Tuesday, December 29, 2009

on our one year anniversary

I thought of making a list to do with this decade, but it was so overwhelming, to think of all that has happened, all the music that has kept me alive, and all the movies that have submerged me into their worlds, all the events that shaped the world as it is today, so that seemed like work best left to those who are a bit more insightful. Then I thought of making a list about this year, but honestly, I've not been fond of this year, and I've also been somewhat removed from things. Case in point: I've still not read a single piece of news about whatever is going on with Tiger Woods, have never seen an episode of Jersey Shore (my friends, I am sorry to tell you that I actually went to the Jersey Shore one weekend back when I was living in that neck of the woods and I am here to tell you that I have no desire to be exposed to any of those people in any way ever again, thank you very much), and only just figured out who Lady GaGa is in the past two months. So I couldn't really find the motivation to write anything extensive about 2009 either.

But when I did think of the past year, I was struck by one bit of pop culture, which was perhaps more evident to me all of a sudden because I was thinking of it in the sense of a decade. In the year 2000 (do you know how impossible it is to type those words down without having Conan O'Brien images stuck in my brain?), there was quite literally no appreciable South Asian presence on television. Now, consider the past year, and let's just highlight the most notables:

  • Mindy Kaling: Mindy Kaling has been around for a while, to be certain. To tell the truth, I don't really even watch The Office anymore. It has grown a bit tired, and the whole Jim-Pam behemoth has drowned out the more entertaining aspects of the show. However, Kaling continues to find ways to be hilarious, frequenting the late show circuit this past year, tweeting cleverly, and most notably, creating a series of webisodes that culminated in a music video entitled Subtle Sexuality. Watch it here and thank me later.
  • Aziz Ansari: I have to admit something. Sometimes, I don't find Aziz Ansari all that funny. He was at his prime when he was making fun of Kanye West, but now he is buddies with him. I watched the first few episodes of Season 1 of Parks & Recreations last year, and didn't really get into it. I'm told the show and Ansari took it to another level in Season 2. Regardless, Ansari has been ubiquitous this past year- he played against desi stereotype, playing a slacka$$ med student on Scrubs, created an alternate obnoxious persona for a role in Funny People, and is often said to be the funniest thing in Parks & Recreation. The only comedian who had a bigger year than him was Zach Galifianakis (sigh). His twitter has moments of brilliance when he channels P. Diddy or Soulja Boy, or when he has imagined tweet-versations with the likes of Lauren Conrad.
  • Danny Pudi: If I was really writing a proper list, I would have put Pudi before Kaling and Ansari. Community is, to me, the funniest show of 2009, and it became inspired when the show acknowledged that it was an ensemble and let Danny Pudi and Don Glover run wild. Pudi's character is socially awkward, quotes pop cultural institutions like The Breakfast Club and Over The Top, and does a nifty Batman impersonation.
  • Naveen Andrews: yeah, yeah, so he plays an Iraqi (I'm never going to get over that one, show), and the show has been on for years now, but Andrews can count himself with Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn as the only actors on the show who have been consistently watchable on Lost from the moment that they hit the screen. I acknowledge that the show is a morass of confusing plot twists and unanswered questions, and all of that can be both frustrating and entertaining. But Andrews' bada$$, miserable Sayid is my favorite thing about the show, and when Abrams and company blow it and kill the character off, I'm going to have to stop watching.
  • Rekha Sharma: only the nerds know about her, but for those of us who watched Battlestar Galactica, it is worth noting that one of the Final Five Cylons was a desi, dudes! Not just that, but her character, Tory, was a little troublemaker, duping the President, seducing Baltar, killing off Callie, eagerly abandoning the humans. She was a strong, complex character, and fans of the show anticipated her comeuppance, which wound up being a major plot point on the show.

What I like, in considering the above, is that I don't even watch Kaling and Ansari's shows. And that there are plenty of other desi actors I have not included here- Maulik Pancholy in 30 Rock (his Jonathan has had some truly inspired exchanges with boss Jack Donaghy, but he has been sorely absent from most episodes this season), Sendhil Ramamurthy in Heroes (sorry, but I refuse to watch that show), Kunal Nayyar in Big Bang Theory. The list undoubtedly goes on. It's pretty impressive, when you consider that in 2000 even ER had not managed to have one Indian doctor on the show, which, let me tell you, after having spent over two years in medical school, is absolutely ludicrous (if you can find me a hospital in Chicago, Seattle, or Princeton with no Indian residents or attendings, I will gladly supply you half of my tuition). So I guess it's been a good decade for the desi's, and when I think about it, this decade's treated me alright too.

Monday, December 28, 2009

see how they resemble one another

Oh but you know I couldn't end the year on such a note, now could I?

I started this exercise this week, partly to snap myself out of writer's block and partly because everyone keeps mentioning the end of the decade. I've been working on summing up each year of this decade. It's an illuminating experience. This was my first decade of fully formed adulthood. The significance of that is more than I expected it to be when I reflected back. And my, for such a boring person, I managed to sneak a lot of twists and turns into a decade.

Thinking of who I was in the year 2000 and who I have become, it's made me feel a little better about life. I was taking small steps at the beginning of this decade, timidly nudging my way towards what I wanted. But I really came into my own during these past years, in a way I never would have expected. If I am sometimes unsure of myself, if I sometimes wallow and brood over my future now, it's because I am fully aware that I am writing my own script. There are no expectations on my shoulders, except those I place on myself. This is my story, and it goes through many rounds of revisions and editing, it often feels ripe for a rewrite, characters sometimes clutter chapters, and other times it seems the protagonist does a lot of navel gazing.

Some writers say you should know the last sentence of your book before you start. This is not that kind of story.


In other news, this is maybe not the best song to close the year out, but I like it. Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago undoubtedly has made many a list of best's. This song is not off that album, but has Bon Iver's trademark intimate sound, conveying the feeling of looking at a candid snapshot from a moment that meant something to someone. It seemed apt. I have trouble summing up each year into some big sweeping epic, but even I have the photo album of times that froze still and are still frozen safely stored away in my mind.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

one foot in and one foot back, it don't pay to live like that

Phew, it occurred to me that it's been far too long since I've posted. I think it only matters to me, but it troubles me nonetheless. With the holidays and the end of the year approaching, I held a mirror up to what had been going on and realized that it's time to work it all through.

I'm not adept at simply writing: it has been a bad year. The world has been whittled down by whimpers rather than bangs, and the art of losing has become exceedingly easy to master, but that does not really make anything any better. It's, in some ways, seemed like a simple thing. It seems like I've handled it well, losing some of the people that I counted among my closest friends. I didn't fight to keep them. There were no massive blow outs. And once they were gone, it sort of felt as though that was how it was meant to be.

And yet, the voids are there, gaping holes. You could pour water through me these days.

Meanwhile, medical school continues to be this odd mixture of a calling and a clusterf***, quite frankly. There are so many things about medicine to love, and so many other things about medicine to make you wonder why anyone goes into it at all or why someone doesn't just dismantle the system and start over from scratch. This is universally acknowledged to be one of the worst years of one's medical education, so it could just be a temporary issue. There are still plenty of times that I am fully aware that I got exactly what I wanted and that I am quite fortunate to have it.

But at the same time, sometimes you just have to admit the ugly truth, which is that it has just been a miserable, lousy year. It's been exhausting, and it's been lonely. The people I've shoved into the gaping holes don't fit, are bargain stand-in's. A lot of physicians say that you find your people during your clinical rotations, find your tribe, and that's how you know what your specialty will be. I bought into that initially this past year. It wasn't until recently that I truly started to accept the fact that I will never magically find some secret society of like-minded people. And maybe if i did, that wouldn't satisfy me either. After all, some of the dearest friends I have had lacked much in common with me.

So really, I've been spending the close of this year fixated on the concept of healing, which might be a topic for a separate post. I remain hopeful that next year will be a better one. Much to the surprise of most people that know me in real life (whatever that is these days), I am actually irrationally optimistic about how life will turn out. Despite all the data and evidence suggesting otherwise, I prefer to believe in the endless possibilities.