Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Cybernauts

Was reading a book a few weeks back - The Cybergypsies by Indra Sinha, which was a kind of autobiographical take on the early days of the internet, thats starting around the mid eighties. Its a tale of the early cybernauts, their addiction to the internet and how their real and virtual lives fought each other for attention and threatened to engulf each other.
It took me back to the turn of the century, my early days online, when the net of Indra Sinha was well on its way to becoming the worldwide web it is today. It reminded me of the a/c internet cafes, visits to which were not so frequent because of the steep costs, and the dimly lit computer labs in the university which had only the unreliable vsnl connection.The days of IRC and chats with unknown angels and merlins and superboys, the arcade games, the imaginary worlds created among friends across geographies, in a way, it was almost the kind of life the early cybernauts led.
And when you were asked what exactly you spent hours in front of a computer for, you really couldn't explain what made it so worthwhile. The days of and eudoramail and, names which have bitten cyberdust quite a whileback. I still have a friend from those days, almost a decade of only virtual friendship, well, almost, since she sent me flowers for my wedding :)
And then came the initial days of blogging, and friends made on rediffblogs, people whom I did not know really, but with whom i shared thoughts, and rants. And, that, i guess where virtuality started ending and reality started taking over. There were blog meets and the imaginary worlds created carefully gave way to the cafes of the real world.
It took a turn with orkut and co, where the networks were used to get in touch with people you already knew in your real life. And these days, on twitter, i meet a few who i used to know during the rediff days, but gone are the days of anonymity, for my linkedin profile would readily tell people who i was in the real world.
i miss those days, because there was only communication and a conversation among equals then. No virtual celebrities, no social media experts, no snobs, everything was virtual, your imagination and thoughts were the only thing that mattered, virtuality was a shell you could retreat to when the real world became too unbearable. Its different now, virtuality and reality are too enmeshed, and as with everything else in the world, behind every virtual interaction, there is a real intention. This must be Cybernauts 2.0

until next time, really virtual

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fairytale Endings

We hurried, after all it was not everyday that we could listen to a Lord. We didn't make it early enough because there was already quite a crowd in attendance, most of whom were not pleased to see latecomers trying to squeeze their way in between. The lord came on time, and had his audience spellbound with his anecdotes and immense sense of humour. He promised to autograph every book that his audience had brought, but there was a twist in the tale. The peasants at Landmark wouldn't let us near unless we'd made a purchase then and there. So we left, with the satisfaction that we at least got to see him.

But that wasn't the only reason we left early, we had one more audience left, a Prince, no less - Prince Caspian. There's a reason why i was eagerly waiting for this film. Unlike the modern day children's tales of magic, this one is absolutely fairytale. Good and evil are clearly defined and there are no greys in between. It takes you back to a time when you would believe in talking animals, magic, witches, wise kings and all the folk who appear in fairytales in all their innocence. Its a completely different world, and as i read somewhere, some things have to be believed to be seen.

until next time, back to reality

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Value for money

A term that is bandied about a lot these days, especially since we live in an era of consumer monsters, who insist on getting every paise's worth. But i remember the time when two of the words were used differently, and remember the generation which worked hard to make us understand the value of money. That generation lived most of their life before liberalisation, and are yet to come to terms with the plethora of choices that are now on offer.
It hit me a few days back, when I was sitting in a desserts joint working my way through a chocolate mound, and saw a man, perhaps in his early sixties looking into the shop, and for a fleeting second, at me. The melancholic look said it all. The look of a man, who has perhaps spent an entire working life making sure that his family was well provided for, that his kids got a good education, and they had a home they could call their own, and while doing all these, mostly missed out on things that he'd like to have done.
And now, when the kids are all grown up, and he finally has the time, he realises the world has changed, and the value of money has been drastically altered, and that the plans he might have made are rendered useless, thanks to the prices and the amount of people who are capable of and willing to pay a premium for the same services. People, like his own children, who work hard to make sure they earn enough to pay the premium, and end up not having enough time for the people who kickstarted their lives.
Long ago, when he gave up that new shirt piece, so that his child could have a new toy, could he have imagined that one day, his child could buy shirts from brands he thought would never see in India, but not have time to remember the toy his father had once bought for him? Could he have imagined this was the way it would all turn out to be? And after he looks at me through the window that separates our worlds, i look at myself, and wonder whether it'll all work out the way we plan, or will we also be unable to comprehend the lives we bring out into the world?

until next time, values

Monday, May 19, 2008

Long before we had single button publishing.......

A few days back, a friend buzzed me on GTalk to ask if i was the kind who contributed to magazines. She had seen a 1996 issue of Reader's Digest which had an item with my name and hometown, a combo which was too coincidental to not check out. And right she was.
Took me back to 1996, second year of Engineering, a time of upheaval. I was still getting used to staying away from home, and books were something i clung on to, not the engineering type, but fiction, perhaps as a link to a life i left behind. And since RD was something we subscribed to, at home, i sometimes carried it to the hostel. Incidentally, Dad still subscribes, and when i go home, i still get laughs from 'Humour in Uniform','Life's Like that' etc.
I remember the time when, after reading the 'Towards More Picturesque Speech' section, I sat down to make spanking new oxymorons. It didn't matter that i had no clarity on whether 'Picturesque' was made of two separate words i knew, though i couldn't see what sense their joining made, or it was a totally new word. Meanwhile, dozens of oxymorons made their way to RD, but only a few managed to get published. Maybe they are still laughing at the ones that didn't get published.
In the old days of India Post exclusives, I waited for the postman to bring me news of RD accepting my entry and er, paying me. When, eventually they did, I also remember the thrill of getting paid, and for the first time, seeing my words and name on print. Of course, I was also asked to explain the humour in (for example) 'Mutually Exclusive' and why it got published. I usually failed. For that particular example, the one that got published in 1996, I remember the picture on the cover too, because that was the last entry i ever sent to RD. Something must have changed after that.
Have you ever tried to look back into your past, a sort of bird's eye view? And sometimes, while doing so, have you ever felt conflicting emotions? SometimesI cannot understand myself and why i'd done things I did. And sometimes, I understand myself totally and wish someone had been there to give me a hug that I was longing for. And that still brings a lump to my throat. Maybe I have't changed after all.

