Monday, February 28, 2011

P. A. S. E

Pride is good. One should be proud of achievements, skills, talents.
Arrogance is good. It's definitely better than pretensions of modesty.
Selfishness is good. After all, if you don't take care of yourself, who will?
Ego is good. As long as it forces us to justify its existence.

If they come separately, it is good.
If they come together, it is good.

What is bad is, the way people react to them. The way people react when one of these is pricked. By anyone.

What is bad is, that people become blind for a fraction of a second when it happens. They say things, do things, without thinking. They react.
And damage once done, can never be repaired.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gullibility Forwarded

Ever wondered (or found the answer to) what the average life of a forwarded mail is?

I used to get forwards when I created my first email account in hotmail in '98 - one was about a nice Software Engineer's husband suffering from the rarest of the rare kind of cancer and how forwarding that mail to twenty-five people in my Contact list can save his life. Unfortunately I did not have twenty-five people in my Contact list. The mail kept coming back with a vengeance till I forwarded it to a few other unsuspecting victims. Another very popular forward claimed that Microsoft and some other company were handing out laptops or handsets or something very desirable, to people who forwarded the mail to another twenty of their contacts ("remember to put the Microsoft guy in CC so that you get your gift within ten days").

I was told later by a friend that the Software Engineer in question went totally nuts with the email chain for it was a mischief set up by one of her colleagues, and she was tired of reassuring people around the world that her husband was hale and hearty, touch wood. I can't imagine how much hair the Microsoft guy must have pulled out of his head every time he got the mails from hopeful gift-seekers.

As more and more gullible users create email accounts, the jokes (or the jokers) evolve and adapt themselves to the requirements of the existing world.

Recently I got an email that looked suspiciously like the old Microsoft one, except that the names were changed and the reward for forwarding to contacts was no longer a laptop, it was an iPhone. I was very surprised to note that the sender was no novice to the world of email. What, then, is their excuse?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Across the abyss of Time...

Words, articulate; popping against
Lifeless walls

Handfuls of Happiness; seeping
through the fingers

Fading memories; faraway cries
Love and Laughter

Parched heart; torpid and dusty
Summer heat

Hands that beckon, Unreachable;
Hell is a place on earth...

Writings; carved in sand,
Washed away...

Criss-cross of Fate, droughts, floods
Speech, forgotten.

Ice that breaks; freezing again
at Twilight

Raindrops; sighs of the world,

Crumbled; in search of Grain.
Hell is a phase of Life.

Despair; seeking the end, yet
the Dread!

Mysteries and Ghosts; closed in the attic,
Cellars of no doors.

Meaningless, actions, thoughts-

Streets, drained; Dreams

Oceans salty, blue; stark
Above the tide...

Clouds of Darkness, against
the Abyss of Time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Multi-thinking and Time Management

Once upon a time, when I was juggling Motherhood and a full-time career, there was a Boss of mine who used to say, "when you get free time, can you work on this?"
I would reply, "I don't think I'll get free time, I am putting my entire 8-9 hours a day on this project."
"No, I mean, do this as a background activity."
I knew better than to insist otherwise, so would nod my head glumly. In due course he must have come to the conclusion that this woman can't do much because she doesn't know multi-tasking the way others of his team did; the ones who spent 10-12 hours in office out of which 7-8 hours were on one project, and the remaining time on 'background activities'. I believed it was better to be honest than burn myself out trying to match his expectations.

Mothers are multi-taskers by default, more out of necessity than anything else. Unconsciously, underneath, unknown to the world, we juggle a lot of things in parallel. Be it cooking three items on the stove plus throwing clothes into the washing machine plus pacifying a screaming child plus keeping an eye on the hot water tap plus working from home, we are always multi-tasking, we are always multi-thinking.

Given a choice, I would stick to one task at a time. But there is no choice, especially at home, because the mess would pile up if I single-task. For many, it is shameful to even admit that they cannot or don't want to multi-task.

