Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Babydoll GPS

.....it all started because I bought a car with a G.P.S. Like many men, I quickly established a romantic attachment to my G.P.S. I found comfort in her tranquil and slightly Anglophilic voice. I felt warm and safe following her thin blue line.

Says David Brooks, NYT.

If you mutter to yourself, that’s all rubbish – WAIT! Not so much. I’ve seen this happening in my own life. Not mine, but my husband’s. The first two days he drove to work, he got back home crying at all the humiliation he had to go through just to find out which route and which exit at the next roundabout would get him home. It’s a one hour drive and the instructions from Google Maps were not of much help either.

That’s when we decided to get a GPS. And we did. Next day my husband came home with a big content smile on his face and waltzing with an imaginary partner. The next weekend on one of our usual drives, he decided to christen the lady inside the GPS ‘Babydoll’! He went on and on about her virtues and all the cool things she knew.

Till then I was the official navigator and it was a relief for me as well to just sit back and not worry about the next turn anymore. But, I have never felt covetous before and funny as it might sound, after a few babydoll-invasions in my otherwise peaceful life, something triggered the jealous juice to flow to my mind. And before you knew it, I was jealous of Babydoll and had declared war!

Victory was mine. Familiarity breeds something, doesn’t it? It did that with my husband too. Not many days passed before he tired of Babydoll’s anglophilic voice. And more importantly he realised that listening to the wife had its own advantages that a stooopid babydoll trapped in a box can never compete with – like taking a detour so that you can enjoy those delicious cookies or that Taste-of-India restaurant. Or the brownie points you earn by the number of ‘Yes dear’s, ‘What will I do without you’s enroute.

Babydoll is dead. Our GPS is on mute now. :)

Anyway, since you have a lot of time to read my rambling, you might also want to read this (The Outsourced Brain) - an interesting write-up that points to a future where we might end up outsourcing even our memories and trust some websites to tell us out about our likes and dislikes. Outsourcing your life? Is that where this gravy train is taking us?

I love the new technologies, but always feel a little uneasy when I take notice how much I have ended up depending on them. It’s making my life a better one no doubt, but is there a line beyond which I will lose recognition of whether I am directing my life or whether my life is being charted by these technologies that I love? Are we anywhere near that line?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brighton up!

Brighton Pebble Beach

To celebrate the final days of summer, I packed my bags and took off for a weekend in Brighton.

Absolutely relished the antiquated narrow passages and cobbled streets of the lanes lined with a vast array of exotic shops, the mystical Royal Pavilion, the pebble invaded Brighton Beach and the lively Brighton Pier. Had to give the supposed-to-be feverish nightlife and Brighton Marina a miss as I did not want a weekend getaway to result in a drowsy Monday morning!

The Paragliding club in Brighton
More photos here.

We ended up spending most of the afternoon at Seven sisters. If there was anyone who had more fun than me at Seven Sisters it can only be the person para-gliding above my head.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Go on and swear at work!

Swearing at work can not only bring people together, it can be used as a way of signalling informality.

Swearing can also unite workers against customers in a harmlessly satisfying way.

In most offices, staff have to be excessively polite on the phone, so it can sometimes be nice, after a particularly trying conversation, to be able to put the receiver down and mutter “wanker”.

This is from an article in FT that advocates using words as you please for a stress-free work life. A caveat though - restrain when using it with someone higher up in the ladder.

Ah well, the marketing companies in India have been practising this for years now. And it's only now that the world is discovering it! Tsk tsk!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Japan breaks down at France!

Paris syndrome is a condition exclusive to Japanese tourists and nationals, which causes them to have a mental breakdown while in the famous city. Of the millions of Japanese tourists that visit the city every year, around a dozen suffer this illness and have to be returned to their home country.

The condition is basically a severe form of ‘culture shock’. Polite Japanese tourists who come to the city are unable to separate their idyllic view of the city, seen in such films as Amelie, with the reality of a modern, bustling metropolis.

Japanese tourists who come into contact with, say, a rude French waiter, will be unable to argue back and be forced to bottle up their own anger which eventually leads to a full mental breakdown.

The Japanese embassy has a 24hr hotline for tourists suffering for severe culture shock, and can provide emergency hospital treatment if necessary.

How do they manage the culture shock in India? Ah, maybe that explains why we don't see so many Japanese on a vacation in India.

They seem to be pretty happy and content over here in the UK though. And seem to have a great time in their own world trying to capture their favourite photo with their bulky cameras and highly advanced mobiles. If you haven't seen Japanese taking photos, you don't know what I mean. (More on this later!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hapless in London’s underground

I enjoy my daily commute to work and back thanks to London’s tube network. Not more than 40 minutes passes between the moment I lock my door at home and the moment I reach my desk at work. 40 minutes commute is a luxury over here. And those 40 minutes lets me dig into my book of the month or just close my eyes and slip away. Sounds like a happy story right?

It was happy until yesterday. It was just like another day until after work I got ready for my ride back home in the tube. It is usually crowded during rush hour and it does get quite difficult to find a place to sit; sometimes it gets so busy that you might not even get one of those hand-rails to hold on to which results in a ride where you’ll have to apologise profusely to your fellow passengers for having shoved your purse or an occasional elbow into them. Not that they mind – everyone in the tube puts on a glass-eyed-look. It’s almost as if everyone stops being normal people who can talk and smile as soon as they get into the tube.

Yesterday was different just because it was crowded beyond the usual. It was the first time London underground brought back unpleasant memories of journeys dared in Mumbai local trains. Consoling myself that with the sweaty-Mumbai-local-experience under my belt, enduring the well-mannered London tube crowd would be child’s play, I got into the tube and found myself being pushed into the middle of the tube standing area. This is the only place in the tube where there are no hand-rails to hold on to.

My right hand busy with my purse, my left hand went on to arrange some rogue hair that had strayed around blocking my vision. I patted my hair back in place and in that 3 seconds, even more commuters had managed to cramp into the tube coach.

Visualise this. I, a tiny woman, am at the centre of the tube standing area, with nothing to hold on to, people towering all around me, my nose is squished against a gentleman’s bicep, there is no space to move a finger and on top of all this – I had my left hand still raised high above my head and there was no way I could squeeze it back to where it normally belonged.

Now all I had to do was shout Jai Hind and it would have been a perfect execution.

And oh, I had to hold that awkward pose, squished nose and all for another minute (felt like forever!) before we pulled into the next station.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NITC Students’ Code of Conduct

I am an alumnus of NITC and like most other alumni and I get my news and updates about my alma mater through the alumni email group. And by news and updates, I mean the occasional mail seeking batchmates outside India or someone publicising or seeking a job opportunity or news of a demise or news about a strike/uprising/ragging etc. To be honest, I’ve always wondered why there haven’t been many ‘positive’ mails in the group. And I think I have the answer today.

The latest controversy is the Students’ Conduct and Disciplinary code published in the NITC website. Not a day passes, and we have alumni expressing their opinions known about the code of conduct. Everyone opposes it.

Here’s my opinion – I don’t oppose it. Considering some of the reasons why NITC has been in news lately (politics, ragging – yes, the wrong reasons!), I gladly welcome this move, though like others I too have my doubts about how these are going to be enforced. Take a close look at the some of the rules in the code of conduct -

NITC Campus is a “Smoking free Campus”.
Isn’t there a rule that smoking in public places is banned? So what’s new in this rule?
Students are not permitted to use mobile phones in the class room, Library, Computer Centre, Examination Halls, etc. They may use such gadgets judiciously.
Technology has caught up with the students to cheat the hi-tech way exams and class tests, but we are yet to see technology (jammers?) installed in the classrooms, exam halls to prevent them.

Students shall not indulge in any undesirable activity and shall maintain highest standard of discipline.

Students shall refrain from all activities considered as ragging which is a criminal offence.
And all of you who argue about the healthy after-effects of ragging, I have to say that a stranger who called himself part of the Nazi group and called me names which I would later go on to find were the ‘extreme non-veg’ variety did not help me one bit in my first few days in the institute. I don’t even want to go into his body-language and gestures. The experience just made me keep away from the stranger and his friends for the next 3 years and then heave a huge sigh of relief when he finally left the college. I am sure the unluckier ones who get beaten up just because they are from a particular state would agree with me too about the not-so-healthy effects of ragging.

