Saturday, December 29, 2007

Technology Aethists Inc!

She crossed the road. Stood in front of the place for a while. Opened the door. Then on there was a marked difference in her body language. It was more tentative, more skeptical. She braved on. Went in. She was all alone in the scary room. There was deadly silence within. broken only by the slow drone of the AC flannels. She looked back through the glass door for reassurance. Got none. The huge monster in front of her was blinking. With each blink her trepidation turned into certainty. She was helpless, she could do nothing, it was all futile. She turned back to get out of the cloistered room. But it was all part of a conspiracy. The door didn't budge. The panic button was pressed in no time. She was struck in this dingy place, all alone and no where to run. She started waving wildly for help. The sealed doors refused to carry her pleas out into the open. Then I decided the queue outside the ATM was too long. I had to go in to help my mom. I let out a 'here-we-go-again' sigh and went in.

"You gotta press the button to come out amma!"
"Oh! I didn't know there was a button. "
"Whats wrong?why haven't you drawn any cash?"
"Ayyo! That screen is not going away at all. I tried all sorts of things!"
"Did you swipe the card in?"
"! I felt the screen should be changed first!"
"Sigh! You felt the screen should be changed first!! What is the PIN code?"
"But is says invalid PIN code when I key it in! Maaaaaaaaaa! You have bought the wrong card!"

Well, this was just a small instance. I could list some hundreds more. Thousands more in fact, where my parents have refused to get in tune with 'technology'. Take for instance, a mobile phone. I got my dad once a couple of years back. Even till today he hasn't sent a single SMS from it; presses the wrong button and puts the call on hold rather than receive it! And he refuses to learn it right and refuses to acknowledge that he isnt getting it right! And this inability to operate such 'mindblowingly complicated devices' turns into an inexorable hate for any sort of technology! "Mobile phone are going to ruin everything! Students, girls, office life! Look at the number of accidents that happen because of mobiles. The doom is inevitable!". Well there goes a free prophecy of mass destruction along with every mobile that is seen. Its like the new package deal from Vodafone!

Its not that they are dumb! My mom has a PhD! My dad is an engineer working on the most intricate electrical designs for the past thirty years. Yet, they refuse to learn anything that is new, that has technology involved. ATMs, computers, internet, DVD players, MP3 players, mobiles, radio... the list is endless. The urge to take advantage of its multiple uses are there, but a flat refusal to learn the 'Know-hows'. I have given up trying to explain how it works, how easy life could get, how tough it would get in the future to live without knowing how to use it! And I get irritated every time I see that 'God, this thing is going to bite me if I touch' kinda look on their faces! And even worse is when they heap praise on uncles and aunts who can handle 'it'! "AvaLige e-mail yella kaLsakke barattante kaNo!" (roughly translating to I heard she knows how to send an email and stuff!!"

Robert Pirig in his book 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" ponders why his friends are so averse to repairing their own bikes. Why they refuse to mend a broken faucet at home! And then it dawns upon him and everything falls into place!

"Why suppress anger at a dripping faucet? I wondered.

Then that patched in with the motorcycle maintenance and one of those light bulbs went on over my head and I thought, Ahhhhhhhh! It’s not the motorcycle maintenance, not the faucet. It’s all of technology they can’t take. And then all sorts of things started tumbling into place and I knew that was it. Sylvia’s irritation at a friend who thought computer programming was "creative." All their drawings and paintings and photographs without a technological thing in them. Of course she’s not going to get mad at that faucet, I thought. You always suppress momentary anger at something you deeply and permanently hate. Of course John signs off every time the subject of cycle repair comes up, even when it is obvious he is suffering for it. That’s technology. And sure, of course, obviously. It’s so simple when you see it. To get away from technology out into the country in the fresh air and sunshine is why they are on the motorcycle in the first place. For me to bring it back to them just at the point and place where they think they have finally escaped it just frosts both of them, tremendously. That’s why the conversation always breaks and freezes when the subject comes up.