I do not believe in multi-tasking. I do not think we can achieve a great deal if we look at a hundred things in parallel, especially when each one of them requires tremendous brain activity. It would only lead to burn-out. I am glad I was out before the Social Networking wave hit corporate life, for I would never have managed to convince my team that tweeting or Facebooking while coding is a bad idea. I know a vast majority would contradict this statement of mine, in fact some pride themselves that they can tweet and chat while they work, but I prefer and believe in the power of single-tasking.

The heights of multi-tasking was seen the other day (by a friend who was horrified at the sight): a woman driving a car on the street where children play, was texting (or tweeting?), her hands off the wheel and her eyes off the road. Our brain really isn't made for the kind of swift-switching required between different levels of creativity, problem-solving and concentration. If it has to evolve, as per Darwin, it will take centuries more.

Single-tasking can be a failure too, if there is no Time Management. We have to time-box our activities and aim to achieve them. I am re-learning Time Management, I am sure I will have a post full of thoughts to share on that. Soon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two sides of Winter

"It's pretty hot now, isn't it?"
"Yes, it's been warm since yesterday."

"I was bathed in sweat when I woke up, it reminded me of Kerala!"
"But it was too foggy in the morning."

"I saw, when I stepped out to cool myself."
"I stayed inside till it became warm enough outside."

"I suppose the temperature will dip again before Summer officially arrives."
"Oh no! Really?"

"Well, it is only mid-February, mercury should not soar this early."
"I hope the warmth stays."

"This Summer is going to be very hot again, like last year."
"Should make up for the almost freezing Winter. My nose and senses had closed three months ago, it is time they opened their doors."

"I hope some semblance will return to the Bangalore weather, I hope Summer does not arrive till April."
"I so hope it comes fast."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Knock, knock! Blog delivery...

It has been a long-pending wish of a few of my friends that they get content in their email instead of having to visit my blog every time. Some of them, for reasons their managements know best, do not have access to Blogspot though Facebook is open - which is a real confusing company policy, if you ask me. Aren't people more likely to get addicted to Facebook than blogs? Anyway, I like it when I get such requests - for one thing, it means they like to read what I write (how can they say otherwise, we share friendships that go back over 15 years), for another, it gives me something to explore and experiment and, of course, learn.

So owing to popular demand, as I always like to say, I prowled around the Web looking for the perfect answer to my friends' problems (I like to pretend that my friends spend sleepless nights because my writings are not delivered to their Inboxes like Seth Godin's are). After peeking into others' blogs and asking properly-phrased questions to the all-knowing Google, I found FeedBurner.

There, you can see the Feedburner widget on the right, just below the thumbnails, with the title "Subscribe via email." I don't know yet how it works, or whether it works at all, so I've subscribed myself to it and am eagerly waiting for the mails. You're also invited to try it and let me know!

If you have a blog, and haven't considered delivering your blog posts by email, it's time you did. Many of us blog-readers are too lazy to visit links of even our favourite bloggers, be it just one click away. Imagine the ease if we get them home-delivered. I only wish there was a home-delivery facility for cash from my ATM too.

There may be tools other than Feedburner (probably better ones) available, but the one advantage I saw was that you can use Google account to login to Feedburner because Google has acquired Feedburner or vice versa or something. I did not have to go through one more register-and-forget-password loop. Took me a while to get the feel of Feedburner, but with ample help from friends on Twitter, I finally got it running.

I think it is one of Newton's Laws (if not, then Murphy must be the one behind it) that after we comb the world for an answer, we'll find the easiest solution right beside us. So it was, after I installed the FeedBurner code I found that Blogspot does have an option to send Email notifications to 10 email IDs when a post is published. It would have solved my friends' requirement easily, but ... oh well, I guess it was in my Destiny to install Feedburner.

You're welcome to add your email ID and subscribe to this blog, I promise not to spam you more than... three or four times a week. Most assuredly not more than seven.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A place to whine

About 15 years ago, a person whom I would now call a Visionary, brought his team together to work on a new concept. Websites were new, and mostly belonged to organizations or stores who had something to showcase. Personal websites were few and just picking up: there were no easy tools to create them, one had to learn programming, though HTML, Javascript, CGI/Server programming et al were in their infancy, and there wasn't much one could do compared to today. Blogs were unheard of.

