Respaacted and Awaarded

When I wrote my first book, I wrote for me. I was sure it would never get published anyway. So I wrote the first thing that came to my mind, build a story for the sake of a story and throughly enjoyed myself doing it.

Now, it’s time to ‘grow up’ as an author. The modern literary world isn’t an airy-fairy, Parisian bubble where artists live in youth hostels, travel the world with only the clothes on their back and spew out works of art that people will understand generations later, once they have already chuffed their ears.

The modern world is all lines and numbers-it’s about agents, commissions, marketing and money. There is no pink.

So in short, I have to choose the subject of my second book keeping in mind two motives.

1) The motive of Profit– Since the author only gets a percentage ‘commission’ on his own book and books are dirt cheap (if they are not pirated) in India anyway-I need to get access to the dollar market. Or get Bollywood to remake my film; so what if they murder it and do not give me any credit. It’s ‘inspired’ baba, not ‘based on’, haven’t you heard of Anu Malik? It’s like the mother cow selling her lamb (cow selling lamb?-that is why I did not get an award) to be slaughtered by rich merchants who shall swallow it without a burp. But kya karen? Paapi pet ka sawaal hai and all that.

2) The motive of Respaact- All my life my dad has only talked about ‘respaact’. I could not take arts because no one will ‘respaact’ me. I had to get distinction in college even though marks don’t really matter because of ‘respaact’. He continues working at this age (he’s above 65) because he enjoys the ‘respaact’ he gets in office. (We respaact him anyway, but we don’t really matter).

Yes, respaact is a really big thing for me. A book could be popular but it may not be respectful. Infact in most cases if a book is ‘popular’ it is not very respactful- like Mills and Boons, Archies, Playboy, Burnt Toast. (OMG! did I just compare Burnt Toast to Playboy? I can already see sales going up exponentially!) 

Of course, there are super talented (or supermotivated?) people who manage to do both. Like Arvinda Adiga who not only won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 but also dominated UK top 50 titles sold (in POUNDS!) for weeks after that. In recent years the Booker prize nomination lists is littered (need to choose better words if I want that award) with many authors from the subcontinent.Of course that lead to dollar sales. And Respaact

Ok, so need to write Booker-worthy novel. Something about oppressed, deprived, down-trodden Indians that can chill the bones of angrez gentlewomen sitting in woolies next to electric heaters in picturesque countrysides.

HELP!

Now, what?

Most of us have this one unfulfilled childhood dream. A few that I have heard are:

‘I want to grow up to be the richest man in my city!’ (typical unfocussed MBA)

‘I want to be a world class figure skater/ ballet dancer.’ (fitness freak friend)

‘I want to be Amitabh Bachchan.’ (all kids who didn’t really know what they wanted)

‘I want to drive cars.’ (my four-year-old son) 

Anyone who knew my shy, reticent self way back in kindergarten knew that all I ever wanted was to be a writer. When I was in third grade, my poem got accepted to the senior school magazine. There was just one problem, no one believed that I wrote it. Sandy Kundra, the fat shy girl who walked into pillars with glazed eyes and didn’t display any academic brilliance could not have been spending all that time thinking. But I thought, read and imagined all the time-stories and characters would pour out of me naturally and finally, everyone had to accept it. I had a talent.

Of course that gave me tremendous self confidence which wasted no time in turning into arrogance. I couldn’t care less about things that I didn’t understand like profit and loss, mass and matter or the route from home to school. I knew I didn’t quite fit in the system and I didn’t care. The system just didn’t ‘get’ me-just the way it didn’t get all the truly greats-like Charles Dickens, Van Gogh and Jimi Hendrix. Oooh- it would be so unreal to be a part of Club 27!

Of course, my grounded, middle-class father wasted no time in bringing me down to reality. In his vision, unanimously shared across our  parent’s and teacher’s generation, the arts were for those who couldn’t get into science, you could not produce bread-and-butter by dreaming about them and those who scoffed the system were those who failed at it. My writing was good time-pass, it was not a self-sustaining career. In short, my talent was just a hobby.I was confused and needed ‘guidance’.

And so like a fat rat who knew he was going to be executed, I was pulled unwillingly through the sidelines and plonked in the middle of the race. Soon I was running in top speed just to keep in place. Very quickly I forgot my initial accurate apprehensions and started playing to win. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what the prize was. Somewhere while I was busy running, I shut off the spectators and the loud distracting noises long enough to realise one fundamental reality.

I hated this. I just didn’t fit.

From then on, my life was a series of ‘If only’ sentences. If only Papa hadn’t pushed me to do an MBA. If only I hadn’t cleared. If only I had the guts to stand up for myself. If only there was something creative about advertising biscuits. And somewhere I drew satisfaction that since I wasn’t leading the life ‘I was supposed to lead’, it was ok that I sucked at it. I didn’t top the MBA course because it wasn’t English Lit. I didn’t get into consulting because it wasn’t like writing for the New Yorker. My brand strategy wasn’t working because I still didn’t understand profit and loss. ‘If only’ became my safety net.

If only the system had allowed me to be a writer I would get published in an instant. My book would be famous and I would change the world in a way that generations would credit me for it. (No one can accuse me for not being ambitious). If only.

