July 30, 2010

My Mom... and the Internet

We all know that our mothers play a very influential role in our lives. It really doesn’t matter whether you accept it or not. That is the truth. No one knows you better than your own mother.
About my mom? Well, I wouldn’t know where to begin. There are sooo many things about her that I could say…I could possibly write a whole book on her. For me she’s the “jitna bhi kaha jaaye, utna kam hai” person! And then I thought, why not blog? So I decided I’ll have a ‘My Mom’ series where I can write interesting things about her.
(In fact, anything about her is interesting!).
My mom is a fast learner and, more importantly, determined. That’s how 11 years ago (at the age of 43) my mother decided she had to learn to drive. And she did. To date, she’s the only one who drives in my family. (My dad does not drive any vehicle. We’ve got a DL alright, but haven’t driven since… that’s a story for other times). So when she told us about learning to use a PC and surfing the WWW, we agreed. After all, the PC and internet connection at home can be utilized; she can access the vast wealth of information available online; plus we can keep in touch as well (this was a little before we moved to Mysore for our PGDM). Us teaching her how to use a PC can, at best, be compared to her trying to impart culinary skills to us – the one who knows getting miffed at the one who’s trying to learn!

First it started out with simple tasks – like switching ON the PC and shutting it down. Then she wanted to know how to play songs. Make no mistake, it’s not movie songs. Devotional songs is what this is about. ;-) (For the record, she likes movie songs too). So, we showed her how she could play songs on Winamp. (We used RealPlayer for our music, so the two were well-separated and no confusion arose, thank you). Then it slowly graduated to surfing the webpages. It was during those days that I was reminded of how intimidating all this “technology” was to me, back in those days when I myself was trying to master the art of maneuvering a PC. And I could imagine how complex it could be for her. But, for all my “understanding”, I’d lose my cool many a time. But she didn’t let all of that dissuade her. She marched ahead, one step at a time. We did create an email id for her (in Hotmail). But then she didn’t really carry on much after that. It was only when we moved to Mysore that she did start exploring the internet in a more serious manner.

Now I’m happy to let you know that she checks her mail (Gmail account that we later made for her), surfs the web a little, can check out the matrimonial sites (for us, silly… spending a looot of time going through prospective groom profiles…uff!) and chats with us on Gmail and makes calls on Skype (to us and her sister and family in Dubai). 

She has her way of doing things, though.

She’s most at ease with Internet Explorer, maybe because that’s what she learned to use first. It doesn’t matter that I later installed Google Chrome and demonstrated the benefits of using a ‘tab’ and all that. (Now something’s wrong with the PC and Chrome doesn’t work. So yea… Good thing she’s happy with IE!)

She won’t maximize a page – she views the page in whatever size it opens in… and scrolls up and down, left and right. Isn’t it better to maximize a page and view it in full size, rather than scroll? No, apparently. After telling her a few times, and even standing behind her to click on ‘Maximize’ while she was surfing, I gave up!

She reads everything very carefully. Can’t blame her though. Most people who are new to using the PC or surfing the internet will take any message that pops up very seriously. They don’t want to ruin anything, because they did not pay heed to the message. So even if it’s the “security warning” that pops up when you try accessing Gmail, or all the ads and messages on the sites she happens to be visiting, she reads all of that, just to be safe, you know. And let’s face it, there are sooo many ads and other messages on any given site! Those who’ve been using the internet for a long while know which text/messages are part of the site and which are ‘just there’, trying to distract or allure you. But she knows her way around now, I guess.

She’s a fan of Susan Miller! “Susan who?”, you ask? Well… Mom and us are quite into astrology and zodiac and all the occult stuff. So she was Googling, and got to know about this lady and her astrology website. She subscribes to her Daily Horoscopes. Most of the things predicted by her is true, my mom tells me. And well, yea, I tend to agree. She reads the predictions for the month quite seriously.

Is she stuck with something? She simply calls either of us. I did that and then this happened… I can’t seem to open something… etc. etc. Cute, na?