He designed a pick-and-choose website creation tool for users who did not know (or wish to know) anything about web development. Users could pick a template, colours, section titles etc. and add text to it. The result was two nice-looking pages to speak about themselves, ready in minutes! At the bottom of the second page, there were two boxes called 'Message Boxes.' Zoom in to these Boxes, because that is what I'm going to talk about.

Message Boxes were places where others could leave notes for the website owner, and he could reply. A very crude form, ill-organized, but yes, that was the closest one would ever have come to a ... Facebook wall. I wonder where that site would have been today, had this Visionary been surrounded by a set of people who were ready to put their faith in him. It would have developed into the first social networking site, much ahead of its time. Unfortunately for him, the negative impact - of a team that did his bidding just because they were paid for it and was not ready to expand on his dreams or improvise or innovate - finally won over, and the site stayed just as it was: under-developed. I believe we can find its remnants even today. The company that the Visionary led went on to do something mundane, commonplace that everyone else was into.

It took someone else to figure out the potential of a 'space of one's own'. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook: why are they popular today, much beyond the expectations of their creators? The reason is so simple, had it occurred to the Visionary fifteen years ago, he would have put all his money on it. He did have an inkling, apparently, but was not confident enough.

We all need a place to whine. In the olden times, the purpose was served by close friends and family. As time passed and the whining became a more desperate, elaborate requirement, the circle of friends became too small. Besides, with friends one had to occasionally listen as well. Then, as a life saver, entered the Blog, where one could whine, and not care if someone else whined as well. And soon followed Social Networking which was a whole new, endless expanse of space! Now one could really, continuously whine in peace the whole day, the whole year, and not even bother if anyone listens. Someone might, time and again, ask you what happened, and you could slip into the details or tell them to shoo, depending on your need.

If you're in search of the next big thing the world is going to drool over, make sure you allow some space for the endless whining that we ordinary folks desperately need.

If you're a visionary, you may foresee what kind of whining space the world will desire fifteen years from now. Dive into it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Random thoughts...

Good things should come in fast-forwarded sequence, like in films where months and years fly by in seconds and suddenly the novice has become an expert. Bad things are welcome to take their own time.

You meet someone who thinks like you, who gets along well with you, then one day you begin to wonder where in your life they really fit in, and realise that this is not the end, there is more to come, and that before long you're going to end up in a place very far from where you are today.

History repeats, as many times as possible. But some students refuse to learn.

Life teaches the same lessons to everyone. Some learn fast, some take a lifetime.

A family is as old as its youngest member and as wise as its eldest.

Superstitions that keep hope alive are good.

Life, as I get to see every day, is one big fuzzy logic! But when I look closely, even in the chaos I can find an order.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tales... gets its own Facebook page!

About a year ago, my friend Nikhil suggested that I create a Facebook page to promote my book (In fact, if it were not for his continuous prodding, I would not have created my Facebook profile at all!). At that time I was new to Facebook and Facebook was new to me, and page creation on FB was not at all user-friendly. Besides, it was called 'Fan page' at the time, and it sounded so very inappropriate to me. For these reasons, though I did stroll around the page creation screens of FB, I gave up after a while.

Early this month, another friend added my book to her Likes in Facebook, and I thought it is time I gave it another try. Hence, ***drum roll*** the official Facebook page for Tales from the Garden City was born.

Wow! It sounds quite something, doesn't it? "Official Facebook page" and all that. Today, I noticed that among the people who Like it, there are also a few whom I don't know personally or through Twitter/Facebook. I Double Like it!

Which is when it occurred to me that this blog being the window to my heart, I should brag about this new Facebook feat of mine. Do step over to my little book's own Facebook page, and share a thought or two. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Live and Let Love

Normally I would let this day pass without a mention. After all, isn't it mature and very adult to say that Valentine's day is a holiday largely manufactured by the greeting card industry? But I am known to change my mind on the spur of the moment if sufficiently provoked, especially on matters related to this blog.

(The above picture is taken from Valentine's Day Countdown cartoons by the extremely talented Stephanie Piro, who is also a cartoonist of the Six Chix. Make sure you check out the rest of her cartoons, and those of the other Chix!)

Thinking on the same lines, why do we even have a wedding anniversary celebration? Two people living in the same house, bickering all their life, put aside their differences for one day and go have a candle-lit dinner only to return and fight over something trivial. Or maybe, they won't have a candle-lit dinner and fight over not having it. Obviously the greeting card companies knew what they were doing. If it were a stupid idea, it wouldn't have caught up so well! Is it like saying social networking is an idea that was manufactured by social media marketers? Yup, we, the rest of the world, lap up the outcome of those ideas and merrily put the blame on the ones who thought about it.

I don't have anything For or Against 'celebrating' Love. I could as well turn against it, given that at my age no one bothers to give me gifts any more (Sigh)! My only hope is that my little son who always presents me flowers with no particular reason attached to it, would realise that Feb 14 is all about all kinds of Love and maybe... bring me one, saying he Loves his Mom. But there are several years between such a day and today.

In the meantime, I would suggest that those of us who find such celebrations meaningless, turn a blind eye on the PDAs and console ourselves that 'they'll soon grow out of it.' No use in working ourselves up, as I always say.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Working From Home

"Do you need any financial help?"

"Do you have money to take care of everything?"
"Of course, why do you ask?"

"No, I was just wondering... Remember the girl xyz we used to know in school?"

"She left her job-"

"- and is sitting at home too."
"I am not 'sitting at home'."

"I mean she doesn't have a job either."
"I have a job. I am working from home. I just don't go to office. I get paid all the same."

"Yeah. Just let me know if you need help."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meeting the Doctor

As she scanned the reports, the Doctor's eyes were dim. The couple waited with bated breath.

When the Doctor finally looked up, she did not meet the patient's eyes. "I would like to talk to your husband first," she said.

The patient stared at her for a long moment before rising. The next instant she sat down again. "You know what, Doctor? I think I'd like to tell you a few things first before you talk to my husband." She glanced at her husband, who shrugged and left the room. The Doctor sighed. She knew what this could mean.

The patient, not used to unnecessary preamble, drove right in. "Is it bad news, Doctor?"  
"It is too early to say. I may suggest a few more tests. I would like to speak to your husband now, if you don't mind."

"Why, Doctor? I am the one who is sick. Do I look like a weakling? Is it cancer? Tumor? Or something worse? What do you think will happen if you tell me? Do you think I will faint? I will commit suicide?"
"It isn't that," said the Doctor. "I am sure there is nothing to worry but -"

"Don't you know, Doctor, that men are babies? I am sure you do. They cannot handle bad news the way we women handle it. They need something to do. You need to give them something to do. If you make them sit down and endure misery, bad news, they will implode. Tell them, go get some medicines, bring the patient for treatment daily, get her to do some X-rays, blood tests, scanning,... they'll feel great. They'll enjoy all the hardships they go through to look after the patient. They need to take care of others. If you tell them to sit tight while you take care of everything, they just don't know what to do. It's for us women to absorb those kinds of emotions. So you please go ahead and tell me how bad it is. Then let's decide how to break the news gently to my husband and what we can make him do so that he does not feel left out of all the fun."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lessons I should learn...

When my five-year-old returned from school, he had with him a nice small flower. (Yes, he still has the habit that started about a year and a half ago.) He handed it over to me the moment he stepped down from his van, and went on to describe how his friend pricked himself trying to pluck one for his Mother, and some other child intentionally trampled on it.

"I did not pluck from the plant, Amme. I picked a fallen one from the ground."

"Oh, your friend also has the habit of giving flowers to his Mom."
"I don't know."

"So what made you think he was plucking it for her?"
"I assumed so. Why else should he pluck it?"

I left the flower on the table as I went into the kitchen to get his lunch ready, and he proceeded to change his school uniform. Barely ten minutes later, we got into an argument, one of those Mom-Son things. He charged towards the table, and in one swift movement, he tore the flower in two. I didn't say anything, just stared at him for a moment with a forlorn face, and went back into the kitchen. I don't know what he felt when he saw my face change.

A few minutes later, I found him sitting on the floor, and did not pay much attention to what he was doing. He came up behind me, carefully placed the flower whose petals were glued together with his Fevistik, and said:

"Tomorrow I will bring you another good flower, and I will not tear it apart."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Copper, Copper, Copper...

