Monday, May 25, 2009

The Learning Curve

Of late, Mom has started taking a keen interest in the Internet. Nothing too fancy, no facebook or digg or blogging. She just turns on the computer, connects to the Net, clicks here and there, and reads content.
Press the Power button on the CPU, wait for Windows to load, click on the Broadband icon to connect, and click on Internet Explorer/Firefox and just get cracking! Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? And here comes the strange (to me) part... The above instructions are simply too difficult for Mom to understand!
This often leads to some rather nasty altercations between her and me. Here are some excerpts:

Me: "Oh come on! How difficult is it for you to understand? Just click on the box next to 'User Name' and start typing there..."

Mom: "You raise your voice at me one more time and no lunch for you, young man!"

After several days of such heated discussions(to euphemise that is; "screaming our lungs out" would be more applicable) I decided to take a step back and think about it. What seemed so damn simple to me was obviously very difficult for Mom. And the reason was painfully obvious. It wasn't that she didn't want to learn, it's simply that she couldn't. The learning process slows down after a certain age.
However, this is not the end of the discussion. It is only the beginning. Our parents tell us so many things that simply don't make any sense to us; don't waste the food on your plate, don't wear torn jeans, don't forget to turn out the lights, and so on and so forth. We fail to understand the reason behind those statements... Because for the same reason as our parents are unable to pick up on new technologies, we cannot pick up on old wisdom.
They tell us to not waste food because their parents often had trouble arranging for two square meals a day.
They tell us to not wear torn jeans because, way back, in their childhood, our parents often had no option but to wear torn handed down trousers.
They tell us to turn out the lights because they didn't have electricity.

And naive as we are, we call our parents stubborn, miserly, inconsiderate, while they call us thoughtless, wasteful, and (as in my case) threaten to not make lunch!
Now, I won't be all goody two shoes and say that I listen to what my parents tell me all the time because I'm not and I don't. What I will say, however, is that there always is a reason for the way people behave.
And as the next generation that we belong to, we must never stop questioning, we must never stop trying to find the reasons to why things are the way they are. The Learning Curve must always be climbed. For the generations that are to follow will think the same of us as we think of the ones before us.
Like they say in French, c'est la vie. Life goes on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Since I'm going to start with my MBA this June, I was pretty smug with my explanation of studying "cases studies" being how I see MBA adding value to my profile. However, the Dilbert comic strip below shattered my illusion.

Image (c) Scott Adams

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Can I drop you off somewhere, Ms Kempster?"

