Street Smart

Posted on

The municipal corporation of Delhi has decided to restructure the residential colony I live in along the lines of the new government’s favorite brainchild – “smart cities”. They have decided that we cannot be smart till we have a stone-pavement, done up in red and mustard. Brimming with good intentions, they came with shovels one fine day and dug up all the dirt. There it stood afterwards, in one big pile, witness to the day’s hard work. Much later, arrived a bulldozer, and the pavement, that earlier housed cars and cats, was all in pieces. I came back from work aghast that day, a state of mind that was further worsened at the sight of the – well, site.

A host of people have proceeded to apprise me of their worries since then. “Where on earth do I park my car?” “Errm,” I start, “technically, the pavement is not supposed to be used for parking cars…” “Everyone does that! What do you know?” Indeed.

There are some crazy ones too. “How am I supposed to walk out?” “I am sure you will avoid getting dust on your clothes…” “Not my clothes, silly! Look at my shoes!” They are pencil-heels, as tall as the handle of the umbrella I carry this monsoon. I am suitably sympathetic.

Another resident lamented the loss of her plant. “How carefully had I planted it in the pothole! It was even sprouting leaves. And the monster of a bulldozer trampled it completely.” A few days ago, I had traced a long procession of mosquitoes straight to the said pothole and was secretly pleased it would now be covered. “A pity, indeed.” I venture. For the mosquitoes, at least.

When I reach home these days, there are municipality workers engrossed in transforming our pavement to a “smart one”. The red and mustard blends in well with the plants we have – thankfully – in the balcony. The grievances of people with one car too many, shoes too tall for their own good, or even my intermittent irritation notwithstanding, I look forward to our new pavement. A few days of some discomfort seems like a small price to pay.

Time-Washed

Posted on

On my way to work this morning, I was struck by the sheer magnitude of loss that comes with time. Really. Where, for example, is the joy with which I hopped onto my school bus each morning? Where is the laughter and chatter about the day’s time-table, especially the coveted PT class? With time, our reactions are flattened, our enthusiasm dampened – sometimes for the sake of being appropriate, at other times to avoid being labelled “childish”. And, as is conventional for our ever conforming self, we agree to the terms of adulthood, proper behaviour and maturity, without giving a thought to the price we are paying for the same.

Pray, what is wrong with wearing a raincoat? It is easier to manage than an umbrella and runs no risk of being blown away. “Doesn’t that thing look shoddy?” “Won’t your hair go for a toss?” Oh yes. An umbrella would of course seal me from all sides.

Lunch is no longer an exciting affair. We hardly scan other lunchboxes and if we do, we are far too subtle. “Oh, I avoid a heavy lunch.” “I am on a working lunch.” “Maybe just a little bite, thank you.” I miss the run-up to the lunch bell when the world would break into people happily running around helter-skelter.

What’s more, we barely express enthusiasm even about hard-earned success. Ah, don’t tell me a crazy party is the adult way to celebrate. Where did the pats on the back, the crazy hugs, the smiles from end to end, and the jumping all the way home disappear? I hardly think the modern version of partying does justice to all of that.

Nevertheless, while I have little control over the travesty that is life, there is one situation I sacredly and expressly exempt from compliance. When the sky turns grey, the wind howls and thunder claps away in the distance, I walk up to my balcony. There, with the pitter patter of raindrops that begin to fall, I travel several years ago in time. I am back to splashing puddles, wearing a polka-dotted raincoat and nibbling away at onion pakorasTime is good to me like that.

5 Lessons by Calvin and Hobbes on Tablets et al

Posted on

Let me start by giving you some context for this lesson. I would urge you to please bear with the madness that the monster of a Delhi summer is driving into me. It so happens that in this relentless heat, with rain nowhere in sight, Calvin and Hobbes playing with snowmen is my best bet at relief. Each morning, when I tune into music on my Dell Venue and slip into the artificial cool of the Delhi Metro, I visualize a snow world. The trees topped with white icing, the courtyard windy and chilled, and a cup of hot chocolate the closest thing to heaven. Gradually, my favourite music attempts to soothe my frayed nerves, and the air conditioning pats me comfortingly on the back. I am drawn deeper into this wonderful world – of snow, music and interestingly, a non-intrusive electronic device. It is then that I wake up to a spate of interesting things about my new tablet. Here goes.