Possession or consumption of narcotic drugs, tobacco, alcohol and other intoxicating substances are strictly prohibited in the Campus and hostels.

Students are prohibited from indulging in anti-institutional, anti-national, antisocial, communal, immoral or political expressions and activities within the Campus and hostels.

Students shall not deface, disfigure, damage or destroy or cause any loss in any manner to or regarding public, private or Institute properties.

Engaging in gherao, keeping under captivity or illegally confining any official of the Institute is prohibited.

No student shall enter or leave the classroom when the session is on without the permission of the teacher.

Students shall only use the waste bins for dispensing waste materials within the Campus including classrooms, hostels apnd offices.

As you read through these rules, did it occur to you that these are some of the basic manners expected out of a person anywhere in public? And isn’t it shameful that we have reached a point where we have to write it down, beat drums and publicise it and enforce public manners?

But then, there’s another side to the story too. Consider some of these rules for instance.

No student shall exert undue influence on fellow students.

No student shall collect money either by request or by coercion from others within the campus or hostels.
How would the clubs function without money from students?

…… Students should refrain from sitting on places such as parapets, stairs, footpaths etc.
Rajpath wouldn’t be as beautiful without the students in it. But yes, it will be good riddance to all those hooligans who used to wait for any form female to let out their sexual frustrations verbally!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Think green. Have some mercy.

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers to write about one topic for a single day. This year’s topic is the environment.

It will take a strong self-conscious will power to change your lives and to become a friend of the environment. But if you think for awhile about the money you can save while promoting a greener planet, you will be surprised. Take some of these for instance:

Keep your car tuned. A well-tuned car uses approximately nine percent less gas than a poorly tuned car, and you can lose about two percent in fuel economy for every pound of pressure your tire is under the recommended level. Savings: $150 per year.

Learn to drive. Rapid acceleration and braking can lower your gas mileage by five percent around town and 33 percent on the highway, or an average of $0.55 per gallon. And, you get less mileage for your money (23 percent less or $0.67 per gallon) if you drive over 60mph. Savings: $1.22 per gallon, or $634 per year.

Give your junk away. If you don’t have enough goods for tax deductions, remember, "One man’s junk is another man’s treasure." Use groups like Freesharing and Freecycle to move out unwanted items. You can find some great deals through these organizations as well.

Insulate your body in winter. In cold conditions, evaporation can quickly suck away warmth, especially if you’ve been active and then are stationary, leaving your skin exposed. Think of your body as a water heater and wrap yourself in insulating layers. Wear dark colors to absorb any outside light or heat energy.

Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). If an entire country (Australia) can do it, then you can do it too. But, wait until your current bulbs burn out before you make the switch so you don’t waste your money. Yes, CFL bulbs are more expensive, but even the cheapest energy saving CFLs will typically last for 5,000 hours compared to only just over 1,000 hours on average for the best conventional bulbs. You can save $30 or more in energy costs over each CFL bulb’s lifetime.

Plastic water bottles create small-scale environmental disasters. American demands for plastic water bottles requires the use of more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel approximately 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. Use filtered tap water in a reusable bottle, and you’ll save money as well as show the world that you’re green. Switch to a glass container at home or in the office, stainless steel when biking or bungee jumping or gymming.
Fore more of these energy and money saving tips head over here.

It's just not enough that we try our best to keep things green and clean around us; it'll be much more beneficial in the long run if we can convince our friends and family to take the green pledge too. And our generation, who have suddenly woken up to realise the need for a greener future, are best poised to take this up. So go ahead and tell your moms and dads, aunts and uncles why they should not litter in the public anymore, why they should not notch up the AC more than what is required and most importantly, why they should pass on the message. And soon-to-be moms and dads, let you your children learn to treat nature with respect along with their ABCs.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I am busy with....

.... the Global Management Summit in London. It's being organised by the IIM Alumni in Europe. If you are in London or anywhere nearby this Thursday, it might be a good idea to show up.