RSS Feed

The White Walkers

Did you think the White Walkers existed only in George R Martin’s mystical world, somewhere near Westeros*? Well, let me warn you. A handful of them come visiting my home every day. By sundown, imagine their magic, I am a White Walker too! They keep away friends and relatives – all too petrified to visit. That being said, it’s actually fun watching them transform the walls of my home from weatherworn and weary to fresh and lively. The layers of white (not to forget dust, cobwebs and cockroaches) that settle on the skin are but a side-effect.

These efficient men scrape the walls of my home with all their heart. They murder the roaches with a vengeance; God knows how so many survive despite my best attempts at keeping them at bay! As the contents of one cupboard after another are taken out and piled in one of the remaining corners, I wish I hadn’t been such a hoarder.

Sadly, one of my cupboard walls – centuries old – couldn’t be completely cleaned of the stickers that err, stuck stubbornly on. I can’t believe I had proudly displayed stickers of “Tips Cassettes”, notebooks and “Winnie the Pooh” right on the cupboard door for everyone to see. I had actually been allowed to do that?! “How about you cover it with other, more appropriate stickers?” suggested a White Walker in as many words. “Why don’t I get you some tea?” I scampered.

The weekends are when I feel it most. This lingering sense of being enveloped with dust and oodles of white paint. The weekdays are when the darling grandparents supervise the work with élan. So, my weekends usually end with an elaborate shower, every speckle of white being washed away. What remains, thanks to the persevering men, is another new wall, a revamped room, a sparkling windowpane.

“What’s with all the whitewashing? Are you getting married?” demanded a curious neighbour. Ah, they did teach putting two and two together in school.

*The White Walkers are a mythological race in George R Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, famously adapted in the “Game of Thrones” series on television. 

Time Turner

Posted on

Blogadda's spicysaturday

Nostalgia

*Picture from kotenko.deviantart.com

“I hate going to the bank.” Dada flopped into a chair and thumped his bag on the bed. He looked beaten, my grandfather did.

“Even though you get to see the stashes of notes you have hidden away in your account?” Dadi laughed from the kitchen. “It’s sad how my pocket money never seems to go up.”

“Oh, take as much as you need. What good will saving eternally be, anyway? I am not here till eternity and neither is any of us.”

My grandfather isn’t given to despondency. He continues to be fairly active, walking to and fro from the bank and the market several times each day. His unusual sulkiness struck me as odd.

“The sun is indeed too hot…” I began, but he shook his head.

“I don’t mind the sun. For all I know, winter is far more unrelenting. I hate going there because it seems like a harsh reminder of the passage of time. I no longer see many of my old friends. Often, I don’t even hear of them from the ones who remain. Last I heard, my colleague from work, the one I used to lunch with all the time, passed away in his sleep. We will never have lunch together again.”

Dadi brought him water. “He was in his nineties. At least he had a peaceful demise.”

“Yeah, better than my Kolkata friend who went to the US to be with his son and daughter-in-law. He never found them, I heard. Neither did I ever find him again.”

The two of them sat there, discussing old friends and acquaintances, several of whom were no longer around. The fish market, the Durga Puja pandaal and the morning-walk parks now abound with unfamiliar faces. Like a puff of smoke, impossible to hold, these lost people lurk only in memories.

I often spot Dada sitting by himself on the swing, staring into the distance. He enjoys feeding the housecats, though I mistrust their loyalty and suspect that it remains only as long as the food lasts. Several years ago, we would go together on leaf-hunting expeditions for school projects. We would play Badminton in the neighbourhood park and sit on the bench, talking about the colour of raindrops. Try as we can, lost time is impossible to bring back.

As more time passes, we will continue to lose people we have held dear, people we have wonderful memories with. While I, forever the child in Dada and Dadi’s eyes, might find it easier to accept loss, they don’t. Indeed, what is life without people you cherish and the enthusiasm that kept you going? In our smug, air-conditioned cabins and glorious years ahead of us, the prospect of a friendless, cold, old age may seem absurd. But this doesn’t negate how the prospect is real and will be our reality one day.

There’s something though that the passage of time hasn’t changed. Dada’s love for sweets. Every other day, we sit together with a bowl of ice-cream or Bengali mithaai. Over delicious, creamy spoonfuls, we turn back time. All the talk about sweets and calories notwithstanding, both of us shed several years from our age.