1. The world has really learnt to entertain. For all our cribbing about contemporary television, there continue to be a host of good movies, documentaries, games and songs. What’s more, there’s no need to hunt around in a ram-shackled video-tape store in a sultry afternoon to access them. For instance, you could go here. Delve into the HD graphics and have a fun time being a critic.

Calvin and Hobbes

2. No one need be cursed for being dis-organized anymore. The world has moved beyond sticky-notes and chits of paper that are prone to being blown away in the capital’s heat wave. Aside from basic organizer facilities, the tablet is compatible with several other apps that let you manage your time better. That aside, the battery backup rarely catches you unaware, storage space is ample (and extendable), and notifications ring out loudly enough. Yeah, it works great even if you micro-manage.

Calvin and Hobbes

3. Sometimes, it is essential to actually walk to the other side to see how green the grass is. The neighbour’s lawn-mower could be fancier or you could be in a rain-shadow area. It helps to slip into the other side’s skin, viewpoint and language to understand the scenario. Dell Venue, for instance, lets you pick the language you prefer most. It also offers neat customization settings and an intelligent playlist.

Calvin and Hobbes

4. There’s an optimal time to philosophize. When all your work worries are attended to, say you have no fear of missing an important e-mail, or can steal an early evening out since you can work on the go, you turn philosophical. This is the juncture when you can observe a fellow passenger, click pictures of the faraway skies, debate a new route to take using the GPS location tracker, pull together the courage to browse through a new recipe on the internet, and wonder where your life is headed in general. Finally, you can address issues more pressing than extending a deadline at work.

Calvin and Hobbes

5. Role-play and make-believe can be your best fall-backs in life. It’s good to believe you have a great deal of strength and walk into the world with a song on your lips. It’s okay to conjure up some happiness – some comfort food, a childhood book – and pretend you’ve been just told God is in his heaven. For instance, I feel all charged up to wrap my Dell Venue in its waterproof case, venture out into the front porch and play raindrops-are-falling-on-my-head in full steam. Bring it on!

Calvin and Hobbes

While I am out looking for rain, you might like to check out Dell’s Facebook Page. Or, you could also tweet tagging @DELL_In and use #DellVenue. Last thing I heard, people love getting surprise gifts at their door.

Stay tuned for more on this, shortly.

*Written as a part of Dell Blogger Review Program

 © Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Dwelling on Dell

Posted on

Closet

While sifting through some stuff in my closet the other day, I came across the thinnest phone mankind has ever known. Okay, that may not be entirely correct, but the mere sight of the malnourished phone took me back to an era when slim was completely in. Companies vied with each other to produce a phone thinner, yet packed with more features, than the adversary. We eventually moved to larger screens till they became so large they ceased fitting into pockets, purses, handbags and suitcases. We are still confused; the markets abound in all shapes and sizes of cellular devices. And then we have tablets, phablets and goblets. Do we really need a tablet? What can it achieve that a phone today can’t? Is it wise to introduce kids to electronically manufactured delight early in life? In the light of recent queries I have received on my new Dell Venue 7, I intend to dwell on some answers.

Okay, for starters, I find there are certain things a tablet can do that a phone simply cannot. It is simply not the same experience watching a film or playing a game or video-talking on a phone. It may be the bigger screen, the superior graphics, the better sound, or, it may be just me. I infinitely enjoy tuning in to my favourite music or watching a much-loved film on my Dell Venue, the noisy world around gradually dissolving into nothingness.

It isn’t just that of course – I end up saving much-needed phone battery by delegating my mail sync, random internet browsing and note making to the Dell champ. It is like a walking-talking desk computer, cozy in my arms, comfortable with its identity. While I am comfortable with the touch-induced typing, the tablet does come with an external keyboard that can make the process smoother. On its part, the tablet does a great job of running on battery. Considering the innumerable tasks I end up using it for – not to forget, the incessant looking up of documents, and the battery consuming Wi-Fi surfing – it lasts me a good couple of days.

