Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The cook in me

I always thought I hated cooking, but when I started building a life together with my husband in Hyderabad, I discovered my passion for cooking. I found myself searching for recipes, wanting to cook, watching cookery shows, trying to innovate. It is like I discovered a whole new world. Well, the fact that my mother is an exceptional cook and I have always eaten good food helped me in this new found hobby :).

Food is such an elixir for the soul, whether it's a happy occasion or someone is broken hearted. It always helps to eat something good. So knowing how to cook good food is indeed important. Eating involves most of the five senses, sight, smell (most important to me), and touch. I feel the same while cooking food. When the right ingredients come together to generate a nice aroma and start looking good, I get the high.

If you ask 'Why do you cook?', I will say I cook for myself, to help myself on my bad days and to celebrate my good days. That's my therapy. Somewhere down the line it got extended to creating something which I think is very nice and wanting to know whether others feel the same. So I also cooked for my friends and family. And guess what, they were too kind and always encouraged me. But I still cook to satisfy myself and myself only ;-). And the type of food I have always enjoyed cooking is Bengali cuisine. The variety in taste and ingredients used in Bengali cuisine creates a vast canvas to experiment on. I think I should start writing about my cooking experiences.

Recently on my vacation to Kumarakom, Kerala, the dishes I enjoyed most are fish cooked with raw mango and tempered yogurt. Will definitely be cooking them soon and writing about them.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good days, Bad days

Have completed 2 months of my US trip... one more month to go... How has it been? Well, collection of good days and bad days... First month was wonderful... new place, new people, new experience... second month, not so good... work frustrations, sleepless nights, loneliness, addiction to internet, useless chatting with people for hours... I have my share of good days when I get appreciation for the work I am doing, when I watch a good movie, when I have a fulfilling conversation with someone (colleague, friends, family), when at the end of a day I feel the day was utilized well and I am tired enough to go to sleep... Then there are bad days when I am not satisfied with the work I have done, when I have to go on for hours without anyone to talk to, when the dish I want to cook turns out awful, when the house is in mess and I am too tired to clean it up...
One thing that I constantly keep thinking, how can I keep my sanity even at the end of a bad day? And the only answer I can think of is, on my bad days, I need the assurance that the love that my family and friends have for me has not changed a bit... Even when I am frustrated, I am irritated, I am not able to keep up with the pressure, I just need to know that my friends and my family still love me and want me... Just knowing that can turn a bad day into any normal day and I can be at peace... Since I am far from family and friends, and I cannot reach them whenever I want to, my bad days become worse... So, that's me realising how important it is to be near family and friends... I have always been choosy about the people I meet, people I talk to, people I hang around with... I don't like people being dependent on me, people waiting for me, people clinging to me... I like the freedom... so I assumed staying alone is not a problem for me... But now I know, how much I would like my family and friends to be near me...I admit, I am very casual about keeping in touch... I don't call up my friends very regularly, many times I am lazy about returning their calls... Perhaps I had taken them for granted... But now I want to make that extra effort and make them feel as much wanted as I want to feel now...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Movies I remember