Other things fit in too. They talk once in a while in as few pained words as possible about "it" or "it all" as in the sentence, "There is just no escape from it." And if I asked, "From what?" the answer might be "The whole thing," or "The whole organized bit," or even "The system." Sylvia once said defensively, "Well, you know how to cope with it," which puffed me up so much at the time I was embarrassed to ask what "it" was and so remained somewhat puzzled. I thought it was something more mysterious than technology. But now I see that the "it" was mainly, if not entirely, technology. But, that doesn’t sound right either. The "it" is a kind of force that gives rise to technology, something undefined, but inhuman, mechanical, lifeless, a blind monster, a death force. Something hideous they are running from but know they can never escape. I’m putting it way too heavily here but in a less emphatic and less defined way this is what it is. Somewhere there are people who understand it and run it but those are technologists, and they speak an inhuman language when describing what they do. It’s all parts and relationships of unheard-of things that never make any sense no matter how often you hear about them. And their things, their monster keeps eating up land and polluting their air and lakes, and there is no way to strike back at it, and hardly any way to escape it. "

Well when every other statement they say begins with "You know in our times...", you know some things will never change!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jab we mate...

Easy question. How to you think world peace can be achieved?
  1. Nuclear disarmament
  2. Destroy WOMD
  3. Mitigate religious intolerance
  4. Remove political and national boundaries
  5. Make UN a super power
  6. Kill all extremists! (What a paradox!)
  7. Call for Gandhi to be reincarnated
  8. Make 'Imagine' by John Lenon the national anthem of the world
Well, you are wrong if you have picked any of these solutions above. Dont judge me, so say Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell, founders of an anti-war organization, Baring Witness. To conquer world peace these 'out-of-the-box' thinkers felt that the only solution lay in a giant orgasm! And thus was born the 'World Orgasm Day'! According to the official World Orgasm Day web site, passionate people are encouraged to have a romp at the exact moment of the winter solstice—which occurs during either the shortest day or the longest night of the year—across the globe to promote “world peace”. And the event is titled, hold your breath......The Big O (how ingenious!)

The 'who' list includes "All Men and Women, you and everyone you know" and the 'where' clause says " Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction and places where violence is used in place of mediation." Thank God there was no 'How' list over there! The 'scientific' explanation given for the whole show is

"The Global Consciousness Project, located in Princeton, New Jersey, runs a network of Random Event Generators around the world which record changes in their randomness during global events. The results show that human consciousness can be measured to have a global effect on matter and energy during widely-watched events such as the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, large antiwar protests, natural catastrophes, acts of war and mass meditations. Concentrated consciousness has measurable effects.

Our minds influence Matter and Quantum Energy fields, so by concentrating our thoughts during and after The Big O on peace and partnership, the combination of high orgasmic energy combined with mindful intention for peace could reduce global levels of violence, hatred and fear.

The world is full of men with axes to grind and weapons to fire in displays of their superiority over others. It is time to spare the planet from Alpha Male concepts of 'progress', 'growth' and Manifest Destiny, which are endangering all of us. True partnership between the Masculine and Feminine that is within all women and men may enable our species to survive in relative harmony. The Global Orgasm for Peace is one attempt to begin that process."

Believe it or not
hundreds of thousands of couples across the world got frisky simultaneously on Saturday to celebrate the World Orgasm Day. The organizer had even listed the exact solstice moment in each country when one should...err...contribute to world peace.

Just when you thought that the world was going towards some sanity!! And oh yes! they had a warning along which said "
Over population is a major cause of peak everything, so please don’t make more babies on the global orgasm day". Man! I am just dying for Russel Peters to tell the world about this 'extravaganza' in his next DVD!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I am on Facebook, therefore I am

Steve Webb, 42, a British member of Parliament for over ten years now, logged on to open his Facebook account. Facebook refused access telling that it had received complaints that 'he did not exist'! For a passionate advocate of online networking it came across as an ironic awakening for Webb. Within a few hours friends set up a Facebook group called "Steve Webb is real!" which attracted more than 200 users and he and others contacted people who worked at the site. A few hours later he received an apology and his profile was reactivated. Still, the time spent in the Internet's no man's land left Webb questioning his existence.

It is quite interesting and at times shocking to see how the internet has changed our lifestyles and now how it is threatening to reword our identities! The rise of social networking sites like Orkut, Facebook and MySpace have opened a whole new world of existence for the surfer and Web 2.0 for businesses looking to make money. Web 2.0 is the future of the web that allows more upstream movement of data from the users rather than websites dumping information on the browser. This collaborative development of content is working well for companies. Just think about the role of wikipedia in our lives now-a-days. Infact this very blog of mine is a living example of the influence of these sites: I have put links of my Orkut and LinkedIn profiles on it. This viral buzz about social networking led companies like Microsoft to invest @250 million in Facebook and the creation of alternative words like Second Life! I was part amused part shocked to hear that Wipro has recently opened a ODC in Second Life. These networking sites have now become a treasure trove for social scientists who are looking at human behavior, choices and networking patterns.