Now, this easy-peasy access to delight is a key incentive that pushes several parents into buying a tablet for their little ones. Indeed, I see billboards around town advocating the need to buy a new tablet in the new school season. Well, there is plenty that the Dell Venue has to offer in this department – hordes of educational apps on the Play Store, an easy-to-use user interface with intuitive navigation and decent reception to touch, efficient streaming and playback of AV content, and the sturdiness to blend in well with clumsy little hands. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend acquiring one of these in place of a nice collection of books, a fun movie once in a while and a good bout of fooling around in the evening dust.

That being said, I think this can be a terrific gifting idea for, say, parents. My Mom, for instance, would be spared the pain of typing long messages to me on her small phone. Friends too – especially at its value-for-money price.

I had my little cousin over the other day. She gave my phone – and me – a dirty look. “Why don’t you get a new one? You’ve had that for a whole year!” I rushed to seal my closet lest she catch sight of the malnourished phone. This was before she spotted the new tablet. I instantly rose in her estimation. Dell Venue saved the day.

Stay tuned for more on this, shortly.

*Written as a part of Dell Blogger Review Program

The Curious Case of Being Modern

Posted on

It isn’t easy being “modern” these days. There are umpteen trends to closely follow, contradictory statements to endorse and, of course, a fair bit of money to burn. Disbelieving, are you? Read on.

For starters, you can’t be modern if you haven’t heard of Humpty Sharma’s bride. You haven’t eh? Hell, you are probably from another planet. In a parallel world, you are ancient if you are still hooked on to Hindi cinema. Worse still, if you watch Hindi sitcoms. What have you achieved in life if you aren’t updated with the latest seasons of American people hustling and bustling in a cleaner world?

Similarly, the colour orange went out of fashion ages ago. Amber, however, is in. Purple might be out too, now replaced by mauve. Just when you decided to beat them modernists in the race, and packed your wardrobe with the latest “in” colour, whoosh! That went out too. Just try walking into a Delhi mall wearing your dowdiest clothes in colours of the “last century”. It is immensely entertaining to see women vying for the #1 Modern title, wearing the skimpiest clothes heedless of how they look in them. It is then that you truly achieve what is popularly called detachment or nirvana.

This dilemma over modernity is true for the workplace too. Lately, you are called modern if you leave work on time. You know, if you are tuned in to the work-life balance school, the kind that believes in “smart”, as opposed to hard work. Now, when it comes to the implementation of the same, you might just need to risk your modernity for more err, pressing needs like deadlines, “team accountability”, collaborative responsibility, and other such scary demons. The impact on the new employee? He loses his mind, and eventually comes to believe that’s the norm.

Modernity is elusive. You may run behind it, but it will outrun you each time.  I avoid this kind of running. It is an out-of-this-world feeling to halt. Watch an evening go by, the birds fly home. I enjoy my antediluvian existence, hobnobbing with the plants in comfortable clothes. This way, when the flood comes – as I bet you it will – I will not find it difficult to run.

Welcoming a new Blogging Assistant

Posted on

I remember having a little do-it-yourself kit for furniture. The set, if used properly, would produce a neat pair of tiny chairs and a round-table. It’s another matter that the toy furniture would be too small to use (I remember having tried). As I grew older, watching the furniture kept neatly on the windowsill, I would visualize a large armchair I could keep in my balcony. I could then make myself comfortable, listen to the birds singing in the evening, serenade a keyboard and lo and behold, the words would flow! Except that the proposition had one major problem.

While I possess a fairly loyal laptop (it hasn’t fallen off my hands/been stolen once in all these years), it doesn’t fit in with the scheme of things in this hallowed balcony I am referring to. I mean, imagine lush green trees and imagine a big, bulky laptop on my lap. Moreover, much can’t be said about my internet data-card or my laptop’s battery backup. I guess I would look a funny sight rushing in and out to charge my batteries. Or the laptop’s. You get the idea.