I must say, I am a movie freak. I love watching movies. But my problem is that I forget most movies within a few months of watching them. I can never remember the dialogs and many times I forget the supporting characters and the subplots, in some cases, I even forget the endings of the movies. But that's not the case with all movies, so here I want to mention my list of ten movies that I like to or would like to watch multiple times. It is just a list, I have not ranked the movies. I would love to hear what others think about those movies.
1. I think one of the funniest movie I have watched in my life is 'Andaz Apna Apna', and guess what, I even remember some of the dialogs from the movie. The effortless acting of Aamir Khan, the dialogs and the situational comedy in the movie are exceptional. And the funniest scene in my opinion is when Aamir Khan and Salman Khan go on a moped to give the ransom money to Paresh Rawal. The entire sequence is just perfect.
2. Another funny movie that I love watching is 'Pink Panther' starring Steve Martin. I think Steve Martin is a genius. He has perfected the comedy genre. There are very few actors who can do comedy as good as him, and perhaps there is no one who can do it better than him. He is a sheer pleasure to watch. So I can watch Pink Panther multiple times just to watch Steve Martin play the French inspector Jacques Clouseau. Some other movies by Steve Martin that I have loved: Housesitter, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Father of the bride.
3. My favourite animation movie 'Ice Age'. It is one of the best animation movies ever made. It has humor, it has emotions, and it looks brilliant. The characters are so well defined. This movie is a great experience. A watch for everybody.
4. Since I am a passionate dog and cat lover, I love watching movies on dogs and cats. My favourite canine movie character is Beethoven, the huge Saint Bernard. I have watched 'Beethoven's second' numerous times. It has Beethoven falling in love with another cute Saint Bernard named 'Missy' and then Missy giving birth to a litter. I love the movie because it has so many dogs of various sizes :) and it has a beautiful song "The day I fall in love". When I watched it for the first time, I was in my teens and the song seemed to exactly describe the way I thought the day I fall in love would be and I had this fantasy that the day I fall in love, this song will be playing in the background. Well, that was just a teenage fantasy and I am over it now. Other doggy movies I love watching are 'Turner and Hooch" (Hooch is one of the ugliest and most lovable dogs), and Homeward bound. Another movie I want to mention here is 'Hachiko' in which Hachiko, a dog, waits at a train station for his master even after his master's demise, for 10 years till he himself dies. It is based on a real story. The movie moved me so much that for few days, I could think of nothing else but the dog and his love for his master. No one should die, at least not the people who have someone waiting for them.
5. A movie that inspires me every time I watch it is 'Forest Gump', starring Tom Hanks. The humor is very good, but what I love about the movie is the honesty and sincerity of Forest Gump. Nothing he did was half hearted. He did everything in his life with utmost honesty and sincerity, be it falling in love, playing pingpong, fighting in a battlefield, keeping a promise to a dying friend or fishing for shrimps, and the best thing is that he succeeded in almost everything. No one could have been a better Forest Gump than Tom Hanks. Another must watch movie for everybody.
6. I would say the most beautiful movie I have ever watched is 'Life is Beautiful' by Roberto Benigni. I feel, it is one of the best movies ever made. It is a movie about love, courage and optimism. It is a story about a man, who was equally true and devoted to all his different roles in life, as a human being, as a husband and as a father. The last scene of the movie where his son says that his father gave him the gift of life, there couldn't have been a better summary for the movie. An unforgettable movie.
7. I am a die hard romantic and I love watching romantic movies. One of my favourite romantic movies is 'Pretty Woman'. It is a fairytale romance, a rich man and a poor girl falling in love. Similar stories have been made into movies time and again. But what makes this movie so beautiful is the lead pair, gorgeous Julia Roberts and handsome Richard Gere. No one can help falling in love with both of them after watching this movie. Their acting, their expressions, their dialog delivery, all make the movie such a pleasure to watch. All die hard romantics, I hope you have watched this movie.
8. A movie which made all teenagers (at least females) skip their heart beat is 'Titanic'. I still remember the day I watched the movie. I was a teenager and it felt as if Jack Dawson is the ultimate lover. While watching the movie, I fell in love with him, I was jealous of Kate Winslet, I was anxious to save him from drowning with the ship, I cried on his death, I went through all the emotions portrayed in the movie. For a young girl, it was an wonderful experience.
I have watched Titanic only once, but I included it in this list because this is a movie I want to watch again. But I stop myself because I know the spell will be broken. I want to remember the movie as I had watched it the first time.
9. When I am talking about romantic movies, I have to mention Shah Rukh Khan, my all time favourite actor. I have watched almost all his movies more than once, but the one SRK movie that I have watched most number of times is 'Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa'. The simple love story of a simpleton, a good hearted guy gives you the feel good factor, an welcome distraction from the everyday mundane life and its frustrations. Sunil (SRK's character in the movie), makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you want to reach out to him and console him and at the end of the movie, makes you happy. Another such movie, though not as good, but makes me smile is 'Ishq Vishq', a teenage love story. After a long day at work, this movie helps me unwind and relax.
10. And lastly, I want to mention a movie I watched yesterday night, 'Twilight', but I am sure I am going to watch it again and again. I watched it on my laptop, but I wish I had watched it in a theater. I am sure that would have been a great experience, because I loved the movie even on the small screen of my laptop. It is again a love story, but between a human and a vampire, a breathtakingly beautiful vampire :). I am sure every teenage girl wanted to fall in love with a vampire after watching this movie :). It is a fantasy, something that is very far away from reality, but still, what every female will wish to have after watching the movie, is a strong, protective and beautiful boyfriend like Edward Cullen, who is always there when his girl needs him. Since I am not that teenage girl anymore and happily married, that is not my wish. What struck me in the movie is Robert Pattinson's acting talent. He blended into the character so well and has made the vampire so real, so lovable. I cannot think of him as a human being anymore :). Very well made and well acted movie, I must say.
You won't see any horror movies in my list, I hate them. Thrillers, yes, I do like some, The Departed, The Godfather, The silence of the lambs, etc. But mostly I like reading thrillers and suspense novels, rather than watching. It gives me time to think and have my own interpretations. Well, I will talk about books some other day.
So here is my list of movies I remember and wish to watch again. Let me know what you all think about these movies and may be you can suggest me some of your favourite movies too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Visiting US - a dream come true...

