Say ‘NO’ to Celebrities

I am very fortunate to have served on cultural organizations here. Considering I’ve been away from India for vastly more years, there is definitely a noticeable disconnect in my mannerisms. Simple courtesies that I was taught especially for celebrities seemed to have vanished. I mention celebrities in terms of those that are associated with acting in cinema or their inheritance for being part of families whose heads have been holding onto patriarchal legacies or those who’ve made a niche for themselves because of their connections and some talent. I am not including the other diaspora associated with cinema because somehow I still seem to revere those fine arts.

Nearly half a year ago, I had the rare opportunity of interacting with two despicable such and their managers. At the onset of the assignment I was thrilled imagining I could network and partake in their philanthropic efforts one way or another. It was exhilarating to have been interacting with them for the first time in my life. Otherwise, I am not that kind of a fangirl that is gaga over their sneeze or twerk. This seemed like an opportunity at a different level especially now that I understand the impact of brand on community enhancement efforts especially at the grassroot level.

Alas! They were not what I had imagined. I was stunned beyond wits on how undervalued someone like me and other committee chairs would be for them. They assumed that we were dispensable labor dedicated to their whims and fancies. That they could just instruct anything and we’d bend backwards to please. While one manager ordered around drastic updates to the visuals at the conference few hours before start, another left ridiculous tens of voice notes asking to be served one on one in his hotel room. Everything they demanded was so beyond comprehension that I wondered if they even belonged to this planet. Perhaps not.

The sham that comes with some celebrities, and please note I don’t mean all, is unfathomable. Nothing that is shown on the screen is worthy of believing. You’d never know when someone claims to be a vegan but orders Wagyu steak in secrecy. Few of the many things that were ludicrous with these celebrities and managers, was their audacity to skip on program commitments if the crowd was lean and ask for ‘mobs’ to throng on them when they arrive at the venue. And they wanted only the opposite gender and younger crowd. One thought that she was so esteemed that she wanted highly accomplished panelists who are self-made billionaires to get off the stage if she were to speak.

At one point I had to make it obvious on how successful each one of us here is, our self-made legacies and a certain unparalleled individuality that they could never achieve even if they tried. One’s manager asked to me stand up in reverence when ‘madam’ walked in and I refused, much to his dismay. My respect is meant to be earned. I just couldn’t overlook her snobbishness and how she made me feel. When I went to receive this ‘diva’ at the airport, she shoved the bouquet because her VIP protocol couldn’t take effect. Systems were down that day and everyone had to pass through the same immigration lines. Even when help was offered, she refused.

Not only was this one a racist but openly asked for a ‘local white chauffeur’ and not the conference provided Desi! Despite our best effort to provide a luxury vehicle for their joyrides, thousands of dollars were wasted in hiring an additional vehicle from the concierge. I pray to God that some day these dimwits experience hardships just for a day. Throwing celebrity tantrums is one thing but to display innate disrespect for fellow Indians especially those that are not a penny less than them is blasphemy!

I don’t know how many read my post but it is my earnest request to all cultural organizations in the United State to stop this craze of bringing moronic celebrities to grace our events. And especially those who have forgotten basic respect. When we have abundant unsung heroes around us in the fields of education, literature, music, and dance, why should we degrade ourselves by signing up for this insanity. Heck, we even have our so called local beauty queens and influencers who are much tolerable than these fake biggies. Let’s remind ourselves why we came to this country in the first place. Enough is enough!!

“I”

I can never forget the day I stood by the Hudson River. By that time I had scored a ‘C’ in a Finance class, my graduate assistantship and Resident Assistantship were in danger because of my GPA dropping below the mandatory 3.0 for graduate studies, which would lead to financial implications including losing housing and meal tickets. And I had created a fake account at the same time to send the code of conduct from the student handbook to few of my fellow students who I thought were targeting me. The IP address was traced.

In short, I was a HUGE mess.

When I stood near the water, I had fleeting thoughts of ending my life so I can get myself out of my current misery, on how disappointed my parents would be to hear fhat their ‘brilliant’ only child ‘failed’ a class and put her student immigration status in jeopardy, and even more ashamed if I returned home an utter failure. It was just a hairline difference between life and after. Not only was I feeling alone but clueless on what I could do next.

To me, my problems at that time seemed massive.