This is where the Dell Venue tablet comes in. You probably remember this new companion of mine, the one who helps me tune out noise. In this mission, it goes one step ahead. It helps me attune to the very sounds this noisy city suppresses in her fist. With the Dell Venue, I can now get on to Wi-Fi (no nonsense to be taken anymore from the data-card), logon to my WordPress application and bingo. I have it all in front of me – the dashboard, the posts, the blogosphere. The tablet is just the right size and lets me be comfortable in my armchair (yes, I now have one). Far from the maddening crowd, I am free to be keyed in to all my thoughts, to key in all my thoughts. The tablet has decent battery backup and this is considering I also use it extensively for A/V content. To be charged once (and not plugged out in between!) in a couple of days and we are done.

While the Dell Venue is proving to be a capable companion to me as a blogger, this is a competence that is extremely malleable. I have a feeling it could come in handy for me as a social-networker, an information-seeker and a reader. Enjoying other blog posts and commenting on the same, for instance, is enhanced manifold due to the portability and efficiency the tablet provides. Akin to rides on the Delhi Metro, this could come in handy at all sticky locations – a boring party, a sickly meeting, and an incessantly chattering acquaintance.

I still have the furniture set on the windowsill. There’s an umbrella too, which can be pinned onto the top of the table. The umbrella reminds me of the impending rains. I will sit in my balcony then, with a bowl of pakoras and a cup of coffee. Guess what I will capture then? The rhymes the raindrops compose.

Stay tuned for more on this, shortly.

*Written as a part of Dell Blogger Review Program

5 Things That Irritate a Delhi-wallah The Most

Posted on

1.  I am a Busy Man

The Delhi-wallah* is almost at the end of the exit queue at the Metro station. He is pleased he will finally be in time for work and has rosy images of crowing over everyone else at his appraisal due in September. His card is ready to be swiped and feet ready to run. And alas! The one person ahead of him messes up. The idiot doesn’t have enough balance in his card or is simply dumb enough to not realize he is holding up meetings much more important than the swearing-in of ministers. Looks haven’t killed, even at Hogwarts. But the Delhi-wallah still makes an attempt.

2. Me First!

In his glossy new car (which pinches his pocket with a small fortune of an EMI each month), the Delhi-wallah is feeling like the king of the world. He just screamed at three people in office; the new people had to be taught the ropes you see. He is contemplating bossing over his dog back at home, when lo and behold, a smaller, much dirtier car slinks ahead of him and disappears down the street. He has been beaten! He peers down the street and the things he wishes for the car-driver are not stated here, keeping in terms with censorship rules.

3. I am the Best

The Delhi-wallah is sprawled in front of his television, acquired in the New Year at a ‘shockingly high price’ (quoted verbatim from his conversations with colleagues at work). The television is excellent; the sound and display even better than promised. The doorbell rings. It is the loathsome neighbour, holding a packet of sweets. He has bought a new television! ‘Oh we rejected that one.’ the neighbour says, pointing derogatively at his New Year television. ‘Can’t settle for inferior quality you see.’ The Delhi-wallah makes two mental notes. One, to give up on one meal daily and buy a better television than the loathsome neighbour with his flea-infested sweets. Two, to throw stones straight at the loathsome neighbour’s new television, discreetly yet effectively.

4. What Family?

He enjoys living an open book life, the Delhi-wallah does. He screams his party plans for the benefit of everyone in the Metro coach. He smokes his branded cigarettes in public places. He pees exactly on the walls which prohibit the same. He posts real-time updates of the food he eats and the nightclubs he frequents. Moreover, he is readily available for all his dearer-than-life friends. ‘Will you be late tonight as well, beta?’ says the Mom over phone. ‘Can you stop embarrassing me, Mom?! I can’t share my life minute-by-minute with you!’ The Delhi-wallah proceeds to update his Facebook status to ward off the irritation, the poor thing.

