January 31, 2008

The ipod story.

I am now in possession of a brand new enough-to-sleep-in memory-equipped ipod. And how it came about in my hands is an interesting story. Like everything else related to India, this ipod by virtue of staying in India assumed the Indian character-trait of making every process a bit more colorful and interesting than it originally was designed to be!

My sweet uncle bought a bunch of these ipods as gifts to take to India to distribute to my cousins and relatives. He had one extra and thought it might be a nice gift for my bro, ~L. L, being his lazy, wd-rather-not-move-an-inch self, politely refused. I had given him a neat ipod shuffle ages ago and he is very very particular about the songs he listens to, so much so that he adds the same song multiple times in his shuffle so it plays more. My uncle insisted and finally ~L said yes and this is where the journey begins.

From California, US -> Chennai

My uncle left the ipod with my mom and dad and asked ~L to pick it up when he visits them in Chennai. ~L lives in Bombay.

From Chennai -> Bombay

~L miraculously remembered to pick up the ipod the next time he visited Chennai.

From Bombay1 -> Bombay2

Enter RS. So, a few weeks back mom mentioned that the ipod was lying unopened with ~L. "What?!" exclaimed k! "160GB ipod and lying unopened?!". Self joined in exclamations.

Mom said without much excitement, "Yes, just like the perfume boxes you gave me, they lie neatly in the bureau, I haven't even opened the box", such pride in her last statement. Jeez! Coming back to the ipod, we immediately called ~L.

"Yeah, it's there. Haven't opened it."

Repeat exclamations by k and me. I think I heard ~L yawn, "Too boring to transfer all my songs to the new ipod."

"I need it. I need it."

"Yawn. Ok."

So, now the next question was, how should he send it. ~L wouldn't dream of actually posting the thing to us. Too much work! Enter ~P, k's sis. Fortunately, she was in Bombay at that time for her vacation, planning to return back early January.

"Send it through ~P."

"Ok. Gotta go."

He agreed. A miracle.

Several weeks later, having missed ~P several times, ~L decided to make his job easier. He dropped the ipod with k's uncle who lives close to his workplace in Nariman point.

A day before she left, ~P picked the ipod from her uncle's place. Whew!

Bombay -> Lawrence, Kansas

~P reached Lawrence and was duly troubled by k and me to send the ipod asap! We can't wait a second longer!

Lawrence -> Lexington

And now, it lies happily in our home. Unused, but at least with us. Such bliss.

January 15, 2008

A pongal story.

Once upon a time Varuna Bhagawan and Vayu Bhagawan decided to go to God and ask him for a long vacation. They were bored with their work. So they went to God and said, "We work everyday and think we deserve a vacation". God thought about it for sometime. Anyway Kaliyugam has to end soon, perhaps Vayu and Varuna Bhagawan will help end Kaliyugam by taking their vacation now. And so he said, "Ok, you both can take a 10 year vacation." From that day, Varuna Bhagawan stopped forming clouds and creating rain and Vayu Bhagawan stopped creating air and winds. As a result, earth became dry and hard. Crops stopped growing. As God watched, one farmer continued plowing his land, day after day. So, God approached him and said, "Everywhere the earth is parched and crops have stopped growing. So, why do you continue to plow? I am curious." The farmer replied, "Today, there is no rain and wind and the earth is dry. But, what if it starts to rain tomorrow? What if the earth becomes rich and moist again? Then, I should still remember how to do my duty, to plow and raise crops!" And thus even God learnt a lesson from the farmer, to always do one's duty, no matter what.

Thenkachi Swaminathan narrated this simple, sweet pongal-story on Sun TV yesterday :)

Kanu outside our house, bet this was the first time my mom kept kanu while trying to keep her hands from freezing completely! Kanu in the winter rocks!

Happy pongal to all of you!

January 07, 2008

On Organic, going green and all that good stuff

Couldn't resist posting about Clorox buying Burt's bees. For sometime now, I have been a fan of burt's bees products. Their website is clean, lists ingredients and even mentions the % to which a product is natural. I have used their products and the really nice thing is I have been able to recognize the ingredient list in their products - I mean, who wants to discover after ten years of shampoo use that sodium-lauryl-suphate is dangerous? I think one of the problems is the complicated chemical names that the consumer cannot recognize easily, add to it labelling like "Natural", "xyz-free (for eg: formaldehyde)" and the whole process gets more confusing. If I buy a nail polish that is formaldehyde-free, does that mean it has no other harmful ingredients?

And then there is the whole ethical issue. The product might be safe to use but may not exactly be doing good to our fellow-species. Leather is reasonably safe to use but I for one would try to avoid buying leather products where possible for obvious reasons.

And then there is nature. A product with the slogan "No animal testing" need not necessarily be good for our environment. It just means there is no lab where animals were tested with the product. It might still be made using petrochemical derivatives that are not bio-degradable and will not be for the next billion years!