The things she’s getting to know - The other day I was chatting with her in Gmail and she saw my status message. It had the link for my blog in it. “What is that?”, she asked me. I said that it was a link to my blog, where I wrote stuff and said she could read it if she wanted to. “Ok”, she said. That’s another thing I realised my mom may not be very familiar with. Figuring out that something is a ‘link’, that can be clicked. She’s familiar with the concept of taglines, though…what with two daughters who made the most of that space in Skype! (I doubt she read the blog, though. The last time I got my story and poem published in my college magazine, I had to make her sit in a chair, hand it to her (with the relevant page open) and say “read it!” :-D)

Then she asked me another question. “Why does it become orange sometimes?” The “it” being the chat window in Gmail. “It blinks and turns orange because it’s an indication for you that there’s a message that hasn’t been read. You can set a sound for it too.”… Enlightenment? These are things we take for granted – a chat window blinks and makes a sound when someone sends a message. You can set it on/off. Everything can be personalized. Well, doesn’t really affect her, does it?

Actually, I'm proud of her because she’s getting at ease with all this (though I may not have admitted it to her directly). After all, she’s not working and has no real need to learn how to use a PC. But she did. That’s my mom! Woohoo!!

July 28, 2010


The dictionary definition for ‘glee’ (the emotion) is:
  • Open delight or pleasure; exultant joy; exultation
  • Jubilant delight; joy

But somehow I associate this word with children or childhood. It’s probably because the kind of joy and delight implied by the word is experienced mostly when we’re really young – carefree and with reckless abandon. And it really doesn't matter how old we are, the “child within us” will emerge from time to time.

Recently, here at Infy, we had a small Road Show organized by the Toastmasters Club during lunch hours. They had small word games where those interested could participate and win chocolates as prizes. Some of the games included Spelling Bee, Word Building and Hangman. Now, you’d wonder whether these kind of games and prizes (after all, chocolates) would really prompt 20+ year old working professionals into trying their hand at it. I had this doubt myself. Nevertheless I watched as the crowd there kept growing bigger. What was initially a trickle of people began developing into queues. I had to wait for my turn to try my hand at these games! And I was thrilled! Out of the four games that I tried, I won three and walked away happily with a Dairy Milk, Five Star and Cadbury Shots as prizes.

I quote this incident not to say that I ‘won’. But just think about it. Think of all the exhibitions, melas, fairs, shopping festivals and the like you’ve visited. Invariably you’d have seen atleast a few stalls there that were meant for games. You pay some money, play the game and try to win goodies. These are probably targeted at children, but are they the only folks you see around? You’d definitely find some grown-ups too! They’d hesitate at first, but will wait and watch the children attempting it for a while. Slowly you’ll see them take their wallets out and join in. It’s universal. Parents are often the ones who’re induced into it first because their children insist on playing. But soon you’d find others joining in too - groups of guys and/or gals. And I feel that it has a lot to do with the ‘glee’ factor… the sense of mirth or elation that you feel. The games are pretty much standard and not really exotic – throw a ball and tumble the stacked set of objects (usually tumblers), throw a loop and win the object on which it falls, shoot a target, Tambola/Bingo/Housie, show your might by using a hammer, etc. Can't really say that these are most ‘challenging’. And as far as the prizes go, they’re not the expensive kind. So what pulls the crowd? The glee factor…you feel victorious and happy, with a tinge of pride!

No matter how old we grow, some things don't change!

July 27, 2010


What is this post about?? Take a wild guess! No?
Need a clue? Ok…The title of this post. Still scratching your head wondering what all this is about?

Ok fine… It’s about F.R.I.E.N.D.S. … in Hindi! Yea, in HINDI. And I do not mean a dubbed version (now, THAT is a potential disaster, like the hilarious Hindi dubbed versions of English flicks).