The amount of time employees are spending on such sites have prompted companies to block these websites from office. Of course there is another set of companies who are looking to capitalize on such websites to promote their companies, products and ideas. But what comes as a concern is the way in which our identities are moving away from what we really are to what we portray ourselves to be on these places. There are many questioning the quality of 'friends' whom people add over these websites. Arey they really good old friends are just the ones who gave you smile while you were taking your dog out for a walk on a Sunday afternoon in Timbuctoo? To parody such sites a host of fun ant-networking sites have already cropped up like Enemybook, Snapster and Hatebook!

Will these places over the coming times decide what we are or rather what we should be? Will the Second Life become more important than the original one? Guess only Mark Zuckerberg and you can answer that!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Close encounters of the third kind

Now, lemme think. I have been caught by the cops several times, but to reassure the skeptics those cops have all been of the traffic breed. My crime kitty includes over speeding, driving through a one way and not having a valid emission certificate for my car. The only interaction with the other kind has been when I was in the police station for my passport. I came very close day before in having a tete-a-tete with them.

I work out in a gym near my college. A couple of days ago I found a key in my bag which I carry to the gym. It wasn't mine and the only way I realized that the key had found its way into my bag via the gym were from the bold letters yelling "GYM" on the key chain. I found it in the top compartment of my bag where the zip is broken. Like a good Samaritan, I returned the key in the gym in the evening.

In the evening around 10, my friend A, received a call from the gym owner about the keys. He had no idea about the keys and as I had gone along with him he figured out that I must know something about it and handed over the call to me. I just told him that I found it in my bag and I just returned it. After an hour, he called again! And this time he was serious.

"What is the problem yaar?" I asked.
"Dont call me yaar, I am not your friend! Call me Sir."

This was the same guy who had talked with me a couple of days ago with me like a long lost buddy about my schedule and nutrition.

"You go to the gym right now to resolve the issue or I will have to send the cops to your hostel."
"But dude, its 11 in the night!!"
"Again! Watch your language!"

I didn't know about any sudden change in social norms where 'Dude' and 'yaar' were considered hostile words and people were asked to mind their language. Anyway not wanting any complications at 11 in the night we went to the gym to discuss about the 'Issues'!

There were a couple of points that made the gym suspicious about the two of us. If you have valuables with you like wallets, mobiles etc they can be dropped off at the counter after making an entry in the register. That day A was dropping off his stuff and I asked him to deposit my wallet along with his at the counter. He made an entry in the register. Apparently every one who comes to gym irrespective of depositing stuff should make an entry in the register. Now we had no clue about this. The instructor signatures were there on our health cards but I had not signed the register that day. Now they grew suspicious that two guys entered together and there was only one entry. There were a couple of pilferage cases in the gym a couple of months ago which led to the arrest of a member, sacking of some an instructor and a receptionist.

Now based on the conversations I had there, I have made a list of points that would have made Dr.Watson proud. ( These are just case facts, not the solution and hence only Dr.Watson comes into the picture)

-> The key was found in the front compartment of my bag which had a broken zip. Did it fall into the open compartment or was it placed there or was it put in to be collected later?
-> The key lost was from the morning batch. I always go in the evening. So how did a morning batch key land up in my bag in the evening?
-> Why did the instructor who had lost his key not reported the loss?
-> If the keys were lost how was the gym being opened in the morning?

The point here is not that this whole issue happened. The issue here is that it is so easy to frame someone into a tight situation which he cant wriggle out of. And the legal system is India is so brilliant I dont have to tell much about it. Recently there was a case where an employee of HCL was accused of putting up stuff about Shivaji in Orkut that led to rioting in Maharashtra. After some 15 days in jail, it was declared that he wasnt the person who did that and was let off. Within no time your life can be screwed beyond repair and you wont even understand what is happening around you. At the end of the day, it was a new experience for me that reinforced Momma's advice to stay away from strangers and always mind your own business!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Letz pateh like its yuah bud-dhay!

I am going to turn 26 day after tomorrow. So for the 26th time in my life I am going to feel damn good about myself on 16th December and hope that life will get better by the the next birthday! There has obviously been a pattern to the way my birthdays have been celebrated over the last many years. Let me show you my evolution!