Too Many Trumpets

*All opinions below are strictly personal.

Trumpet

*Picture from yourstory.com

No, seriously, tell me. Why is everything in the world so commercial? We are hell-bent on obsessing with monetizing everything and then lament about the world losing beauty. Teens (I am being generous here) compete for Facebook likes. Brands fight over putting up their promotional material in the once-friendly street corner. PR agencies compete for media stories about the gung-ho things their clients do (which aren’t always that gung-ho after all). It tires me out.

Lately, all the world’s innovations, awards and rungs-to-the-corporate-ladder seem to centre on marketing. An MBA is better paid than a technical person because he apparently has the strategic foresight to design a breathtaking campaign. Notwithstanding the foresight the technical person needs to create the program that feeds a medical diagnostic device, or lay the foundation for the bridge that will stand across the sea. Well, parents root for the MBA. It is the direct route to the paradise on the 23rd floor of a high-rise.

There was a time when companies used to advertise through the newspaper. They now sell us things through the television, the billboard, the radio, the internet, the flyer tucked in from under the door, the soap case, the roti, and the last I heard, the wrapper of your bhelpuri. It’s so intrusive it’s scary! In a blink, they will be advertising on your bed-sheet and your morning-coffee cup.

Imagine for a moment the world didn’t incur marketing spends. Wouldn’t people discover products and brands on their own? Oh yes, we have far too many brands today for anyone to capture attention without being promoted. It reminds me the various kinds of water they rattle off in high-end places. You know, sparkling water, bubbly water, blah. Do we really need 350 brands of soaps and 567 brands of deodorants? (I know there are probably more.) 

Didn’t economics theorize about everyone investing their energy in what they do best – producing wheat or coffee? Who would have thought there would be dozens and more of people willing to produce fine-wheat, organic wheat, chocolate wheat, and golden-brown, blue and sublime coffee? (Yes, please add to the list.)

Well, I completely appreciate how marketing is essential for a company’s profitability, especially in the big, crowded marketplace we now live in. My contention is around how the marketing circle is constantly turning more vicious. One marketing innovation begets another; one successful product begets a hundred clones. One campaign you have successfully done must be broadcast-ed for the world to understand how you can do several more. You market, and you market, and I still don’t know if I care about my deodorant having too much gas or the dish-washing gel I have always used being suddenly proven by “research” to be ineffective.

Day after day, as I see the world competing on the skill to blow the trumpet, I grow more detached. I feel satisfied enough with a soap that clears dirt, even if it leaves about 0.1 percent of germs untouched. I am happy with water that quenches thirst even if it has only the natural composition of oxygen. What’s more, with all due respect to the marketing fraternity, I feel much more perked up about innovations that cure diseases, help kids learn better or assist us with space travel. Why not focus on marketing these some more?

Of course, it’s all very good to develop marketing skills in general; bloggers like me pitch in to felicitate our favourite brands get “their message across”. Yes, I know. It’s just that I am tired of seeing brands splashed over all the media I use, ALL the time. Companies engage in tussles over product lines that are dissimilar only in their advertising campaigns. Millions of rupees are used to keep innovations going only to ensure the product gets sold.

What’s to stop anyone from using this money and effort to work on a product with a utility no one else has managed to provide? I mean Authentic Utility. Which Benefits the Customer. I don’t mean a vegetarian toothpaste, or a killer of 99.95% germs, or a Eureka-feature chatting application.

Now if someone is willing to offer me a month’s solace, sea and calming sunshine, please market all you like. Let’s get going.

Four Months on the Dose

Yes, I have been on tablets. In the singular, actually. The nifty device has come in handy for several maladies of my existence.

In the first month, when Dell very thoughtfully initiated the Blogger Review program, I found the tablet does a terrific job of Tuning out Noise. Loaded with music, movies and other A/V delights, I found the noise of the Delhi Metro fading into the background.

When Delhi burned under the furious June sun, the tablet helped me make the most of my evenings. I would sit out in my balcony, dream of distant thunder and write. My New Blogging Assistant had wireless internet connectivity, hassle-free portability and decent battery back-up. I could focus more on words, less on logistics.