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is my favourite sitcom! And I’m sure that’s the case for sooo many people out there. I never tire of watching all the re-runs; it still makes me laugh! I cannot claim that I’m a fanatic though, because I haven’t watched all the Seasons (I will some day!). I really don’t know why, when and how I started watching it. But it’s still something I prefer to watch, over all the other sitcoms that appear on Star World or Zee Cafe. There's something about them which makes you wish you had a bunch of friends like them.

Anyway, it so happens that a few of the actors in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. resemble Hindi film stars (atleast according to me)… and I wondered who all could possibly be cast in the Hindi version, in case any such thing were to be actually shot! Now, I think three people of the cast have definite equivalents. And they are:

Ross Geller –
Eng. Version: David Schwimmer
Hindi Version: Akshay Kumar

Yea, I said Akshay Kumar. You may disagree, but David Schwimmer always reminded me of Akshay Kumar. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

Now, it’s not just the looks, but I think Akshay suits the role too. Ross is this nerdy-cum-goofy character which Akshay is good at. (He does goofy a lot… Nerdy? Yea, he can manage).

Rachel Green –
Eng. Version: Jennifer Aniston
Hindi Version: Shilpa Shetty

I think Shilpa Shetty is a good match for Rachel Green – the svelte good-looking fashion enthusiast having an on-and-off affair with Ross (Akshay).

Joey Tribbiani –
Eng. Version: Matt LeBlanc
Hindi Version: Salman Khan

I’m not so sure about Salman being apt for the dumb-adorable-struggling actor Joey. But anyway, thought he resembled Matt. Oh yea, he'll do justice to the ‘womanizer’ bit of Joey, what say? ;-)

The rest of the cast?? Frankly, I’m clueless! I can’t think of actors who can play the parts of Chandler Bing, Monica Geller and Phoebe Buffay nor think of anybody who resembles them.

Lisa Kudrow look like Kim Sharma? (But can she play the quirky masseuse-cum-musician?)

Chandler Bing? Aamir Khan??? (Humour-wise, perhaps?)

Monica Geller? …………??????

Can you think of actors for these roles? Do you disagree with my choice? Or agree? Let me know… leave your comments!

P.S. Not like anyone’s gonna make D.O.S.T. a reality, but while you’re at it you can think of actors for other recurring roles too; like Janice, Gunther, Carol (Ross’ lesbian ex-wife), The Gellers, etc. :-D

To F.R.I.E.N.D.S!

July 26, 2010


I like to kiss. Yes, I do. And I encourage everyone to do so too.

Wait, wait, wait…Before you begin to get any funny ideas, let me clarify this one for you. By ‘kiss’ I do not mean the first best thing to do with your lips (as suggested by a popular forward message). All I mean is: ‘Keep It Short and Simple’. Yep! (Sorry to those who were expecting this to go along some other lines! :-P)

All our lives we come across instances where somebody takes a lot of time talking more… and conveying a lot less. You look often (or very often) at your watch, anticipating an end to the tedious affair. You switch off completely. You begin to daydream. You become distracted (or try to look so) and avoid looking at the other person’s face. You interrupt the other person by asking random questions (Hey, where did you get that vase from?). You plan other things (shopping, dinner, weekend...), of course in your head. You think of all the things you could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been doing. You nod your head (almost vigorously) with a fake smile, hoping against hope that this gesture of affirmation might just do the trick and wind up the conversation quickly; only to find that the other person quite oblivious (or choosing to be so) to the whole situation takes it as a cue to launch Round 2 of the same rigmarole. You pray someone will call you… NOW, or even SMS you, so that you can make an excuse and leave. Better still, you try coming up with an excuse as to why you’ve to leave soon (you were reminded of something “important” to do just now). You wonder why you didn’t choose a more inconvenient time for the other person (his/her busy schedule would’ve ensured your quicker exit!).