-> Year 1: The Big One
I am assuming would have been the biggest, cause my parents would have thought "Bada hoke khaandan ka naam roshan karega!".

-> Years 2 to 4: The Gray Area
Dont really remember.

-> Years 5 to 12: The Halcyon Days
In school if it was your birthday, one would get to wear 'color dress' and not the lousy uniform. You would enjoy that attention being showered on you, not because you are one helluva popular guy but because you have that extra Coffee Bite that you could generously dole out. And yes, every year I gave only Coffee Bite cause it was my favorite toffee. Even today I cant resist one.

And of course, would come home to a party which would have the same people, same sorta menu list, more or less same sorta gifts and same games. But hey that was my Birthday and my fifteen minutes of fame. So felt great about it every year.

Midway through this phase I had to start sharing my spotlight cause my brother decided that it would be fun if he was born one day before. So my mom discovered 'cost cutting' way before the software industry stumbled upon it.

-> Years 13 to 17: The 'Cool Off' Period
This was the period I decided that celebrating birthdays was not cool anymore! The period where you decide you have grown up beyond silly things like birthdays and try to act mature and cool and make way for your younger siblings. But your cousins decide you are still the cuddly cute baby that they saw for the first time and try to treat you likewise. That was one helluva flux time!

-> Years 18 to 21: Recapturing the magic
Ah! I still remember it so clearly. It was the first semester of Engineering and the groups were just getting formed. I had never expected a surprise party, let alone them knowing it was my birthday. They had got candles, cake, knife, a super T shirt as the birthday gift and everything to the nth detail. Boy! was I overwhelmed or what!! we all drove some 20 kms that day for my treat in a Dhaba. It was mad and it day started a four year tradition where everyone's birthday was celebrated in the same broken down room at the end of the corridor, cake all over the face, happy birthday songs in all sorts of remixes and treats at Dhabas on Bellary road, phone ringing till 2 in the morning! A birthday isnt one without your friends around!

-> Years 21 to 24: The Blur
This was the first time that I wasnt home for my birthday. I had started working and was in Hyderabad. Some how for the first time I realized that I had grown up and some things would never be the same again. Ofcourse, it helped to have a fantastic group of friends at home who made sure it was a birthday I didnt forget. And that was the first time I tasted the pain and joy of getting birthday bums where one wasnt sure he is happy or sad for what is happening! And then I came back home for a couple of quieter birthdays which just zipped past too soon to realize.

->Years 25 to 26: The Madness
Boy! thought I had seen some mad celebrations till I landed up in SP!! Never in my life I have seen such madness. And people who havent been here will never understand its magic. So for all those lesser mortals who havent had the experience, this is what will happen to me sharp 12.oo AM on 16th.
  • Messages would be sent out to all the guys in their room to assemble in the birthday zone.
  • Distruntled MBA grads looking for an outlet for their frustrations will swarm the area like hungry ants.
  • My roomie, poor soul would be scooped off the ground and depending on how badly people want to screw his happiness, will kick his butt till he cant take it anymore or some kind soul throws some pity on him.
  • Next would be my turn. The cheers would be louder, the numbers larger, the kicking harder and the time longer! I would be kicked until i feel or rather stop feeling my backside!
  • Then for the sake of formality, they would sing 'Happy birthday'
  • I say, 'Sake of formality' cause my roomie would be waiting with one of the worst smelling cakes in his hand, ready to be smashed right into the middle of my face. And then the cake would reach my hair, my neck and places i dare not mention on public space!Ocourse i would make sure that my roomie gets a generous share of this cake smashing.
  • Then comes the water. How can you have a birthday celebration without making a mess of the whole place. Buckets of cold water would be poured on the poor souls just for him to discover the places where it is going to hurt tomorrow.
  • And then with the water all over the place and cake strewn all over the place, the Birthday boy is held by his legs and dragged all along the ground to ensure that a fine mix of chocolate flavored slush is everywhere. I am sure the Battle of Panipat looked just like this the day after the war ended!
  • And ofcourse there are certain other things that happen that I dare not put here! :D
  • After that the Birthday boy and his roomies head back to hit the shower and then reassemble with a smaller number of friends to share a better cake, consumed more decently this time.
Well, this is how it is going to go day after and I am so glad that I have had this experience. My 27th birthday would be the start of a new phase and I dont know how that is going to turn up. So watch out for the sequel blog some ten years down the lane! :)