The moment I stepped back from that edge has remained one of my proudest. I realized that my life is precious and worthy of better things. I borrowed money from my cousin for an extra class, worked my butt off and scored three A’s alongside that C so I could maintain the overall 3.0 GPA without losing anything. I apologized to the Dean of Students for sending that email, and tried to do the same to those I had impacted. Some of them have not forgiven me even after 2+ decades since the incident.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future!” I did too.

After that semester the Dean of the Business school called me in. I was terrified imagining he’d expel me because I did ‘game the system’ to maintain my GPA. I walked into his office and without giving him a chance to say anything, I said, “Please don’t give up on me. I will not let you down ever again.” I went on to be remembered as one of the cherished GA and RA of my time, eventually ended up managing budgets in several jobs, and being good at it too. I did take that Finance class again and got a B+. What the Dean said that day once I stopped talking has been etched in my mind.

‘I’ is most powerful.

He stood up from his chair after saying the shortest and most profound sentence I had heard, gave me pat on my back and walked me out. Everyone feared him and he was not known for such soft and empathetic actions. If I ever told anyone what happened in his office that day, no one would believe me. But those 4 words were my life’s validation, the motivation to keep moving and ‘Never give up on ME.’

Meet Cute – A Fervent Review

This is a biased review. It better be because it is worth it. For a budding story teller, especially when they are so good, words of wow must be put out there. I am a little disappointed at myself for not standing on rooftops screaming how fulfilling watching the five segments of Meet Cute, “an amusing or charming first encounter between two characters that leads to the development of a romantic relationship between them.”

Although, not all series evolve into a romantic relationship, all of them are such heartfelt stories that each and everyone can relate to. Because in regular cinema we have the best of the actors catering commercial, formula based, and hours together long reels parlaying to everlasting and award-winning impressions. But Meet-Cute was beyond all of that for me as it captured basic emotions that are often forgotten, deep inside our psyche awaiting to be dug out by triggers, and in some cases untold and incomplete affections.

Each character has been carefully etched to persist, their dialogues and attire adding to the intricacies of that frame, while making a not it not-so-novice directorial endeavor. I can say that Meet Cute for sure helped me survive a Tridemic and no one perhaps can understand the gratitude that comes with a relief in trying times.

Thanks to the Director, Deepthi Ganta, who I’ve come to being friends, not because she is thespian Nani’s sister or because I’ve known her husband even before I met her, I was witness to the most beautiful labor of love. This review comes with a deep admiration that creativity is limitless. And especially when it comes from someone who’s sole goal is to make good content. Meet Cute, I hope is just the beginning for many such that will be part the archives that future generations would cherish.

Adieu 2022

At every end of year for many years now, I’ve been posting my accomplishments, high points, how I beat odds and so many things I am generally proud of. On one side I experienced most success in my professional and media life but on the other side I lost so many dear ones that I hate to call it any sort of balance in life.

Yet, there was so much growing up and I must admit I am scared going into 2023. I’d be a fool if I didn’t join the wagon of hope of health, happiness and cheer that everyone is looking forward to. There are so many new life lessons this year than any in my entire life – One for each month.

January: It is fair enough to get rid of those that have abused my softness. Sometimes burning the bridges that lead to nowhere is a worthy sacrifice.

February: Communication is less critical than comprehension. In any relationship I can communicate all I want but if the person receiving it doesn’t understand, good words don’t matter.

March: Pursuit of mental sanity lies with safeguarding my own at any cost. It is not my job to keep peace with those that have created havoc in my life.

April: Love those that you can today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and neither is their presence.

May: Showing vulnerability is a sign of immense sense. I am proud of showing emotions and wearing my heart on my sleeve.

June: Curtailing the urge to chase those that don’t have a place for me in their life. It was a relief walking away from being someone’s second priority. It is their loss.

July: Giving chances to those that hurt me is wrong. What they deserve is less access to my inner space.

August: I don’t let anyone invalidate my current because of my past. Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Circumstances transform people. I have too.

September: People will always state opinions as they perceive me. My power lies in not making their perception a reality. They are entitled to theirs and I, mine.

October: No matter how small the step is, I have vowed to keep moving forward as long as it is right direction in the journey I have embarked on.

November: I make it a point to reflect on the pain, both physical and mental so I can see how much I’ve healed. Forgiving starts with self. Rest doesn’t matter.