That’s why we all have to learn to ‘kiss’! I’m not suggesting that we say only the absolutely essential and remain quiet otherwise. But, you’ve got to “know your audience” too. I’ve sat through several lectures, guest lectures, welcome speeches, and the like and thought to myself – Did s/he take so much time to convey THIS? I would’ve done it in so much lesser time! The thing about beating around the bush, going about in circles, laboring over a point is that it defeats its purpose – you miss it (much like this sentence!) A much better way is to be sure of what you want to convey, what you want the audience to take away, and say it crisply and nicely.

As for me, I’m anyway a woman of few words. I’m not very talkative (unless I am in the company of those I know well, and vice versa) and often do not talk along unless I really feel like it. Small talk, idle chatter, making conversation, etc. is definitely not my “thing” (I wonder why though. I have parents who can talk about pretty much anything to pretty much anyone!). I dunno if it’s that strange or abnormal, but I’ve always been less vocal (to those who know me well, go back to sentence 2 of this para). There were these GD classes in T.I.M.E., I remember, where the faculty there (dear Joseph Sir) tried all he could to coax (even bully) me into speaking – but somehow I wouldn’t! He used to do these mock GDs, where people who wouldn’t speak substantially would be asked to leave the group. And, needless to say, yours truly would be asked to leave almost every time, and spent most of the time watching others do the GD. (I finally did give my two cents’ worth in the SDM GD though. :-P).

Cut to Period MBA. Presentations. No matter how much content I prepared for “talk time”, I’d invariably end up speaking only one-third of it finally. It’s not just about presentations, but even my assignments, reports, projects… everything used to be brief. If there was a page limit (come to think of it, even if there wasn’t any), I’d end up submitting less all the time, whereas I used to find people outdoing each other. As for my exams (throughout my education), the story remains pretty much the same. I’d look around to find people asking for supplementary sheets, whereas I’d still be filling in whatever booklet I got (with pages still remaining). When I was working in the college newsletter as an editor, and had only 8 pages at my disposal, I realized that anything worth saying could be conveyed in just 150-200 words, not more.

Well, I guess everyone has got my point.

Sometimes ‘less is more’. Now, before you accuse me of preaching and not practicing, I shall wind up and leave you with this thought.

Much talking is the cause of danger. Silence is the means of avoiding misfortune. The talkative parrot is shut up in a cage. Other birds, without speech, fly freely about.
~ Saskya Pandita

July 23, 2010

The Dark Humour in The White Tiger

Sometimes it’s much better to take a book off the shelf and read it, just like that, without any preconceived notions. No reading reviews or getting “some” idea about the storyline to decide if it’s the kind of genre you like (the same can be said about movies too). That way, the book makes the impact intended by the author - unadulterated. The White Tiger happens to be one such book for me. Sure, I’ve heard that it won a Man Booker Prize (and a debut novel at that). It would contribute towards increased expectations, perhaps? Anyway, it so happened that I had (correction: have) a lot of time to kill and found this book conveniently available at the Infy library. And frankly, I was hooked.

The book is what is known as an epistolary novel in literary terms – where the entire length of the novel is in the form of documents (letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings… and, with the advent of modern technology, e-mails and blogs can also be counted). Without going into too many details (I don’t want to spoil the book for those who are yet to read it), the book is structured in the form of the protagonist’s letter (or rather series of letters) to a Chinese diplomat who is to visit India (all of which takes a week for completion). What I found interesting about the book is, of course, the style of writing and the fact that the story does not unfurl at one go, but at the pace and manner decided by the protagonist (therefore, the author). In that sense, I’d consider the book a bit of a suspense too - the pieces of the jigsaw take time falling and you are constantly anticipating it too. What is really commendable is how the author manages to cleverly weave in a lot of issues between the two Indias (urban Vs. rural) of today, with only the life of the protagonist and his opinions as his means. And the language, mind you, is irreverant! I’d describe it as a mix of outspokenness, cynicism, sarcasm, disdain and dark humour (sometimes bordering on hilarious!). You’ll definitely get a flavour of the book from Page 1. The author plainly (and in no uncertain terms) states the maladies plaguing India today.

Sample a few lines from the book.
(Copyright is defintely to the author. I'm just quoting him. Hope this isn't any violation!).

Me, and thousands of others in this country like me, are half-baked, because we were never allowed to complete our schooling. Open our skulls, look in with a penlight, and you'll find an odd museum of ideas: sentences of history or mathematics remembered from school textbooks (no boy remembers his schooling like the one who was taken out of school, let me assure you), sentences about politics read in a newspaper while waiting for someone to come to an office, triangles and pyramids seen on the torn pages of the old geometry textbooks which every tea shop in this country uses to wrap its snacks in, bits of All India Radio news bulletins, things that drop into your mind, like lizards from the ceiling, in the half hour before falling asleep--all these ideas, half formed and half digested and half correct, mix up with other half-cooked ideas in your head, and I guess these half-formed ideas bugger one another, and make more half-formed ideas, and this is what you act on and live with.

These are the three main diseases of this country, sir: typhoid, cholera, and election fever. This last one is the worst; it makes people talk and talk about things that they have no say in ... Would they do it this time? Would they beat the Great Socialist and win the elections? Had they raised enough money of their own, and bribed enough policemen, and bought enough fingerprints of their own, to win? Like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra, the voters discuss the elections in Laxmangarh.

It's amazing. The moment you show cash, everyone knows your language.

The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor - they never overlap, do they? See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.

What I find surprising, though, is that there is nothing in the background of Aravind Adiga (from whatever limited/unlimited information I could gather from the Web) that suggests that he could pen such a character (the mannerisms, behaviour and thinking process) with great finesse. I got Googling and happened to read four other short stories penned by him – The Sultan’s Battery, Smack, The Elephant, Last Christmas in Bandra (you can read them all online). Protagonists in these stories also belong to the rural or poverty-stricken India, grappling with their lives. He has also penned another book (a collection of short stories) titled Between the Assassinations.

So finally…
My verdict on The White Tiger? Definitely worth a read!

July 22, 2010


Finally… I kick-off my blog.

After months of procrastination (read ‘laziness’) the blog that was always in my head sees the light of day! You have no idea how many times I’ve composed this “introductory” post in my head. And, needless to say, it has always been distinctly different each time (with this one being no exception).

I’d been toying around with this idea of having a blog for maybe almost a year now. It’s certainly not the lack of thoughts (or any inability to express them) that prevented me from getting down to it. Well, let’s face it. Almost EVERYONE has a blog now, irrespective of whether one respects the sanctity of the written word or not; or if one has something, or rather anything (!), to convey. I’ve come across many kinds of blogs – ranging from the self-centric to the most technical or topical. It has certainly become a fad to say that you write a blog. And add to it the fact that I’ve a sister who’s immensely gifted and well-known for her blog did make it a tad intimidating. :-P But with the encouragement of a few friends and the fact that I’ve plenty of time on hand, I’ve decided to give it a shot. After my rather unsuccessful attempts at maintaining a personal diary (more on that in some later post, perhaps), I KNOW that I’m NOT cut-out for being regular or persistent. Nevertheless with, what I’d like to consider, my moderate success at microblogging (read taglines on Skype and FB), I thought – “Why not?!”.

So what do I intend to populate the webpages of my blog with, you ask? As the title suggests, it could be random things that I think of; anything interesting (or otherwise) that I come across - books, movies, songs, websites, quotes (again, more on this later). It could include personal experiences too, but then I have no intention of making it a public diary! It’s certainly not to showcase my literary prowess, if anything. Fiction is something I’ve not attempted often and I definitely do not consider my forte.

I have to say, this whole experience of starting a blog has been pretty interesting – inlcuding naming it (sadly, I do not remember the other names I had in mind after I finalized this one) and deciding the ‘look and feel’ of it. (Oh boy! Was that fun!). Suggestions and criticisms are always welcome (I mean it!).

So that’s it for now. Read on to get to know the “Candidly me”!