5. I Got There First

Our Delhi-wallah is back from a fantastic vacation in Shimla. There was snow; there were apples. He clicked tons of pictures and is itching to upload them everywhere possible. However, all is not be to hunky dory. A friend has returned from a vacation in Bali. There are updates from airport check-in to sitting-in-the-taxi back in India. Our Delhi-wallah’s face falls. The jerk had to choose that very week to show off his foreign holidays. He issues an update on ‘My Fantastic Trip to Switzerland’, sans the pictures. He could always say the camera malfunctioned.

 *The references are to certain and not all Delhi-wallahs. I wouldn’t do that; I love the city too much.

Tuning out Noise

Posted on

In the course of a Delhi day, there are few silent moments. The sun rises on a busy street, several cars and their owners already enroute their destinations. Birds complain of the smokey air, their song laced with grievances. Onboard the Delhi Metro, I tried several methods to tune the noise out. Excuse my non tolerance, but it continued to get to me – the endless chatter, the people sitting on the floor despite instructions not to, the wailing children, the sleepy morning faces, people announcing their Europe trips to all the people in the coach! My phone hasn’t exactly been designed to play/store much music; the poor network connectivity impedes conversation with anyone I feel like talking to at that hour. To cut a long story short, the Dell Venue tablet came to me as a gust of lifting wind, breaking right through the layers of dust a Delhi day puts on my being.

I received the tablet a week or so ago, as part of Dell’s Blogger Review Program. Now, I am not your typical gadget freak. I get snide remarks when I am honest about that. “Didn’t you study Engineering, many moons ago?” That doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoy going about with tons of electronic devices on my person, for God sake! I convey the same by rolling my eyes. That said, I have always, by strange quirks of fate, laid my hands on enough smartphones and tablets to know a good one when I see it. The Dell Venue tablet, packaged in a neat black base, is simple, basic and non-flashy. Just unlike Delhi. This is precisely why I am warming towards it, slowly but steadily.

Loaded with my favourite music across the ages, and my most cherished reading material, the tablet is now completely my own. Thanks to its decent memory configuration (2 GB memory and 16 GB hard drive) and screen readability, my Metro ride has become infinitely smoother. What is surprising is how the music (smart playlists based on your listening habits et al.) makes it much more bearable to scan through work documents as well. I find myself more tolerant of people trampling on my feet in their rush to get on/off board. Most importantly, the tablet is small enough to comfortably hold even in the rush of the world around, and large enough to make reading/editing simple.

“Do you use that – err, thing – as a phone?” an interfering little neighbour asked me one evening, as I danced my way into the house, music filling my ears.

“Yeah. That way, I can tell people it’s hard for me to listen for too long, holding this to my ears.”

The neighbour gave me a scornful look. She wouldn’t call me anytime soon. But yes, the tablet can double up as a phone – it has a Micro SIM slot. In the remaining months (and posts) of the review program, I am sure the tablet will unveil several more aspects of its persona. For now, though, I am content with using it as my entertainment and work on-the-go device. Quiet and sturdy, without needing too frequent pampering in terms of battery-charging, it is my exception to a usual nonchalance about new gadgets.

Helpful yet unassuming, the Dell Venue tablet is my all-new, fun companion.

Stay tuned for more on this, shortly.

*Written as a part of Dell Blogger Review Program

An Erstwhile Delhi

Posted on
Delhi Winter

*Picture from distractedguy.wordpress.com

Several years ago, mornings in Delhi were not as dusty as they are today. The sun would rise fresh from his night-time slumber; the birds would be out for a flight over the dewy grass. I would be busy gulping down the milk Granny made sure was mandatory for me before school. In the courtyard below, Granddad would be conversing with a morning stroller. He was an elderly Sardarji, his turban always bright blue and shirt always chequered. On Sundays, when I would be finishing my homework in time to watch the television classic Mahabharata, Granddad would come up the stairs, smiling from ear to ear. Sardarji, by now, would be well on his way home, his arms moving back and forth swiftly.

“What do you and Sardarji talk about, Dada?” I asked Granddad one Saturday. “Do you discuss politics?” Even back then, the country’s political nuances managed to find their way into all conversations.

Granddad guffawed. “Well, sometimes. But mostly we talk about more interesting things.”

“Such as?”