United States of America - A land of dreams, land of Hollywood, land of world power, land of fashion, land of dollars. It is all these and more for me. I had always cherished this wish of visiting this country, observing closely the life of the people here and if possible learn something that will help me in my life. I remember when I was 16 years old, one day, my father came home and announced that he is getting a foreign posting. He said that he was given a choice between New York and Hongkong and he had chosen Hongkong. I was very disappointed with him, but probably he had his reasons. Though Hongkong was a great experience and I loved the city, but my stay in Hongkong made me want to visit US even more. If Hongkong can be so beautiful, so clean, so comfortable, how beautiful US will be.
Well, I must admit, though I wished so much to see US, during my academic life, I didn't work hard enough to earn a scholarship and come to this country. I, kind of, left it on fate. May be my job will take me to US someday, or may be I will marry an NRI, or may be some day I will be so rich that I will very easily afford a vacation in US. I kept waiting and waiting. It seemed all the people I know have been to US and they start their stories with "When I was in US..." and I was still waiting for my chance. And I got my chance. A business trip to San Jose for 3 months.
The thought of staying alone in a strange country was scary and exciting at the same time. At last I will be living my dream. So with thousand thoughts and plans and ideas, I landed in San Francisco on 20th Jan. It was night and the city was so beautifully lit up, as if someone has covered the mountains with a blanket of white and yellow lights. I loved it. It felt nice, everything was new and exciting. I kept reminding myself that I have landed in US. I still do sometimes :).
I am here since one month now. Can't say I have seen much of this country. But whatever I have been able to see and observe in this one month, it has really been my dream come true. This country and its people have not disappointed me. Their warmth, their smile, their easy attitude, and above all, their respect for human life has touched me, impressed me, left a smile on my face. When a person bound to a wheelchair boards a bus, everyone waits patiently till the person settles down. I can imagine the reaction of a bus full of Indians on an Indian road in such a scenario. But then, it is impossible for a person bound to a wheelchair, to board a bus in India. The comfortable life here makes me wish that life was so comfortable in my own country too. When one of the two entrance doors to my office building in San Jose broke and people had to walk in the rain from the parking to the other entrance, they found it extremely uncomfortable and annoying. In my country, when it rains, our parking space gets flooded and we have to walk in knee deep water and we don't find it reason enough to get annoyed since we have much bigger frustrations in life. May be because of such a comfortable life, they can so easily smile at strangers, be nice to them, try to be helpful.
When I visited the city of San Francisco two weeks ago, I fell in love with city instantly. The roads going up and down, dark green trees, narrow winding roads, all trees neatly trimmed and shaped, neat and clean roads, sunny weather, nice cool breeze, everything was so perfect. Everyone so nicely dressed, people smiling and enjoying their time, even beggars singing and trying to make people laugh. It makes you feel as if everything is just fine, there is nothing to worry about.
When I went to Napa Valley, I saw another beautiful side of this country. The breathtakingly beautiful valley surrounded by mountains, miles and miles of vineyards where yellow mustard flowers have blossomed just after grapes have been harvested, big and small picturesque cottages and bungalows. It was as if I have entered a picture postcard. There is nothing ugly, no slum, no dirt to spoil the picture.
I am loving my stay, this freedom, this comfort. No one to question and no one waiting for me. I can catch up on my reading, I can cook if I want to, and not cook if I don't want to. Though there are times when I miss Shailly a lot, who is not only my husband, but my best friend in every possible way. And the thing I miss most is touching my baby, my dog, Coco. But I know that the way my wait for US visit came to an end, this visit is also going to end.
Have I learnt anything? Yes, quite a few things. Dedication to one's job. Whether it the CEO of a company, or a sales girl in a shop or a waitress, they are all trying to prove that they are worth every cent of the money they are earning. Proactive thinking. No one wants to live within the boundaries, they want to expand, new ideas are always encouraged. Semiconductors to memory chips to NASA to SUVs to McDonalds, they were all born in California. And most important respect for fellow human beings. And yes, got some fashion tips too :).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Multitasking - What is the limit?