I'm afraid soon my friends will stop telling me stories (funny and others), because most of those stories make it to my blog before the week is over, with more than a little spice and salt sprinkled on them. Here is one such story. Borrowed without permission, seasoned, garnished and delivered.

The mobile phone rings as the traffic light turns red. As is the practice when driving, Friend accepts the call and switches to speaker-phone mode, and begins to talk, dropping the phone to the lap. The traffic cop on duty narrows his eyes and peers at the driver of the big, black car. From the way the lips move and the face changes, he could make out that there's foul-play. Phoning while driving! He inches closer and knocks on the window. 

Friend (winding down the window): Yes?
Friend's Dad's voice on phone: ... and we had to grind all those spices and put them out in the sun to dry for one whole day...
Cop: You're speaking on the phone.

Friend: So I am. Dad, could you stop for a second?
Friend's Dad (oblivious): ... and yesterday there was no sun, in fact we thought it was going to rain...
Cop: Don't you know that it's against the law to talk on phone while driving?

Friend's Dad: Did you say something?
Friend: Dad, I'll get back to you. One second. (To the cop:) Sorry, you were saying?
Cop: Do you know that it is punishable by law to use the phone while driving?

Friend: Excuse me? I am not holding the phone to my ear. As you can see, it's on my lap. So which law did I break?
Cop: The law about talking on phone while driving.

Friend: So you mean, I can listen to songs on my stereo and sing with it while driving, talk to someone in the passenger seat while driving, but if I leave my phone in speaker mode and talk, I'm breaking the law?
Cop: Well...

Friend: Well, officer? See, the lights are turning green, why don't you take a decision before the vehicles behind start blaring their horns?
Cop (scowling, and at a loss for words): Go ahead.

Friend (Winding up the window): Thank you, Officer. Dad, you were saying?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whatever name it goes by

... it is, (among other things)...

... not about being together all the time, but getting out of each other's way.

... not about having the same tastes, but being thankful that they're different.

... not about talking, but knowing that it's better to be silent than start an argument.

... not about trust, but sticking together despite countless reasons to mistrust.

... not about listening, but about saying every day, "Deaf woman, for the third time, switch on the fan!"  --"Mister, for the last time, look for your pants yourself."

... not about believing the partner is simply superb, but about wondering every evening, 'how come this morning I found him/her wonderful?'

... not about doing everything every day, but declaring 'I made breakfast today, it's now your turn to make dinner.'

... not about spending holidays together, but about being with own friends, in the pretext of giving each other 'space.'

... not about being happy with each other, but being happy in spite of each other.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Echoes from Afar

It was not in the pipeline. No, it was not a New Year resolution. It was not contemplated before it was launched. My short story blog came up almost on its own. I suspect that a certain Someone, for reasons I know nothing about, left clues for me to pick up or ignore. I chose to take them, and created a wordpress blog for my short stories that I meaningfully call Echoes from Afar. Within days it was made clear why the blog was essential before I stepped into the New Year.

I did have a short story blog in those times. It was not public. I dared not show it to anyone till the idea of getting the stories published crept in. Today, when I see fresh authors proudly display their work, I cannot help but be amazed. Looking back, I think I was right. Had I made them public, a lot many things would have been different today. That blog still exists, in the depths of blogspot, inviting a hit or two per year from people who stumble on it in their search for something else.

The stories I have posted at Echoes from Afar are newer in comparison, so I decided against refurbishing the old blog. Besides, there are ominous and far-reaching reasons behind the birth of the new blog. Anyway! The first four stories, Traffic, Smoked Out!, The Blink of an Eye and Belief had been published last year by the MAG. The two new stories are Coming of the Monsoons and Onions. There are a few more in varying levels of draft, and I intend to publish one or two a month without hindering my other regular writing work. Of course, there is no pressure, only a desire to write (and complete) as many as possible in this lifetime. I don't even know why that's important. Till I figure out its significance, I'll try to keep up with the speed of inspiration.

Some day, maybe, these stories will find their way to a book too...