“Writing, for instance. He tells me of the splendid way we can keep track of our memories, for years to come. I tell him of the one,” he smiled and picked me up in his arms, “I have the most splendid memories with.”

Though I couldn’t make much of this at the time, I eventually learnt that Sardarji was a writer. He used to work with a Delhi-based newspaper but now, after his retirement, spent his time penning down his best memories. From the time he had been a young lad in love to his life as a widower, his wife away in a distant world unseen to the rest of us. He lived on his own, tucked away in a cottage in Karol Bagh, with a garden and his writing for company. Now, I also know of how he had severed his relationship with his son, refusing to forgive him for a quick money-making scheme at work. The losses had been quick and abundant: a second childhood with his grandson, whom he got to meet very occasionally, a lonely old age, which he filled with voices from the past.    

At the time, I was curious about the whole keeping-memories-fresh business. Once, all charged after my new Science lesson in school, I confided in Mom.

“Why do we need to keep track of our memories, Mamma? Doesn’t our brain do that job?”

“Of course it does, dear. But when we grow older, so does our brain. It becomes harder for it to retain the memories in all their freshness.”

Now I could see the urgent importance of what Sardarji was doing. How wonderful it was that he had found a way to check ageing, a way to ensure that my remembrances of Mamma’s goodnight kisses, for instance, would always remain nice and ripe.

When winter arrived, Sardarji would put on a cardigan. That too, was always blue. Though morning then would hardly be welcoming, with fog and chilly winds, he never missed his brisk walk. Granddad and Sardarji sipped from cups of steaming tea, while the birds chirped over them, pleased to have company in winter’s desolation. One morning, I spotted the two busily arranging a snug nest for the birds. In turns, the two had managed to purloin a substantial amount of Granny’s netting for the purpose. Another time, I found Sardarji slipping a new set of pens into the hands of the laundry-man’s son. “The boy wants to study, Bhattacharjee Saab.” said Sardarji. “When I walk past his father’s little hut, I often find him scribbling into his books.” Perhaps, Sardarji thought, here was another one on an early start to penning down memories. And, in the process, creating some beautiful ones.

It has been many years since I saw Sardarji last. I sometimes sit by myself in the balcony, watching the evening go by. Little children walk beside their Granddads, balloons in their hands. Young men and women speak incessantly into their phones, moving on to make highlights of their life permanent on social media. Delhi is now far more glamorous, money both more alluring and more pricey to come by. Even now, when I sit back to write, I inadvertently conjure the sight of Sardarji and Granddad sipping tea in the courtyard, Sardarji’s turban bluer than the sky. 

***

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com.

A Bit of Unpleasant Homework

Posted on

“Don’t you have summer vacations?!” a little girl quizzed me the other day. She seemed utterly amazed by the idea that I had to go to work, same as always, in the months of May and June. “How will you complete your holiday homework then?”

“We don’t get any.”

“Oh, then that’s why.” She now seemed content. “I have loads! Models and things to be made. I will get started with it on Saturday.”

She set me thinking. Was it indeed fair to not have summer vacations considering we weren’t assigned tasks to do? Didn’t the late hours spent at work, the e-mails that never ceased arriving and the multitude of personal engagements that had to be attended to count as homework enough? Well, it seems they don’t.

I remember the fun Mom and I had with my holiday homework, many moons ago. There were charts to be made with pictures of people in different places and costumes. We made working models of solar cookers and volcanoes and I would be awed each time lava emerged – fresh and sparkling. We pored over our books in the hot afternoons, completing spelling lists and Maths problems, looking up only when the sun was down. Then, the badminton rackets would come out.

“I am sure you will have fun. What models do you have to make?” I smiled at the little girl.

“Oh, I will have to check. Mom has outsourced it to this model-vendor in our street. Only 350 Rs. per piece.”

Whew! Times have indeed changed. Here were little children already experts at delegating work and not thinking twice before giving up the joy of creating for other arguably ‘modern’, mechanical pleasures. Her homework/lack of it notwithstanding, she had given me too much homework by way of hard to digest generational differences

The little girl was now busy with her cellphone. I subtly checked to see if it was a plaything. It wasn’t.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers