Sunday, January 30, 2011

Life is one big Fuzzy Logic

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been! I don't think any amount of explaining can give a clear idea of the degree of craziness I was exposed to.

It all started with a simple Facebook status message I posted a few days ago, the title of this post. The fuzziness I intended to portray was centred around a small unpredictable, lively, bouncy object aged five.

The Fuzziness of the world must have taken offence and decided to step in. I was then taken on a whirlwind tour of its internals, the outcome of which, I learned not to give my word on anything without adding a "I'll try to" or "if nothing hinders it" or "provided everything remains unaltered" to every promise I was forced to make. Those phrases are my lifeline I now fall back on when things become fuzzy.

First it was the electricity board, better known in these parts as BESCOM. A previous near-death experience had prepared me against loss of unsaved work. I have begun backing up my work in at least two places, even at the risk of getting confused as to which is the latest and doing comparisons daily to determine which one to work on. (My absent-mindedness is a post for another day.)

The day I committed to someone that I'll appear to chat at 11AM to discuss the work to be done, power supply failed at five minutes to eleven, forcing me to devise new methods to reach him and request him to make a call to my mobile phone (it was not easy, considering that he is in the US). The BESCOM uncertainties lasted almost a week, making me rely on Airtel SMS to keep myself from getting cut off the world.

Once BESCOM steadied itself, it was the turn of BSNL(broadband). I don't remember facing a major problem with them in the last one year or so. This time I dialled their toll-free number a hundred times (and got royally disconnected almost every time), finally managed to register a complaint, spoke to their customer support personnel about ten times, got connected to different people and ended up repeating the story every time, finally losing my temper to one woman ( who calmly asserted, "No use in shouting at me, Madam!" ) and later apologising to her ( -- "No problem, Madam, we are used to this." -- "But I'm not used to yelling at anyone..." ) and finding one helpful technical person who helped me through ( -- "Sorry for the trouble..." --"Oh, don't say trouble, Madam, it's our pleasure!" ). The problem, as I eventually found out, was at my end most of the time, except once when the network really had issues. Again, when broadband failed me, I resorted to Airtel GPRS to send emails that kept others informed of my situation. (I did consider writing a post on my experiences with BSNL broadband, particularly their customer support.)

It was the timing the problems chose to crop up that was beyond my comprehension.

Do you also feel (in my friend's words) handicapped if you are not Connected? I often wonder why I need an Internet connection when I am working on an article for which I have sufficient data with me. But I do rely on Google to confirm that I am writing it right, to search for apt words and phrases to use, and when I need a break I browse or tweet or Facebook.

Lesson learnt: There should always be back-up, preferably more than one! I thought back-up only meant saving our data in more than one place. How naïve, huh. It also means, in addition to a BSNL broadband connection, you should have an Airtel GPRS, Tata Indicom USB Modem, and any other connectivity you can lay your hands on. It also means that if BESCOM wreaks havoc, you still have an inverter, UPS and other accessories powerful enough to hold you above water for hours. It also means that if the customer support number breaks down, you have a couple of other direct mobile numbers of technical personnel handy. So that unless rain, lightning, thunder and storm join hands to cause destruction, the rock will keep the leaf from blowing away and the leaf will keep the rock from getting drenched.

Sometimes I feel I'm walking on a tightrope, afraid to look down this side or that, lest I should fall. But isn't that the challenge of it all, the balancing act? Besides, every time this happened, there had been an alternative way to keep myself afloat.

Thank you, BESCOM, BSNL, HP, Intel, Airtel, et al for making my life an adventure!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I could not able to...

It was the summer of five years ago. Or was it six? In the long conference hall that could seat 50 people if required, with a huge white board at one end and a clock at the other, and an oval table in the middle, we sat discussing our project. There were features and there were deliverables and then there were those inevitable creeps they call bugs. A member of my team, a young engineer, was explaining his predicament - the bug he was trying to squash refused to be squashed.
"I tried," he said, "but I could not able to fix it."

I looked up. His face betrayed helplessness and confusion. The conversation strayed to possible methods to tame the bug. I stayed where I was, unblinking. I could not able to... His thoughts must have stumbled over each other, I decided. I could not fix it and I was not able to fix it had collided, I consoled myself. I shook my head free and hurried to join the others.

It did not take me long to realise that the thoughts, if they had collided once, had become glued to each other. Every time he could not able to fix something, he said... I mean, every time he could unable to... okay, whatever. You get the idea.

It was not just he, I soon noticed. A lot of people could not able to do a lot of things. The virus was spreading!

One can imagine how my mouth fell open when last week I received a mail from a senior official in a Government organisation, a reply to my request for something or the other...

"Dear Madam, Please send me the details so that we can able to update our records... "

Watch out! Apparently the virus is not yet under control...
I could not able to resist posting this here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three-Two-One, Let it...

The Beyblade fever has hit the neighbourhood.

Reports coming in from different parts of the country through unreliable sources confirm that parents everywhere are reeling under this new menace. To keep up with the jargon used by their children, to avoid disgracing themselves before the Beyblade-blasting lads and to communicate with them in their own language, the Beyblade-illiterate parents are resorting to the Internet and Cartoon Network channel in huge numbers, hoping to put an end to this unforgivable ignorance.

Mothers of little girls aged between one and three have complained to the Police that their sweet adorable babies, though yet unable to speak their own mother tongue well, are uttering words they could not make out, that sound like "Thee-tooo-one, leddid reeep!"
Is it some kind of witch-craft? They ask.

Elders living in apartments located across major cities have lodged complaints that their quiet evenings are shattered by a rising roar that culminates in a sound like the clash of weapons, the source of which they could not ascertain, because every time they open their doors to see, they only see a bunch of boys running away. In fact, the tremor that caused windows and doors to quiver made them fear an Earthquake is on its way. Newspaper offices were flooded with calls as to the origin of the noise.

Our undercover reporter, prowling the neighbourhood, recorded a few conversations relevant to this story. The first is between a hapless Beyblade-illiterate woman and a seven-year-old.

"Auntie, what is the name of this one?"
"Uh.. Beyblade?" She ventures.
"I mean its name!"
"Isn't that its name?"
The child tut-tuts. Adults know absolutely nothing! "No, Auntie. Is it Pegasus, Leone, Sagittario...?"
The woman gapes. "Oh.. sorry, I have no idea!"

"Auntie! This is an 8+ Beyblade, why is your son playing with it, he is only five!"
"8+? Is there such a thing for Beyblades too? How do you know?"
"Aww Auntie, just look here! It's written on its wrapper."
"I see! Right you are! It indeed is 8+. I never knew."

"Auntie, do you know where to get Dark Wolf?"
"Dark what?"
"Dark Wolf, Dark Wolf!"
"What kind of a wolf is that??"
"It's a Beyblade, Auntie!"
"Oh, sorry..."

Our reporter noted that soon after this conversation, the woman in question sneaked out to her computer, and was seen browsing Wikipedia and other informative sites late into the night.

Also overheard by this reporter, the following conversation between the parents of a Beyblade-spinning child...

"Do you know that these Beyblade thingies are basically the same as the Top that we used to play with in our childhood? It costs Rs.10! These contraptions cost a fortune!"
"Well, that's the Japanese for you. All these centuries of playing with Tops, and no one from our country came up with this brilliant idea."

"What great idea is that? It's burning holes in my pocket!"
"Haven't you seen our child sit with the stuff - energy rings and whatever he calls them - and fix them together, his face a picture of concentration, as if he's assembling a computer? Doesn't he feel very important while he does that? Do you think he'll get the same pleasure from spinning an ordinary Top?" Her face displays her opinion of the ancient 'toy'.

"We did find happiness from a spinning Top in our days!"
"Those days aren't these days. This is Business, huge Business. The toy-makers are happy, the children are happy, and seeing them, we're happy. Appreciate them, the Japanese, for their genius."

In the backdrop, their child finishes assembling the contraption they call Beyblades, pulls the stadium towards him and prepares himself for battle.
Three...Two...One... Let it Rip!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The questions of a Five-Year-Old

1. Where did all the sand on Earth come from?

2. Was the Earth a Baby Earth at first? ( Because I mentioned the 'birth of Planet Earth' while answering question #1 ) Bhoomi pandu kunju bhoomi aayirunnittu veluthaayi vannathano?

3. Is the Earth a living thing? ( Because I said "natural calamities result from Mother Earth's sadness" )

4. Did God make a mistake in sending mosquitoes to us? Ambotti enthina mosquito ne ingottu vittathu? Abadham pattiyathano?

5. Will the year '2010' die only when the Earth dies? (Doubt originating from stories on Ashwatthama's immortality)

Click here for more questions!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I don't think there is anything in Life that makes its entry in a more dramatic fashion, pulling everyone in its neighbourhood and even those geographically far away into a whirlwind of emotions, than Death.

If it's so certain, if it has been happening for centuries, why can't people be brave, better prepared and reasonable when it appears. No, the shock, the disbelief and the misery have to return every time, with the same intensity.

Even the death of people whom I never knew, death I read about in the newspaper, affects me. I suppose it is quite natural then that the passing of a person I've never met should affect me so.

I only have with me one email in my inbox, and the memory of a few good messages exchanged.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Movies and Books

How easy it used to be, to enjoy a good book, a beautiful movie or ripping dialogs! 

How difficult it is now to flop down before a well-made film or flip through an amazing book without feeling, "Why don't I get such wonderful ideas and plots and dialogs??"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Perfect English, can you find any flaw?

My five-year-old son pointed to the empty packet of Kellogg's Chocos and solemnly announced, "Chocos is no more."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Random thoughts: Children's TV

A television channel for children must seem like a good idea, but there is only one problem...

When a five-year-old wants to watch, they play a complicated science program that makes use of Sodium Bicarbonate or talks of Carbon dioxide (--"Mamma, it's Prateek's program and he's speaking in Hindi."  --"Better watch some other channel, son.") and when a ten-year-old places himself before the set, there comes the puppet show, "Galli Galli Sim Sim." ("Ugh, it's the kids' program again!")

Speaking of children's TV, I must say M.A.D has become one of my favourite shows, and I think Rob is an incredibly talented guy. My five-year-old watches the program intently and after it is over, takes a paper, and starts to draw or fold and create things the way he has seen Rob do.

Yes, just in case anyone is wondering, there are programs that I encourage my son to watch.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Super-Mom? What Super-Mom?

You read elaborate articles that advise you not to try being a Super-Mom.
You reflect for a moment:

"No, I am not trying to be one. I'm only trying to balance my life - my children, my husband, my parents, my parents-in-law, my maids, neighbours, friends, my children's friends, my husband's colleagues and friends, society, relatives, home - and my career, my aspirations and my hobbies. A lot of women do that, a lot of men do that, what's great in my doing it?

True, my hobbies and aspirations often take a back seat, I never get around to them.
True, I don't get to sit for a moment except when I'm having my meals, an hour or two past the normal time.
True, my sleep is erratic most nights because I seem to be doing some work in sleep too.
True, every single day I find (if no one else points it out to me) that even after hours of toiling, there are a few important things still left to do.

I'm no Super-Mom, it's quite natural."

One day you feel sick, so darn sick that you can't even rise from bed. You are devastated: how can Life go on without you? Your world - your kids', your husband's, every others' that revolves around you - will collapse. You try to creep and crawl, to start doing at least the most essential chores, but you almost faint on the way. You give in and lie back, expecting the explosions to start any moment.

Instead, you notice that... the World - everyone's world - does go on. Someone or the other pitches in, grumbling or otherwise, smiling or otherwise, calm or otherwise, and Voilà! Results far from perfect, that on a normal day would make you frown, today extracts a sense of relief - because you don't even have the energy left in you to squeeze out a frown.

It's okay to let go once in a while, sickness or not, to leave tasks unfinished.
To enjoy a movie though that means dinner is going to be delayed by another hour.
To let the child watch TV for more than the allowed one hour.
To flop down with a book and let someone else run the house, for a change.
To do things haphazardly without worrying about military precision.
Sometimes it is only important that things get done, than when they were done or how.

Because the end... very often justifies the means.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

... Stop doing it!

Somebody told me recently, "if you don't like doing what you're doing, then stop doing it."

I did not contradict him or agree with him, but it made me a wee bit uneasy. The discussion was on something else, and this had come in between. I had a hunch that the person knew what he was talking about, so I did not hover over this for long. But I have this unpleasant habit of regurgitating thoughts much after the talk is over. It might not be as easy as it seems, to drop what you're doing because you don't enjoy doing it. And I am not talking (only) about career. Aren't there a lot of things in life that we do because we have to, we're expected to, we need to, but we don't want to?

Related post... Take your own path

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good things take their own time coming

The MAG has finally announced the results of the short story contest conducted early last year. All my entries have made it to the top twenty! We're told that these twenty stories will be published in paperback. Awaiting more news from the MAG.

What a start to the New Year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


... a conversation between my five-year-old and his Grandpa over phone.

"Appupa, Gandhiji did not die. Gandhiji marichathalla."

"Yes. A bad man came to him, bowed, said 'Bapu' and did dishun-dishun with a gun."
"Is that so!"

"Didn't you know?"
"Yes, you are right. I remember reading something about it. In fact, your Grandma and I once visited a museum in Madurai where the clothes Gandhiji was wearing on that day are preserved."

"With blood on it?"
"Yes, the clothes are blood-stained."

"Why did he say 'Bapu' if he was going to shoot him?"
"He was a bad man."

"Then Gandhiji said 'Hei, Ram'..."
"Yes, that is what he said before he died. Did you learn this in school?"

"No, my Amma told me."
"Good. I'm happy that you shared this with me."