until next time, published

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A colorful personality

She was always interested in colors, ever since she was a child. Not that many people appreciated her work, but she couldn't care less. She had a way of mixing the most varied of colors and producing what she thought was sublime harmony. Of course, the masses never seemed to agree with her, but she was sure if the critics got a chance to see her works of art, they would fall short of words to praise her with.
And that was the only thing that kept her going inspite of the harsh words from her parents and all those who came in contact with her works. But even her detractors would have to admit, thosethat came in contact were profoundly affected.
Once she grew up, she decided to focus her energies on fabric. Though the opportunities that she got were not many, she tried her best to do justice to all the ones she got. The brickbats continued to come, but she was not to be deterred.
And today, she had decided to create a work of art that would knock the air out of whoever saw it. And knock the air out she did, as I could only gape in shock as our maid nonchalantly showed me my new bottle green corduroys that now sported violet gashes in strategic locations.

until next time, maid to disorder

Monday, May 12, 2008


...and we lament, 'Oh, he has changed', without pausing to consider the objectivity of the statement. We like people to stay whoever they have been so long, because it then means we don't have to alter the patterns we have set for them, and when, in our view, they alter themselves even a wee bit, we frown, and even that small changes causes a butterfly effect on the set of patterns, however irrelevant they might be to the particular change.

And that was what i discovered the last time I checked - 'our view'. In many cases, it may not be the person that changes, but only our view of him. Our views, which change constantly as a result of all the experiences we keep having. Our views, which keep adding layer after layer, filter after filter,so that the tint that we see once may never be seen again.That perhaps is why the youth are not able to have a child like innocence in their perspectives, and the middle aged can never find their youthful exuberance in their views, and so on...

And so, the next time, i say 'You have changed', I shall perhaps do a quick review of what really has changed.

until next time, next change

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dealing from the front

He tried again. The damn thing just wasn't going in. He'd been trying to push it in for the last half hour with no success. He wondered how he'd got himself into this predicament. All he wanted was to have some fun, just like the good old days. Maybe he was too old for all this.
Wait a second, he wasn't old, what was old was the object of his affection, increasingly becoming merely the object of his irritated attention. He tried pushing it in once more.
Truth be told, he'd always been used to doing it from the top in the good old days, but that one'd died on him a while back.This frontal atack was something new to him, though his friend had told him it wasn't anything radically different when he loaned him his item - one used to such moves. For only one day, he'd said quite forcefully.
Quite apparently, his friend had no idea ofthe subtle differences. He gave up. It just wasn't worth it, he thought, as he switched the DVD player on. He'd remember to give his friend a piece of his mind, when he returned the damn front loading vhs system!!

until next time, cardio video

Monday, May 05, 2008

Growth, or the lack of it....

At every cross road, there are opportunities that have not been taken. There are choices that have been made, options that have been taken, the first with a steely resolve, and the second, with a sense of compromise. The first is more often than not, a happy tone that comes from knowing exactly what we want, and the second one is a tone of resignation, which comes from knowing somewhere deep inside that by giving up a little, much could have been gained, if only we could bring ourselves to do it, if only we could be sure...

I've always wondered about why I have a problem with giving up a few comforts, a few perks, a few advantages in life, especially if it means I could have an opportunity to connect with what I was meant to do in this life. At first, i thought it could be because I wasn't sure what exactly it was. But then, I was even giving up chances of finding out what it could be.

I came across a new logic a while back. One thats rooted in my small town origins. Of course, its no longer a small town, its what they call a tier 2 city. :) Growing up in a small town means that you're always on 'add to shopping cart' mode in terms of aspirations. Growing up in an age when the cans of cola in the hands of videsi relatives evoked a sense of envy, didn't help. While a lot of the shopping cart items were thrown out with age and what I hope is maturity, there are some deep seated ones which are difficult to get over. Which explains the constant striving for growth. And as each upgrade is done with, it becomes more difficult to give up what has been achieved after so much of work has gone into it. While it can be argued that the potential growth by letting go is much larger, or that the movement is only lateral, when you come in from what is relatively nowhere, it is difficult to imagine even risking going back there.

until next time, hedging the bets

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Separate Lives

They had all said that marriage was not an easy thing. It was a balancing act, and one which posed new difficulties as soon as you thought you had it all planned out. That was just before she got married, and now almost a decade had passed.Yes, it was quite a lot of what they said, but that was only part of it.

Truth be told, she was a happy woman now. She had a great love life, something women of her age could only dream about. Sometimes, more often than not, on weekdays, he took a day off from work and spent the whole day with her, ready to do her bidding. For instance, he was taking her shopping today, and when they returned, he had promised to cook lunch for her. And it was not even a weekend. Bliss.

They had a great time shopping, it was amazing how much of a help even a man could be in shopping, if he put his mind to it. And he was a great chef, that was a well proven fact. In fact, after she tasted his menu of the day, she asked him why he wouldn't think of it as a career.Speaking of careers, her husband was a high profile corporate executive. He earned enough not to mind her frequent shopping trips. That reminded her, she'd have to leave now to get back by the time he returned from office. After all, she couldn't allow such a great life to be disrupted by a suspicious husband.

Yes, they were right, married life was a balance, one that took quite some acting.

until next time, vows and woes