.
Here are some reasons that people have told me. And these are after I have told them that I am allergic and have been tested for it also just about a year or two back. Please feel free to tell me your experience, if you've had any on these lines.

1. Are you sure you have an egg allergy?
2. Why don't you try this food? It has egg, but who knows, you may not actually react!
One of the most common thing I get to hear is this:
3. I am sure it is psychological. You should keep an open mind. It's all in your mind. Just eat it. Then see what happens! Take the thought out of your mind and try it once.
4. Beta, does your entire family not eat egg? (I don't understand why family comes in this. But I still say that my dad, mom and sister eat, but I can't. And then I get to hear this) So only you don't FEEL like eating eggs?
One of the most bizarre ones I hear is this:
5. When A eats eggs, and everything else, then why don't you?
Even as I write this, I feel like telling them that there is just no connection in the question you just asked me.
6. Beta, you should do Pranayam, your allergies will go away. All allergies will go away if you do it everyday for X amount of time
7. Maybe you are plain scared to try eggs.
8. Why don't you start eating eggs now? Maybe you had allergies as a child. I have not heard of any adults having food allergies, so now you should eat eggs.

I started eating chicken a year back, not to increase my food options, but because I started enjoying it. So people's comments have reduced a little, but one comment remains.
9. See, now that you can eat chicken, try egg. I think it is a psychological barrier you have against eggs. When you eat non-vegetarian, what is wrong with eggs?

I had a funny experience when I was in Delhi this summer, visiting T. T, her daughter and I were out shopping. At lunch time, I thought of getting myself a butter chicken frankie. Out of my usual habit for checking if the tortilla (outer covering of frankie) had egg, I asked him if anything had egg. And the guy told me that they had a regular roti (Indian flat bread), then an omelette and inside that they put the chicken filling. So I told the man to omit the omelette and just put the filling in the roti. To which he said that the omelette will accentuate the flavor. And I persisted saying I still didn't want it. And then he said, "Lekin madam, aap ne toh chicken frankie order kiya hai. Phir bhi?" ("But madam, when you have ordered chicken frankie, why omit the egg?) After I said yes once again, he did omit the egg, but was definitely flustered at this weird order!!

I feel good that sometimes people are genuinely concerned and some will go the extra mile and read the tiresome list of ingredients when they go shopping. This really touches me that they went out of their way to accommodate me. It gets to me when people assume I have a psychological block over and over again.

One last bit of information for those who have egg allergies. Here are some foods to watch out for. They are foods that you may assume do not have eggs.

1. All flavors of Ben n Jerry and Haagen Dazs have egg.
2. Subway veggie patty has egg.
3. So do some multi-grain or 12 grain or 15-grain breads.
4. Some whole wheat organic and regular burger buns.
5. Most Kaiser rolls.
6. Indian flat breads in restaurants - especially naan and kulcha have egg most of the times. Won't hurt to ask if it does or doesn't.

Wish you all happy and healthy eating!