And then there is GMO, cloning, irradiation and other processes that our good old food goes through in the name of "decontamination" (who would think frozen corn could be genetically modified?!) and how they are not required to be labeled such.

And so on and so forth. Sometimes the old ways are really the ways to go (such as our old friend, soap, who will go a long way with us :). Actually, let me rephrase that, old, time-tested ways rock, almost all the time (Blech, I sound like someone who hasn't read Who moved my Cheese, I did read it - it just does not apply in this case :p)!

Anyways, interesting how the big bad boys are at least trying to clean up their acts. There is some hope, after all.

January 04, 2008

Information, Time and Us.

I used to wonder why old(er) people, the general category of uncles, aunts, parents, in-laws and others, began conversations with "In those days...". I used to think that that was such a non-starter. Because "those days" were relevant to the people who talked about them, not the teenager who is listening to them half-heartedly, stifling a yawn. I wonder if I am making the transition from the latter to the former. At least in the sense that I want to begin my conversations with "In those days..."

Anyway, the thing with those days is, to put it simply, "time". It seems the sepia-tinted photographs of yesterday represented people who had time at their disposal. And to seek information, they went to institutions like the public library, relied on word-of-mouth and mostly advice from elders and wise men. Those days when people would have laughed if you told them "books" might become obsolete (books, not ebooks, just plain good old books). The days when time-management was not a science learnt from books or blogs but an art that women and men learned and passed on from one generation to another. I guess the difference I am trying to point out is for instance, waiting for your patti to finish her chores so she settle down to your favorite story-telling time versus downloading AmarChitrakatha from the internet and reading it to your kid right now because he wants to hear it now - the anticipation that fills the wait-time makes all the difference, doesn't it? Perhaps that is not feasible because we live here and patti in India , to me it is again a question of time and how much of it we are willing to spend on ourselves and on others...something that this generation of self-help (American?) books keep quoting - "Spend time pampering yourself", "Relax and spend time just the way you want it"...And in this indulgence is lost a much greater time that you think...

Fast forward a few decades and you reach "my school days" when I did not check email, did not know what SMS meant, orkut/myspace/facebook did not exist and instant-messaging was definitely not a buzz-word and greeting cards were not synonymous with hallmark. And then in Bits-Pilani, we were told we could use "Pine" and whoa! We could actually write electronic letters to each other. And that's what we did. Our emails were long and had a beginning, middle and end, somewhat like a letter.

Fast-forward a few more years and now I see kids that are always "logged in". Every morning, they check their cellphone for SMSs, missed-calls, voice-mails, next their preferred social community scraps or whatever the fad-word is that kids these days use to indicate incoming messages :p and then they log on to msn/yahoo/aol - actually I think they stay logged on through out the night - they just check for IMs they might have perhaps missed and then emails, RSS feeds, reddit/digg and so on. If the parents are lucky, the kids might have sneaked in a good-morning and actually made eye-to-eye contact...

And really, I am no better. Perhaps I don't scrap (see how this is also a verb now?) on social communities 25 times a day but I am definitely a product of this generation of people overloaded with bits and bytes of information wherever they go (But a slightly older product and hence capable of standing at a vantage point and looking behind at a day when people were not so information-obsessed). While we are considered fortunate to have so much information so easily accessible (Imagine how much easier it is to locate a pizza hut and order a pizza - google even makes the call for you...well, come to think of it, it was probably more fun to stop and ask someone for directions and maybe discover parts of your city you had never seen before, but those are indulgences for people of a different time. Not us. We need information. Yesterday.), we also see situations where people have to actually make a resolution to stay off the internet. I remember an article talking about email becoming obsolete and then I remember reading about this guy who wanted to see how long he could exist without hitting google. Now, we have made the switch to "existing" without information, not just information as a way to make our existence more comfortable.

After making you read through five fat paragraphs about information overload, I am going to claim that I didn't really intend to write about IO.

I wanted to write about patience and time. Patience in a world that is constantly filling your thoughts and being - patience to actually open a scented letter wrapped in silk, filled with words written painstakingly, slowly by a human hand. Patience to write such a letter to a loved one. To take the time to think and write. Not type and then think about it. I wonder how different it would be to live in that sepia world of our old photos, to rise with the sun and have the time to serve hot coffee to your husband, just the way he likes it, and to savor the smell and moments of significant nothings, precious moments spent together before he buried his nose in the morning newspaper and I guess, at that moment, I would have sighed and walked back to the kitchen waiting for the other women in the house to rise and share "information" with me - limited but first-class information, like my first-class coffee...

First-class because I hear it from a human being. It might be prejudiced, incorrect, incomplete...but it is personal.
© Ramya Sethuraman, All Rights Reserved.