Flashback to a minute before I said this. I was driving back home in the car with the aircon at full blast, listening to Jagjit Singh's Kagaz Ki Kashti, and thanking Dad and God at the same time for inspiring the creation of two of the best things to happen to mankind (and worst things to Mother Nature) Cars and Airconditioning, when I saw this frail figure standing at the side of a road, close to a traffic intersection trying to flag down an auto rickshaw.
I was driving too fast to stop in time, so I didn't even slow down. I was deliberating whether that could really be Mrs Kempster from Kindergarten. She used to be feared back then, 20 years ago.
Boy, even as I write this, I feel old. Have two decades really passed by since I joined Loyola School in '89?
I'd love to say that I took the first exit, circled around, and came back to where I saw Ms Kempster. But I didn't. I think the world has made too much a cynic of me to really still believe that one must be chivalrous and helpful and all those nice things that one learns to be in school, the things that make the difference between being educated and being literate. Even if I had stopped on time, what would I have asked her? What if she lived somewhere off route from where I was headed? Then I'd have to go out of my way and drop her. What would I tell my mom if she asked what had taken me so long? What if...?
"BALLS to everything.", I said to myself. I took the next free left, circled around and got back to where I had seen Ms Kempster about a minute ago. She wasn't there. I turned down the volume on the car stereo; Ghazals make me sadder than I already am. Decided that she had found an autorickshaw to take her to her destination.
"Damn, I should've turned around then only." I mentally cursed myself for taking too much time to think, for worrying too much about what someone else would think about my decision, for ...
"Hey wait a second, there she is!". I saw Ms Kempster walking down that road I had just driven along before taking the free left. I drive slowly when I've got too many things on my mind so I did a handbrake stop(no idea why!), rolled down the passenger side window and called out, "Can I drop you off somewhere, Ms Kempster?".
She couldn't believe that someone had actually stopped by to help her, I could make out from her expression. She got into the car, and the conversation started on some random topics, which batch I was from, etc etc. About half a minute of driving later, she asked me to turn right, on C.H. Area Road No. 4. That was barely a 20 second detour from my route.
"You remember the senior Ms Kempster?", she asked. "Of course!", I replied, half expecting to hear some sad news about her. She was pretty old even twenty years ago. "She has taken too many falls and is bedridden. I take care of her now.", said Ms Kempster. Twenty years have passed by since I last saw her. Wow.
Then she asked me to stop the car in front of some rather swank apartments. "Those are some really nice apartments there!", I said rather naively and rather too soon. She smiled, "We don't live in the apartments, we live in those small rooms behind the apartments. We moved here about a month ago. You must have heard about Loyola Flats...". "Yeah, I heard they've renamed it Loyola Niwas and now the Fathers live there.", I said.
And then it hit me. All at once. Like I'd been sitting on a nuclear bomb all along and then it had decided to suddenly explode. Loyola Flats are the apartments that are now known as Loyola Niwas. The old teachers from Loyola used to live there and that is where Ms Kempster and Ms Kempster lived. Until a month ago. Loyola Niwas now sports high ramparts, it's almost fortress-like now. And only the school Fathers live there. All the old timer teachers have been evicted from their decades old homes. Teachers who did not marry so as to carry on the profession that they so loved with the students they adored. Teachers who quite literally spent their lives teaching generation after generation of children. Can anyone from our generation even imagine spending our lives doing something? In our impatience for obtaining success in different forms and fields, we forget the things that matter most.
Ms Kempster and I said our goodbyes and she left. I reached home taking at least thrice the time that I'd ordinarily take... It's difficult to drive with tears in one's eyes, you know.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I was watching CNN over lunch a few days ago. Came across what looks like this:
Strange wicked world we live in, ladies and gentlemen. The kids above look clearly very very poor. Going by the state of their skinny arms and legs, they probably have difficulty having even one square meal a day. And yet, they have guns in their hands instead of a notebook and pencil. I couldn't find a more exact picture on Google Images to put up here. What I saw that day on CNN made me lose my appetite for a week. People, thin as sticks, bones sticking out of their torsos with no shoes and barely any clothes covering them, who obviously hadn't seen prosperity in a long long time had guns in their hands. And not just any ordinary country made gun; they had Kalashnikovs! What hopelessness, what absolute collapse of a system could reduce matters to this state?
In the news, we hear of school shootouts all over the developed world. Here, there are no schools, just shootouts. I worry a bit too much, folks say. I say, isn't it time you guys started too?

Image courtesy: Google Images

And it rained!

Here's some information I found on how hailstorms occur.
And here's a nice picture of the aftermath of one.
In case folks are wondering why I'm writing about such a different topic than what I normally blog about, it rained today. And there was hail. And it was FRIGGIN' COLD!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"I'm a human being. God Dammit, my life has value."

The movie Network was on this evening on television.

There was a particular monologue in the movie that I LOVED. It is as follows:

Howard: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression.
Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us.
Now into it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that's the way it's supposed to be.
We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don't go out anymore. We sit in a house as slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel belted radials and I won't say anything." Well I'm not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write.
I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crying in the streets. All I know is first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, "I'm a human being. God Dammit, my life has value." So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Things have got to change my friends. You've got to get mad. You've got to say, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

The creepiest aspect of Network is that it was made in 1976 by the legendary Paddy Chayefsky and yet the lines hold true even today. Each and every one of them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What are they trying to sell us?