December: Celebrating my strengths before successes. No one knows the tears I’ve shed or battles I fight. Every challenge has led to what I’ve become today.

What A Killer Taught Me

We were living in a nice location closer to the University so my roomies wouldn’t have a problem commuting. I was working already and had just purchased my first car, so traveling to work was not a problem. Also, I always wanted to live closer to my host parents and most greedily didn’t know how to survive without the amazing food that my host mom dropped off for me! If you’ve not experienced Italian love, you can never understand how food plays a vital role in any relationship.

Any visitor we had was vetted with them informally because of some unpleasant situations I had encountered during my student days. One such was when an ‘uncle’ who promised to give me a creative break in a local newspaper landed at our door at midnight to ‘take me out’ for ‘brainstorming ideas’. Much to his annoyance, none of us were dumb enough to entertain him or his offer. My host dad turned him away and since began my vocation to trust no one!

That discipline was so immutable that I barely let my guard down. Perhaps that’s the reason why I might be terrifically in love with my current profession where learning never ceases. Meanwhile, my biological father who couldn’t be in the United States continued to teach me the guise of words so I can go undetected with my indifference towards unfamiliar persons. But, this was one of the few instances when all of us, my host parents, my roomies and I were all collectively wrong.

They were the sweetest and kindest person we’d befriend. And they really took a liking to one of my roomies but not in a romantic way. So they’d visit us every weekend and spend a lot of time in our house. This went on for about 8 months before they suddenly stopped coming. My roommate’s phone calls and voicemails were unreturned and they literally disappeared. A month later, my host mom summoned me to their home. And my host mom never ‘summoned’. I knew something was not right.

When I went over she was holding a cutout of a newspaper. As soon as I stepped into the threshold, she hugged me so tight that I thought my bones would break. She said, “Oh Marissa, I’m so glad you are safe.” And burst out laughing right after as soon as she realized she mixed up my name with her cat’s. That mix-up happened quite often. Even to the point that she’d call for the cat to come home by yelling my name. We sat down and what she told next blew the smithereens off my brain.

The disappeared visitor was locked up for chasing down their partner, wounding several who tried to intervene and ultimately killing the partner in a very brutal manner. At that moment, my host mom and I realized how fortunate my roomies and I were for having evaded the worst in our lives. It could’ve happened to us or not. But it was a huge lesson learned to bear the highest caution when letting people in our homes and hearts. Since, even when people ask me in jest, “Don’t you trust me?”, I smile and say, “I don’t.”

In Between Life and Death

“Don’t be ridiculous. You grew up in India,” which is truly a loose translation that I should never complain about allergies. Most of my Desi paisans and few more have found utmost hilarity in my allergies, most recent being allergy induced laryngitis and Blepharitis. Well, it is funny when you are able to sneeze for hours together non-stop, while pee drips without control and those around have to go “Bless you” continuously which probably would make the affected an immortal. Not.

Health related concerns such as allergies/ allergic reactions are misunderstood even in most educated households. Few weeks ago my mother and I visited someone who are not dog owners. While I love dogs, I cannot be around them as I could die from exposure especially to those that shed considerably.. Before I entered their home, I asked them again and again if they have dogs. Ofcourse they didn’t own one and relayed the same to me with slight annoyance. Perhaps they thought I was scared of dogs (or cats).

Twenty minutes into sitting in their living room, I started choking and was beginning to have difficulty breathin.. So I asked again, “By any chance you have pets,” being super careful this time to not repeat what I previously asked. The answer was a standard, “No, we don’t have any pets.” I started wondering if I ate something that I should not. And started dissecting the ingredients of the snack served. I didn’t find anything suspicious but I stopped eating further. And thus began my observation and investigation.

Few minutes before we left I really started to get itchy eyes, voice was becoming hoarse and my plumbing was getting clogged. Not a great feeling. It is my love for the beautiful life that keeps me excited all the time. No, I don’t take any energy enhancing drugs. But when something like this happens, it really kills my spirit and I’m not the same anymore. By this time, my mother had started talking about my OCD and the host jumped right in to share their woes about having to clean daily for the last three weeks.