My job as a software test lead requires me to multitask every day. I have to manage a team of testers, as well as perform as an individual contributor. At the same time I am working on more than one tasks, writing test case for one project, reviewing test cases for another project, testing for a third project. After my day in office ends, and I reach home, I am again multitasking. I am cleaning, I am cooking, I am feeding my dog, I am checking my mails, I am making sure that everybody in the house is comfortable. But the question that creeps up in my mind is, when I am doing all these tasks together, am I giving 100% to each of my task? Am I as good a manager as I am a tester? Or does the manager takes a step back when the tester wants to perform? When I am cooking a dish, is it my best effort? or it would have tasted better if I didn't have to wash the clothes in the washing machine at the same time?
I want to excel in everything I do. I want to make sure that people cannot point fingers at me. But when I am doing so many things in a day, I may not be focusing on one thing at a time, and mistakes are unavoidable. That worries me. This must be a problem faced by most working women who want to give same priority to their career and family. When my family needs me, I have to shift focus from job, I am afraid that my office considers it as a side effect of hiring a woman for the job. When I have a hectic day in office and do not have any energy left to do the household chores, my family might take it as negligence towards my duties. How do I maintain the balance?
I read an article in TOI which said "Today's woman: The multi-tasking genius". Is it really true? At most times I feel tremendous pressure to keep up with this statement. But at times, I want to shout and say, this is not true. I am not happy that I can multitask. But I have no other choice than to multitask. Shouldn't there be a limit?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Software Testing - My experience