Turn on the television any time of the day and one thing you cannot escape watching is(no, not the Saas Bahu crap) advertisements. Notice more closely and like me, you'll wonder exactly what are they trying to sell us? Toothpaste ads sell us the idea that a "fresh" breath will attract chicks/dudes as the case/preference might be! Car ads encourage us to keep up with the Joneses, Election ads sell us the idea that a certain candidate is "stronger" than the incumbent, cell phone ads sell us the concept of "identity" (I wonder how many of us would be unique once we'd have bought that specific brand of cell phone), fairness cream ads sell us the idea of "beautiful" skin (What backward society do we live in, that the skin color rather than a person's personality matters more?), bottled water ads sell us the notion that bottled water is safer than tap water (even as scientists the world over have reached a consensus that bottled water is in fact carcinogenic).
Having said all that, I hope you see what I'm trying to put across here. What these advertisements are selling us, is not products or services. It is fear. Pure, unadulterated fear. The fear of being a social outcaste for having bad breath (and thus selling a surgical antiseptic as a breath freshener), the fear of losing a job because of dark skin, the fear of falling ill because of using a random brand of soap, the fear of losing teeth to cavities for not using a specific brand of toothpaste and so on.
Bottom line is this: the air we breathe is polluted, the water we drink is tainted with chemicals, and the food that we eat is impure with all the pesticides in it. We are a much vulnerable species with all the things that we do to ourselves. We drink Coke/Pepsi instead of water when we're thirsty, we eat potato chips instead of proper meals when we're hungry, and we go to oxygen spas instead of heading out to the mountains when we need fresh air. They say that the average lifespan the world over has increased. But at what cost? We live faster and more impatient lives, and we glorify that fact. Or do we? Are we placing our short term goals on a higher priority than our long term objectives? Are we missing the forest for the trees?
I don't know. But I don't like what I see.

Buying a laptop

I'm currently on the lookout for a laptop to serve my needs at my B-School. Oh, haven't I written about this? The B-School part I mean... I got into XLRI, Jamshedpur. That's that. Moving on, so here I am, researching online for laptops. I start with a base configuration of about 2 Gigs of RAM, and a decent processor, say of 2 GHz, and a 160 GB HDD, and that's it. However, after a few sessions of browsing the Dell website(which is EXCELLENT, by the way) I hiked up my requirements to a 320GB HDD, a colored body, a backlit keyboard, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2.4 GHz processor, not to forget a 512MB Graphics card.
So the question here is: do I really need all this stuff? And the answer would be a healthy mix of both: yes, and no. yes, because I wouldn't want my laptop to seem inadequate if I decided to play some new game on it, or run a heavy application. And no, because I'd only just be "keeping up with the Joneses".

p.s. I've narrowed down to the Studio 15 Laptop with the following configuration:



Dell Studio 15 Laptop (S540506IN8)
Base System, Genuine Windows Vista(R) Home Premium SP1 64 bit (English)

Base System Base System
Processor Options Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor P8600 (2.40GHz/ 1066 FSB/ 3MB Cache)
Memory 3GB (1X1GB + 1X2GB) DDR2 SDRAM
Keyboard Dell(TM) Keyboard with Touchpad (English)
Video Card 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570
Hard Drive 320GB SATA Hard Drive
Operating System Genuine Windows Vista(R) Home Premium SP1 64 bit (English)
Optical Drive Slot Load 8X DVD+/-RW Drive with DVD+R double layer write capability
Audio Solution Integrated Stereo Sound with Subwoofer
Software Microsoft(R) Works 9.0 (English)
Warranty & Service 1 Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
Palmrest Option Silver Palmrest
Wireless Network Card Intel(R) WiFi Link 5100 (802.11a/g/n) Half Mini-card
Bluetooth Module Dell(TM) Wireless 370 Bluetooth Module
Dell Service: Remark Dell's Terms and Conditions apply
Laptop Batteries Carry One Year Warranty Only From Invoice Date
Batteries 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Carrying Cases No Case
Item Included in the System Integrated Fast Ethernet 10/100/1000
34mm ExpressCard Slot, (DOES NOT SUPPORT PC CARDS)
ICC Regulatory Label
Shipment Mod
India Country Info Mod
System Driver DVD Kit
System Driver Mod
Dell(TM) PC-Restore Included
Dell(TM) Chat
Discount is only valid if the corresponding upgraded item is selected above.
Limited time promotional offer only. No further discounts apply.
Windows Live Software
Noise Isolation Ear Buds
Power Cord
Security Software McAfee(R) Security Center(TM) 30 days trial
Color Options Jet Black Colour with Black U-Trim
Label Options Intel(R) Centrino(R) 2 Label
Display 15.6” 720p WLED (1366x768) Display with TrueLife™ and Built-in 2.0MP Web Cam
Freight Charges Studio-NB Handling & Insurance Charges /Express Premium
Delivery Charges Inspiron(TM) Delivery Charges (India)

Sub Total(s): Rs.50,649.16