I couldn’t hold my curiosity and inquired, “That’s a lot of cleaning. Wonder why you had to clean that often?” Casually, they mentioned they watched over someone else’s dog for three weeks preceding our visit. And the dog left just the day before. Alas! It was too late to know that vital piece of information. I already had blood shot eyes, a husky voice, closed wind pipes and a body that itched like I am poison ivy’s best friend. The first thought that occured to me was ,”I am so screwed.” If you ever wondered why I don’t trust anyone, now you do.

As soon as I reached home, I did the drill. Pumped in anti-histamines / over the counter steroids x 7, put on anti-allergic cream all over the body, took few anti-inflammatory tabs and started praying I don’t have an anaphylaxis. From what I remembered having one, it is a near death experience. A painful twilight zone that no one deserves to be stuck in. I’m not going to speak for doctors who treat such conditions on a daily baisis. But I have to be dramatic for those who may not understand how tiny the time is to save a life.

While I had fleeting thoughts on what’s going to happen to my mother, or those whose future is dependent on me, and all the cool things I wanted to do in my life but may not end up doing etc. Both the husband and mother took off on a tangent which is very typical of Indians, I guess. On one side the husband is blaming me to have put myself in this situation on another my mother started a rant on what she might have had when she was pregnant with me. Neither useful monologues if I had to be rushed in an ambulance.

A big shout out to all my friends with pets who don’t mind me missing in action for important events and truly understand my situation. Despite the preliminary cribs, my mother and husband do exhibit some empathy after all when I need. I know how much I suffered while I lived in India and thanks to the many medical avenues presented here that I get tested every few years. New allergies get added each time, but I’ve been managing them pretty well for many years. People who are oblivious may never understand that it is indeed matter of life and death.

Time

The time I spent with you
Is what matters to me
While you may not realize
You’ll miss me when I’m gone
Then it’s too late to reconnect
‘Cause you’d want to spend some
And memories flash inadequately
But I’ll be nowhere to be found
Tears never will be enough
Nor will the hooch bring me back
Why not just give me the minutes
Now, when you really can
Worry less about the world
Making what you spend with me
One of few things that is worth!

Mystery

Definitely is a mystery
Because we choose it to be
Seems like a cruel play
Of time and feelings
And may be of fate too
So much of heart
Lost to dreams of night
That never become true
But who is complaining
For we’ve become slaves
To memories and lorn
The pining seems intrinsic
No matter how painful it is
Audaciously we continue
Again and again and again
Into eternity it lingers on
Never to die by its own
While it takes down many
Who’ve fallen to it’s charm
Whether anyone agrees or not
It seems to rule the world
May be it is that irony
Between hope and nostalgia
To be in forever and always
Things beyond our control
Yet, it remains an enigma
As to why we fall in love
If we’re not meant to be

A Light

Creeps in disguised as love
Takes over the mind
Distrust settles in like mold
And heart disconnects
Tears can’t be stopped
Smiles slowly fade away
Life gets confused as hell
Wondering who could help
Battles become silent
Celebrations are tiring
Feelings are less genuine
Pain become more real
Nothing worth living for
Wanting to end it all
Fading away seems easy
Than the burden to live on
Wondering why it has to be
Strong minds are impacted
There must be way out
Than diminish quietly
Could something save
Who badly want to be
But couldn’t muster a word
Even when inner voice says
“Don’t do it, Don’t do it
It’s wrong what you do”
Mend the broken mind
Even if it seems impossible
Burden shouldn’t be punted
To those left behind
Gloom should be like clouds
That make way for the sun
If only hope can prevail
None should ever weep
May we find in darkness
A light that keeps us alive

Selfish Secret

It was not mine to give away
Even though I wanted it to stay
This selfish secret of my heart
Shouldn’t have been from the start

There were worlds in between
And I pretended it was serene
Nothing would bring us together
Not there was any happily ever

But I was stingy in holding onto you
Thinking we can create a life new
I was silly to presume that’d be
For beyond my own I couldn’t see

It dawned on me like an epiphany
That I was wrong on so many
From your fate I must be removed
You are meant for the greater good

Letting go was not so easy
My mind was tumultuously breezy
Yet I had to do what I always knew
That I’d lose it all saying bye to you

Just like everything, life moves on
It’s been hard but I’m not alone
Knowing you are inspiring out there
I too am making my mark somewhere

(Now read from the bottom!)