With July, that month of sultry afternoons where clouds contain anything but rain, the tablet revealed new aspects I didn’t know existed. A massive app-store remained to be explored. At its convenient price point, this was a perfect gifting idea for the hordes of anniversaries and birthdays I always feel upon me. I sat down in June, Dwelling on Dell.

To bring further cheer to hot and humid July, a six-year old and his tiger came along one fine day, philosophizing on the hidden adventures in life. With the 5 Lessons by Calvin and Hobbes on Tablets Et Al, I found I could use my Dell Venue to never be late for an appointment, figure out my way in Delhi’s winding and scheming lanes, and work on the move to save precious moments of my day.

There came one fine day, when I came across my diary from yester-years. It was loaded with plans, moments and memories. Of times I could never turn back. My tablet helped me formulate new Bottle-Green Plans by evolving into my Corporate Fallback, Tour Guide, Social Consultant and De-Stresser.

Having found tremendous utility from my tablet, I turned charitable in August and decided to share 5 Symptoms to diagnose if you need a Tablet. People with crumbling laptops, who come into meetings dazed, and have a miniature world atop their desk at home, fitted the bill exactly.

While adopting technology was all very good, the abundance of over-smart relatives with their wise-as-an-owl kids tempted me to talk of Hi-Tech Children. While kids can learn volumes from the interactive applications, videos and learning games – all of which are supported by Dell Venue – parents, I feel, need to strive for a balance between the story book and Facebook, the muddy playground and the virtual game.

I have completed four months on the dose and it has been a fantastic journey. The Dell Venue comes across as a non-flashy, high-utility product, perfect for organizing, entertaining and working on the go. Dell – thank you for this brush with the Venue. With multiple (a)venues for the product, I’d say it’s highly recommended.

Oh, if words could kill. :)

*Written as the closing post for the Dell Blogger Review Program

Hi-Tech Children

“My little one has over 600 Facebook friends. Fifteen of them are even foreigners, isn’t that so darling?” chattered away an aunt I am only – and thankfully – distantly related to. We were having coffee in one of those plush Delhi cafés that have in-house Wi-Fi and live tweeting areas. The coffee excursion had been the aunt’s idea and I am too wise to give up on the opportunity to partake of some hot, creamy and hold your breath, branded coffee.

I was intrigued by how our foreigner-philia is still very much alive. I was also intrigued by the sheer size of her little one’s friend circle, considering the number was about 60 times his age.

“Oh, he hasn’t personally met at least half of them.” My aunt sounded offended. “It’s all thanks to his proclivity for technology. The champ is a natural with cellphones, laptops, tablets, you name it.”

The champ indeed. “What else do you do with these gadgets, champ?” I broke into the feverish tempo of a guns-and-bullet game he was playing on his Android tablet.

“Oh, my friends and I talk on Skype. After school, you know.”

Many moons ago, when I was in school, the land-line phone was the only source of contact with school friends who lived far away. The phone would usually be administered by Mom – not that I have ever been much of a phone talker anyway. If we heard of tablets back then, we would have thought they cured headaches.

Fortunately, I know of parents who have optimized technology for best results. I have a fairly well-turned out Uncle who grew up independently, away from anyone’s eagle eye. He continues the tradition with his school-going kid, albeit within limits.

“My son and I discover new applications on the tablet every now and then. We even celebrated a karaoke night last Saturday.” My Uncle happily commented on my Dell Venue tablet. “Junior knows of better pastimes than checking out others’ lives on social media.” he added, giving me a contemptuous look. I quickly put the flap-cover back on.

Opinions differ on what is the right amount of exposure that kids need with technology. They can’t do without, that much is for sure. Not if they want to keep pace with the bright Alec in the classroom, or the smart candidate in the job market. However, giving up on the muddy playground, the playful dog, the modelling clay and the story books will most certainly form a void nothing can fill.

The Dell Venue, for instance, comes with a sturdy cover, good resolution, A/V playback, and compatibility for tonnes of interactive applications that children can enjoy and learn from. There are games in the PlayStore more insightful and enjoyable than shooting people with guns – and please don’t tell me these improve concentration.

Over my cup of creamy, branded coffee, I fervently wished that as far as parenting goes, the world gets more people like my Uncle and less like my aunt. If mutually exclusive, give me a well-bred over a hi-tech child any day.

Stay tuned for the closing post tomorrow.

*Written as a part of Dell Blogger Review Program

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers