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Monday, November 12, 2012

Where did good ol' pen and paper go?

I am the type who takes long to adapt to changes. 

I don't like it when one picks up the pen from my desk and never returns it, somehow the Reylonds company had managed to make one customised pen for me, and now it's gone...I have to get used to a new one!! 

I also don't like when my neighbor's kid glances through my newspaper and folds it in a different way before I open the paper. Yes, am a meanie...but I do like to see the headlines first on a newspaper. I do not open the television with my morning cuppa, I read the good ol' newspaper.

I do not like when I receive a text message from Indian railways reminding me of my train timing, this was not supposed to be like this, I was supposed to check the ticket, calculate the traffic time and plan my travel. I don't like this. 

Psst...I hate it though, these days, whens they miss sending me the text.

I think, if there were a Tech goddess, which I strongly think that there should be one, considering the close to crore gods and goddesses that we have, would have been really pissed with me at my resistance to carry a cell phone. I remember my mum had a cell phone in 2000s, I reluctantly got my first cell phone in 2006. Tech goddess, tried her best (yes, it's a she, very persistent, you see) to lure me to the cell phone world, and finally, when I gave in, must have had a party by launching smartphones :(.

We will talk about that experience in a while. 

Then came the ages of social networking, Orkut came jumping around, scrapping and sh******** all over the cyberworld. Peer pressure pushed me to Orkut and I found many people 'Checking me out' every day!! I felt popular, wanted...amen! I hated getting used to the social norms to follow in Orkut, but nonetheless I managed to scrap. Then Orkut just became intrusive, I shunned it, took a sigh of relief, no more pressure, till a friend sends an invite to make my face available on a book. 

We will come to that story in a while too.

So the point I am trying to make is that I do not like change. I take long to get used to that. I remember my dad used to be all hyper, at the start of every month, lining up all the bills that he had to pay, tracking all the details in his diary. A friend forced me to do auto-debit for my phone and landline bills, I hated him for long. Mum, on the other hand managed to get her land tax, electricity bills, all paid online :(. 

I believe, that's also a trick of the Tech goddess, finding an ally in the family and thereby making inroads to the non-believer.

Amidst all of these shameless invasions of technology, I, of course, took up jobs, that predominantly took me more and more away from the ol' ways of doing things, of pens and papers and increasingly towards the bytes and pixels. I can never talk tech lingo (you know the chants to worship the Tech goddess), but I managed to stutter my way through. I learnt strange ways of communicating through pings and beeps, through cartoons and stupidly smiling faces, I learnt that you can really control your expressions when you communicate this way. I also learnt that I am going increasingly bad at behaving in real life with people and that I get terrible pain in my hand whenever I try to write on paper with a pen for long. However, my left hand seemed quite useful, as I punched my way through the QWERTY key board...I became ambidextrous.

So, while Tech goddess was at her fag end of celebration by introducing the smartphone, I decided, by now, getting quite ambidextrous with QWERTY key board, that I need to move away from the alphanumeric ones (that's the only reason for me getting a smartphone, no other reason, you can understand how challenged I am) and buy a smartphone. More challenges awaited me as I surfed the smartphone market. It seems they all come with a touchpad, touchpad only, and you really have to look hard for phone with a keyboard to punch on.

So the Tech goddess, wasn't just stopping at taking the pen and the paper away, she now wanted to take the opposable thumb away too, thereby taking us back to the world of the apes, where finger tips did wonders. A change I refused to take in, till now, can't promise though.

While the book with many faces changed their interfaces like the girls in their pre-teens, I continued in my struggle to make the most out of my smartphone, downloading some of 'this' for Android and some of 'that' for Android. I wandered through the book on my smartphone, I 'liked' and I 'commented' instead of s...crapping. While doing all of that, I realised that a bigger and wider version of this smartphone has also entered the world, they are spreading themselves like wildfire, every other chair in the airport lounge is hunched on them, every other palm is trying to hold them, every other finger tip is recording videos on them, every other shoulder is sporting a bag with them. 

I sigh again...only a while till it gets on to my palm :(. One with a keyboard to punch on, I tell myself, my saving grace...to write while I travel, to note down quickly while I observe, yes I do need one of those, I repeat, but with a keyboard to punch on, I reassure myself.

I have difficulty adapting to change....I do.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Of a ‘Broke’n Existence

Of late I have found myself precariously positioned at the edge of bankruptcy, every month-end. It’s been a while and I must say being broke is possibly the best education on life, economy and relationships that you can get for free. Learned the ‘penniless’ way, these lessons may just make you wiser.

Lesson 1: ATM

There is some way, I don’t know how, the ATM machine senses your state. It’s almost like animals sensing their inevitable perils and going into the death hole (aka Madagascar 2). As you approach the ATM machine, it cringes at your sight and wishes that you do not shove that useless plastic card through it. But you are desperate. Granted that you have not checked your bank balance for fear of the inevitable, but then there are those moments when you just have to hope for the best, you hope as you may not have hoped before for a better exam result or a nod from that special someone, as much as you hope for some despicable figures to show up on the Account Balance screen. The ATM machine is also poised to resist insults. This is how the whole scene unfolds:
  • The one before you grabs his handful of paper and walks away.
    • The ATM machine nods in pride.
  • You put your card in the slot.
    • It refuses to take it.
  • You try again.
    • It reluctantly takes it.
  • You enter 200.
    • It reluctantly spits the notes out.
  • You try to grab those ‘precious’ notes.
    • It tries to hold on it.
  • You snatch it out.
  • You win!

Moral: Do not give up. At the end of innumerable insults, you will have your moment worth 200 bucks.

Lesson 2: Economy

We crib. We crib all the time on inflation, on price hike, on cost of living, on Congress government, on corruption. When you have been broke for a while, and you have resigned to it, you learn a lot of lessons on economy:

Lesson 2a: Interest is the money that bank pays to the customer for keeping their savings in the bank

Your learning: Load your fridge in good times. In lean times it might pay you interest through some long-forgotten cheese block, some ‘refusing to rot’ vegetables and semi-fermented curd. Who cares? Curd is rotten stuff at the first place ;).

Lesson 2b: Barter is exchanging goods in place of currency

Your learning: This one is a gem. Barter a coffee for a smoke, barter a good deed for a cafĂ© late, barter a working from home with a 9-hour online status on office communicator (don’t sleep in the name of working from home) and save auto fare.

Lesson 2c: Assets-Liability=Net Worth

Your learning: Get real. You rent an apartment, you rent your furniture, you pay your maid, you pay fare to reach office. Believe me none of these are your assets. All are your liabilities. Your net worth is zero, get real, my friend.

Moral: Economics does make you burn midnight oil when it is part of your college curriculum, but when you are broke is when you crack all the theories of economy.

Lesson 3: Life

You look at life in a completely new way. You are a lot more open, accommodative and observing.  You realize that there are options, it is all not that bad. You also appreciate options that you overlooked before. Did you know that there are half litre pouch packs of vegetable cooking oil? Or that old newspaper is selling at Rs8 per kg that you can request your building’s guard to sell old newspaper and adjust towards the electricity bill for the month? Or did you know that at your despicable situation, your cook may not hesitate in borrowing a couple of tomatoes from the neighbours’ to cook your lunch? Such is bliss.

Moral: You are never out of options. At all roadblocks in life, get broke and you will find your way out.

Lesson 4: Relationships

Well, they say you know your true friends in bad times. Wrong!! In your bad times, you get to know yourself the most. Friends more or less are always trying to bail you out of the situation, it’s you who springs surprises at yourself. For example, you suddenly realize that you are really not that fastidious about that special brand of coffee or that you can in fact eat semi-fermented curd. You also realize that you can count really well to put together the dimes to pay auto fare or that you have never ever been so happy when you finally see the bank account refilled.

Moral: Give being broke a chance, you will know yourself better.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Relationships are always counter intuitive. You think you know its going in one way, bang it comes and bites you where it should not. Let me also make this humble observation: Relationships are not between humans only, they are between you and objects, you and narcissism (your and your near and far ones), you and that particular pot hole on the road, you and that rotting apple in your fridge, you and the morning alarm, you and that dream that pokes your conscience every now and then. 

Let me elaborate with one of the very first relationship that you encounter at the start of your day - with the throne. The throne, usually accommodates as much assault a human body can conjure up and takes it all in its own stride, without much complaint. But what do you do in return? Your girlfriend puts the seat down (or vice versa) and you (for no fault of the throne here) slam it back up with such fury that Prudence trembles.

Lesson 1: Relationships don't believe in give and take. They are, in all probability, mostly about take.

As the day progresses, you make, break and revive many such relationships. That traffic signal, which invariably turns red when you are just inches away from taking that turn, the elevator that purposefully takes off just when you are half a step away from it, the laptop that reboots by itself when you are in one of the most important meetings of the day, the coffee that spills on your favorite shirt reminding you of earth's rotation, the dish that burns by 'itself' when your earnest desire to display your culinary skills is challenged, and the last smoke in your packet that nudges you to take it, and its too late to go out and get a new packet.

Lesson 2: Relationships, often form by themselves. They do not quite wait for your approval and/or your rejection. They just nudge, push, shove and make their places in your lives.

One of the special relationships that I have is with my conscience. It is that of convenience. We do not look eye-to-eye, we prefer the 'sideways glance'. Every now and then, a thought takes its form in my mind, it could be that of leaving it all and be a recluse to making it all and showing the proverbial finger to the world. I refuse to choose a middle path, my conscience nudges me to do so (being fully aware of my capabilities), but I firmly refuse: all or nothing! Result: I stay put. where I was. Billions of years ago. And 'shoo' away my conscience. 

You remember the first time you touched the base of her neck and promised you will forever hold that in your fingertips; your conscience knocks at your door at the same time, and tells you not to tie yourself down, not to promise yourself what you cannot. You, oblige to your conscience. 

From the dreams that challenged the mundane existence to the promises of a lifetime, your conscience stands in between and takes up the self-appointed role of a monitor (really, who wants that?); my advice: don't listen to it, choose what suits you the best. It is about YOU and not about that intangible conscience which surreptitiously promises some heavenly solace in some highly debatable 'after life'. 

Lesson 3: Relationships don't quite believe in reasons. They are self-oriented (not selfish) and change with time, people, place and emotions.

When was the last that you had spend your money, time and emotions on your most desirable object or subject at that point of time? That nice pair of shoes, that really awesome play station game, that purse, that piece of clothing or that dinner and the time spent together? How did that make you feel? How was that relationship? Satisfying, wholesome, defining? How many times have you repeated that with different objects and subjects? My guess: a few.

Lesson 4: Relationships are recyclable. All you need to do is hold on to the crux of the emotions that matters to you in any relationship and then apply, reapply and reinvent it.

However, the best relationship, I think is that of our observations on relationship (just as in this apology of a write-up). We all have opinions on it. We all are, in some strange way, completely bummed by it. We all, in our deepest desires, want to get a hang of it. We all, in some way or the other, are perennially running away from it or towards it (never indifferent), in some form or the other. We get into the deepest of the bonds (love, hate, addiction...whatever...note the word bond) and in our minds are continually evaluating, judging and rating it, thereby challenging it in every waking, and may be in sleeping moments.

Lesson 5: Relationships are our own doing (dreaming, imagining, building or ending it). They do not live or die by themselves, we steer them.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

When they steal...

At 85, she looks surprisingly young, may be around 70 or so, strong built, signature marks left on her determined lips by years of betel leaf chewing, power glasses and an warm smile. She has recently moved to Kolkata with her second son and his family: wife and two kids. In a small 550 square feet, 2BHK flat, the family lives through their daily chores, silences, nods, laughs and disagreements. She is a mother of four sons and two daughters. Almost all of them are well-established now, with their respective families, spread all over the country. She raised them well, is what she thinks at times.

At 85, she is also pretty fragile. She depends on her children to take care of her. She misses her husband, but at this stage, her children are her strengths. Her fragile health is a concern for them all. She has a doctor son and daughter-in-law. They enquire about her health regularly. They can't keep her, as they stay far off from the remaining siblings and it gets difficult to care for an elderly member in a busy city. She understands. Her elder son and daughter-in-law are eager to take her on, but the children have board exams, and they cannot afford disturbances. She will move with her elder son after the exams, she decides.

At 85, she is quite senile too. Her frequent fights with her daughters-in-law on the day's menu, on missing petticoats and blouses, on misplacing her medicines intentionally put her in their unfavourable side. We all know daughters-in-law play a significant role in accommodating an aging member in the household. She does not quite understand that. She holds her ground, and more often than not, fights tooth and nail. She makes enemies often, her undiplomatic and headstrong ways do not help her sons fight her case with their respective wives. She did not choose her daughters-in-law well, is what she wonders at times.

At 85, she takes her regular walks outside the apartment. A diabetic, her doctor promised her good health if she exercises regularly. A modest kilometer around the apartment, every evening, is her time to reminiscence about her life so far. The clothes she wore, the food she cooked, the chores she finished, the efficiency with which she managed her household, the expenses, readied the kids for school and maintained her relationship with her neighbours. A mother and a wife, a 'home maker' and a woman, what were her proudest moments, she debates as she takes her daily walk.

At 85, she broke down. During one of her daily walks, when she was about to enter through the apartment gates, a boy in a cycle passed by and snatched her gold chain. She had no defense, she shouted for help. By then, the thief had made away with her gold chain. She somehow managed to get to her flat, got the attention of the family members and neighbours, and narrated the story minute-by-minute, umpteen times to each curious well-wisher, till they decided to lodge a police complaint. Tired, shocked, disturbed, the 85-year lies down. Next day, she walks to my mother's place and sits down. She starts crying, profusely.

"Why are you crying? Did your husband gift you the chain?", my mom enquires.
"No. I bought it with my own money. I saved money from my household expenses, and had bought it", she laments.

At a time and age, her gold chain bought from her 'own' money was possibly the only pride left in her life of senility, old-age, ill-health and transit from one household to another...Only if they knew what they all steal, the thief, the family members, and the acquaintances from her uneventful, mundane life, I hoped then.

Let this new year bring her and us all moments to be truly proud of and moments that no thief (in any form) can steal from us. Amen! Happy new year, 2012.