I have now completed 6 years in my career as a software tester. I ask myself, what have I learnt in these 6 years? Am I a better tester today than I was when I started my career? How has being a tester impacted or affected my life? No satisfactory answer yet. But I want to share some things that come to my mind when I ponder over these questions.
During my MBA days, I came upon a book by Glenford Myers, 'The Art of Software Testing'. The artist in me noticed the word 'Art' and I started reading it. I won't describe what I read. (Anyone who has read the book will know why is it so costly.) But yes, it did convince me that Software testing is an . Testing involves as much thinking and creativity as a form of art. From my experience, I have learnt that there cannot be a defined way to test a particular software. Two testers will test the same software in two different ways. Just like two painters will paint the same imagination in two different ways. Most of the times, people will like one better than the other. So with maturity and experience, one can learn better ways to test. Having said that, I will also say that experience alone cannot make a better tester, if there is no hunger for knowledge and learning more and more. Just like an author needs to learn a language and grammar to write a good book, tester needs to learn ways to make a software more useful to the user. what does a tester need to learn? I will share some of my knowledge here.
In my first job, I started with a set of test cases written by my test lead. I executed them. But is that all that I can contribute? I figured out that if I want to add value, I have to think like the user who is ultimately going to use the product. In the last 6 years, I have had the opportunity to work in various business domains which has helped me to understand the point of view of various levels of users, computer educated user, computer illiterate user, highly sophisticated user, impatient user, friendly user, aggressive user... This is the first and most important lessson any tester has to learn, 'During testing, always think from the perspective of the user who is ultimately going to use it'. Some questions that I have to ask myself when I am trying to think from user's perspective are like: Is this data useful to the user? Are we displaying unnecessary/useless information? Are we confusing the user with too many options? Is the process self explanatory? Is the time taken for the process testing the user's patience? and so on. These are the questions I collected on my way during the last 6 years. Even when I am using a software for my personal use, I keep checking whether the testers of that software think of these questions with me in mind as a user :). So this is one huge change that being a software tester has brought to my mind.
I have also realized that having programming knowledge is very important even in software testing. I have come across many testers who are satisfied in just knowing that the software is behaving incorrectly. But when I see a bug, the next question that comes to my mind is, why did this bug get introduced. My inquisitive mind wants to know what went on in the developer's mind during implementation due to which the bug got introduced. I do not only want to point out the problem, I also want to know the cause of the problem and want to contribute in solving the problem. For that I needed programming knowledge and I have harrassed many developers trying to learn the architecture, design and software code :). I am much better equipped now. Yes I have definitely evolved over the years, but it is not the end. I have to constantly try and improve my art to become a better artist.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rabindranath Tagore and Rabindrasangeet

9th may was Rabindra Jayanti, Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday. Hyderabad Bengali Samity had arranged a small culture function. And I got a chance to sing two group songs, both rabindrasangeet. Anyways I don’t sing anything other than rabindrasangeet. That is the only kind of music that touches my heart. I am not trying put down other types of songs or music. May be I have not yet developed the ear for other kind of music.

I am a huge fan of Rabindranath Tagore and his songs. I truly believe that he is one of the greatest poets ever born on this earth. You have only to feel the emotions in the words of the songs and poems to realize his greatness. And among so many songs, you will find songs for each moment of the day, each emotion of human mind, each season. Whether you are in love, or you are praying, or you are praising nature, or you are sad, or you are a revolutionary, you will definitely find a song that suits your situation. And always the emotion is so beautifully expressed in his words, that it feels that those words are the only words that can express those feelings. May be that is why, rabindrasangeet plays such an important role in the life of a Bengali. It is the soul, it is the voice of a Bengali.

People from other parts of India and world make fun of Bengalis as a community crazy about Rabindranath Tagore. But anyone who can once taste the true flavor of his songs and poems, is bound to become his fan. People call him arrogant, but when does a genius like him have time to socialize! And as someone who knows his craft, isn’t he allowed to have some amount of self confidence and arrogance. People talk about his womanizing and philandering ways. But who are we to talk about his character! Even if I spend a lifetime trying to write a poem, I cannot write even one poem as beautifully as him, and he has written thousands of such poems. He has given us a gift, a collection of very beautiful songs, he has shown us the way to express our feelings, and that’s all that matters to me.
I still remember the day when I went to see Jora Shanko Thakur Bari, the house he grew up in. Unfortunately it was a Monday, the day when all museums in India remain closed, so I couldn’t see the museum. But when I walked in the garden, entered the main door, saw the veranda and balcony, I was almost shivering with emotions, that all these have been touched and used by the great man, a man who had such beautiful thoughts, I could almost feel his presence. He almost appeared god-like to me that day, as if I have come to a temple and I can feel and connect to the god in the temple. I am sure many have experienced the same emotions as me. I would like to know what others have to say on this topic :)