Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tech is blind

Technology can be blinding. Sometimes one can be so engrossed in discovering the new features that one might forget how the old original ones work. Many times as part of enhancing these new cool features, the old ones are moved around a little and the change is never mentioned, maybe because it is considered trivial.

The other day, one of our relatives visited us in a rental car. It has been sometime since I rode a rental car and I was not aware how tech friendly it has become. While bidding them goodbye, I noticed that the car keys were dangling in the start-key notch inside the car. The couple looked relaxed and unperturbed. I thought maybe they have not realised gravity of the situation and was debating to speak up my mind when the guy swiped a card in the door handle and it clicked open. That was awesome. Later he explained that like hotel keys, no one needs car keys now. All you need is a card. Swipe and the door opens. I really need such a cool car especially when I have a history of locking my car keys inside twice.

Every time, I switch cell phones, it takes me lesser time in familiarizing with the new features that to realise how the basic - call/end works. Some phone have two different button for "start" call and "end" call while others have one "talk/call" button which toggles between start and end call. When I got my touch-technology cell phone few months back, I used to fumble to end the call. During the conversation, the cellphone would get locked and the display lights would turn off. Hence when I had to end the call, I would have to unlock and then press a key or two to get the desired result. Listening to voice messages was another disastrous story. While I had cool features of setting unique ring tones for various incoming calls, capturing video, audio and still pics in my cellphone, the basic feature of making a call became complicated.

Today, my work laptop got infected and I got a substitute laptop to carry on my work. I was awed by how sleek and cool the new one looks. I attached the power cable and opened the laptop to power it on when I realised there was no "Power On" key. I wondered if this had the power of switching itself on. I felt ridiculous to ask such a trivial question so I actually studied each key but still could not find the "On" key. Feeling embarrassed, I reached out to pick up the phone to dial the help desk. I tilted my head to support the phone receiver when I saw the small "On" button way up in the edge on the side of the laptop!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Childhood Fascinations

There are umpteen games that we play as kids which never make to the main stream. Everyone knows about soccer, tennis, cricket, volleyball, football etc. I am talking about those simple, small games which remain fascination for few months or years and then wear off. Later as adults, we start following whatever the main stream sports offer.

And if you research, you would find that these games are played in almost all parts of the world with minor variations and they remain source of joy only for a short while during school years.

There was a game I played as a small girl with five stones. I don’t even know the game’s name but I used to call it “five stones”. Later I read in some book that young children in Africa also play similar game. This was a fascination for me for a year or two in mu middle school and I used to practice playing at home daily. Now, I don’t remember the rules but have a vague idea of how to play. Another one used to be “ghasita”. This was not as popular as its cousin “staapu” or “hop scotch”. It involved dragging the main striker along as one hopped over the squares. Even “staapu” and “hopscotch” are not exactly the same.

I enjoyed playing “pithu” that involved marble stones and a ball. It must be one of the most popular street games. There was a game that our whole class used to play when we were in grade 11 and 12. It used to involve two teams and one team had to run to a certain point and come back while the other team tried to stop them. I forgot the name but I used to love playing it. There was another game which also involved two teams and there were four squares drawn on the ground. The idea was to have one whole team in one square while the other team tries to stop them. Again, my memory fails me in remembering the name.

As a girl, I played even more girlish and sometimes meaningless games – clapping hands, jumping and turning around. Then there were others: “kho-kho” – this is kind of duck-duck-goose, “oonch-neech-ka-papda” – where the team has to choose between up or down. If they chose up, they had to be in an elevated position. If they tried to come down, they could be caught. Anyone remember “Chidiya –ud”?

All these were harmless yet fun filled games. Summer was never boring as one can play these over and over and over again. Then the world advanced and video games became part of our life. I have not played much video game. I used to have couple of computer games when I was in college but never got addicted. Tennis, soccer or cricket is not the same playing in a 20 inch screen where a slight movement of your finger can turn the game against you. Few of the computer games I enjoyed were Solitaire, Minesweeper and Tetris.

Now with Wii and Xbox, gaming industry has completely turned around. Now days, toddlers are getting introduced to Wii before their first soccer class. I am sure Olympics would also start featuring popular games played in current times. Last I heard was they were planning to introduce Tetris in Olympics!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bon App├ętit

Some dishes are like friendships. You always relish them. I can actually count the number of dishes I have really enjoyed in my life till now. These tastes heavenly and I can still remember the joy of eating them the first time. To name a few:

1. Nirula's Hot Choc Fudge: My mouth is watering as I type this. One of the best deserts existing on the earth. Surprisingly I have not had too much of these but I remember once treating my work colleagues on my birthday.

2. Nirula's veggie burger: It is one of the first fast food I have tasted and boy did I love it. There was one Nirula's pretty close to the University I studied in Delhi. My friends and I would eat burgers on any pretext as lunch, mid day snack, not-hungry-but-can-eat-burger time.

3. Buttered Nan and shahi panner: I don't know how those calories act as appetizer and make stomach want for more.

4. Veggie Quesadilla: I used to love the ones served by TGIF. I don't go to TGIF as they hardly have anything veggie but I heard that now these do not taste the same.

5. Rava Dosa: These have always tasted heavenly.

6. Burrito Bowl: I cannot have enough of this. The best part is it is healthy. I never knew plain rice and raw vegetables can taste so yummy. I think guacamole does the trick.

7. Mango Milk shake: Need I have to say thing here? The king of fruits is definitely the king of drinks.

What makes your mouth water?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Words are all I have

I can converse in three languages fluently and also have the ability to mix and match the words from these languages into the same sentence. Now I am so comfortable with this mix and match that I often forget the origin of the word. Add to this all the slang of teenage and college days. The result - a new language that can baffle any stranger. In my younger days, we tried to invent a "code" language which parents would not understand. At that time the code would be very simple - reversing the word or switching letters in specific places. Of course we never had an earth shattering secret to hide. So it never mattered if our code language actually got decoded. Later in my teenage days, my normal language became code to my parents.

Language of course evolves with time. Words describe not only the kind of lifestyle but also the change in our mindset. I am sure the current English Dictionary looks completely different from it's first edition. It is also keeping pace and updating new words from different origins, communities and reflecting the time we are living in. I wonder how many of the actual English words are of English origin now.

Did you know that 1 millionth word is going to get added into Oxford Dictionary on June 10 2009? Following are the finalists:

* Chengguan: Urban management officers, a cross between mayors, sheriffs and city managers.

* Jai Ho! From the Hindi, “It is accomplished”: achieved English-language popularity through the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

* Mobama: Relating to the fashion sense of the US First Lady, as in “that is quite mobama-ish”.

* Noob From the gamer community: a neophyte in playing a particular game; used as a disparaging term.

* Phelpsian: The accomplishments of Michael Phelps at the Beijing Olympics.

* Quendy-Trendy: British youth-speak for hip or up-to-date.

* Wonderstar: As in Susan Boyle, an overnight sensation, exceeding all reasonable expectations.

* Zombie Banks: Banks that would be dead if not for government intervention

Who do you think should get the honor of being the one millionth word in English lexicon?

UPDATE: The millionth word is "Web2.0". Wow, I did not know it was a finalist. Thanks to it, we are able to meet in this virtual land.

Friday, June 5, 2009

For Whom the bell tolls

HipHop Grandma's post stirred my mind. Like all of us, I have experienced fear after taking a wrong turn on the road or waiting for someone too long. However, many of these fears got diminished with time, maturity and understanding of the situations.

One of my worst nightmares was what I experienced on Nov 1 1984 in New Delhi. The day before, Oct 31 1984 had started out just as any other normal day. At that time and even now my parents live in West Delhi, which has huge Punjabi and Sikh population. I was studying in Grade 4 in school run by a retired Sikh military officer. A year before, my brother had left the school to join a middle school. All of us - my parents, my brother and I used to leave and come home in four different times. We all had spare home keys with us but usually it was me or my mom who would come home first. Few months back our house had got burgled and I developed a fear of entering the house alone. I was able to overcome that fear with time. Hence, many times I would sit in my neighbor’s house waiting for my mom to return and then enter my home.

In the afternoon of On Oct 31, which was a Wednesday, I was sitting in a bamboo chair outside my neighbor’s verandah and doing my homework. I remembered I forgot to get my Moral Science work book from the school after the teacher had corrected it. Just then my mom arrived in an autorickshaw and her face was tensed. She greeted my neighbor and asked her if she knew the news. My neighbor nodded and my mom hurried me home. I understood that the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was assassinated. My mom had heard of some disturbing violence in few places in Delhi. My brother and dad arrived at their usual time home that evening. But the atmosphere in the neighborhood was apprehensive. Nobody could comprehend what an assassination of a Prime Minister would mean. I told my mom about my work book but she mentioned that I would not be going to school for couple of days as they had declared national mourning.

On Nov 1 1984, the newspapers were filled with news about Indira Gandhi and the future of India. After brunch, I was sitting with my parents in their bedroom. My brother was in the next room. My dad was reading the newspaper. I don't remember what my mom was doing exactly but I was reading a book and actually enjoying a sudden vacation in the middle of the week. I had not fully understood how grim the situation was. Suddenly we heard a faint shouting. The cry seemed to become stronger every second. Then my brother came into the room we were all in and all of us went to the front door, opening the door slightly. Our neighbors were also outside. We did not understand what was happening till we saw a huge mob emerging from the nearby streets. This huge crowd surrendered the last house in our street. That house belonged to a Sikh family. Thankfully, the family had escaped the previous evening. The mob broke into the house and took away every thing they found and finally burnt the house.

I was terrified and nobody had any answer. My parents were speechless by such human atrocity. The policemen were standing and staring and did not do anything to curtail the mob's actions. In the evening, we heard that my school was also burnt down. I believe my workbook must have also been reduced to ashes. The next few days were horrific. We heard and saw so much human hatred that I thought the world would come to an end. The sky was dark and gloomy with smoke. I never went back to that school. I joined my brother in his school in the middle of the year.

With years, things slowly returned back to normalcy. In our colony, they built a temple, Gurudwara and Church next to each other to promote communal brotherhood. I have never got answers to such horrific act but they get repeated often in some form in every part of the world. I don’t know how all these would end. But it made me realize to respect the only religion that should prevail the world - humanity.