Someone up there must have got tired of my attitude. Soon life moved in a way that I couldn’t give any more excuses. I  had to abandon the system, the system changed and became much more accomodating, artistic talent wasn’t scoffed at anymore, IIT grads were writing books. And now people were calling my bluff. ‘Why dont you write?’ was a common refrain.

It is not easy to live up to your own expectations. What if your dream was just that- a dream? What if you really were not good at anything? What if your best isn’t good enough? It takes great courage to shed layers of protective veils that you have become accustomed to hide yourself behind.

I tried to write for three years. I wrote short stories that had very obvious climaxes. I wrote long chapters hoping to emulate authors that I could boast about liking-such as Ernest Hemmingway, Julian Barnes and Salman Rushdie. And when I read what I’d written, I’d promplty fall asleep.

People stopped asking me about my book and started asking me about my babies. I was at ground zero. So I gave up and decided to write from the heart. No one expected anything from me-even I knew I was just doing this to humour myself. I wrote and wrote till I had a manuscript. And on a lark I printed in out and send it to famous publishers whose addresses I’d downloaded from their websites. And then I sat tight and waited for the rejection slips.

It got accepted. 

For those who don’t know my book, ‘Burnt Toast’ got published last year. It has done decently well too.

So yes, childhood dream accomplished: check.

I had a talent. I was a writer.Which is not to say that all those who did get rejected don’t have any talent-remember the system just doesn’t get the ‘truly greats’. I am not one of those truly greats. Yet I was happy-over the moon actually. I am a writer.There was just one nagging question hovering around the periphery of my happy bubble.

Now, what? (image of me going ppphhht like an open balloon).

After working for the last six months, I have realised one thing. Writing your first book is easy. The book is about you, closely inspired by real life events and characters out of your life. (Mine was about the life and loves of three girls who had just ventured into the glam advertising world of Mumbai). In short, you don’t require much imagination. Expectations are low, you just want a decent publish. You don’t actually expect people to pay money to read it. 

For your second book, you want the sky. You can’t write about your non-happening life anymore because frankly the juice has been squeezed dry. You now want to be the next Helen Fielding-notice no mention of Hemmingway. You want to change the world.  

Now, what?

(to be continued)

Porn unintended!

A joint letter from the Karanataka porngate Ministers Sayadi, Patil and Palemar to BJP central leadership:

Respected Sirs

Thousand pranams! We, the blameless victims of media allegayshuns about our innocent non-actions prostrate (pun unintended) at your feets. Allow us to proove once, twice and for ever that we are blameless: mere by-standers (pun unintended) to a over blown (pun unintended) confused situashun.

First of everyone, media says that we are watching obscene video – they call it pornology- on cellphone during Parliament sessions (pun unintended). We say that is not the full and final true reporting. The Parliament was in session (pun unintended) on ‘Rave party’ in Maangalore (pun unitended). Now you know kind sar, we are not phoreners, we have never been raving partying and we are not knowing how to write. We are only being able to read our degree that you so very kindly obtained from Mr Modi’s Zaali Certificate Institute. So how we to no what raving partying is, I ask you?  Tell me, kind sars  is it our mistake that Google ejects (pun unitended) obscene video on our faces (pun unintended). No it is the mistake of Amricans like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Not Porngate, Bill-gate. The bloody Amricans Presidents always doing obscene things- and we didn’t do two any body (pun unintended). It is not our culture, you see.

Oh Balaji, what is minister to do today? All work in agriculture is called ‘sugar scam’ ,  ‘land scam’. All work in new technography is called telecom scam. All work in entertainment is called IPL scam. Now extra curricular activities is called porngate. Where are we to go now? Where is the gate? All this media and marketing people from IIM are on top of us all the time (pun unintended). Earlier days were so golden, no? All best people wanted to join Civil Service. And then they were on our side and together we would do scam oooops…seva public. But now all we are left with is our two hands and one I-phone (pun unintended). One joke, sir- It is called I-phone for a reason, no? Hehehe!

Enough from Palemar. Now me, Minister of Cooperation (pun unintended) Savadi. Sir I tell you one simple thing? We are all Indians, brought up in pure and holy Indian culture. I am proud to be a true Indian-I consider all Indians to be my brothers and sisters. That is why the woman in the video were foreign! So how am I guilty? Indian cow is holy mata but we can eat western cow no?

And sir, as Minister for Woman and Child Development, I, CC Patil strongly object to media accusations. See it is good for women if we watch Porn. According to my Karanataka based, internationally famous, BOOGUS research agency, watching porn reduces incidence of rape by 25%. And eve-teasing by 30%. And chain snatching by 50%.And robbery by 34%.   And it improves male productivity by 23%. Above all (pun unintended), it improves political performance by 55%!

Therefore I would like to propose that porn be made mandatory in all assembly meetings. Think about the possibilities! Lalu Prasad Yadav will be distracted by phone grabbing instead of land scamming. Sharad Pawar shall forget sugar for whipped cream. And Kalmadi would go after spam instead of scam! Hehe! And as business leaders say- the best thing politicians can do for India is to leave it alone. Beleive me sir, get MPs on porn and strong shining India shall emerge (pun unintended)

Thank you in advance for your valued forgiveness

Laxman Savadi, CC Patil and Krishna Palemar

My experiments with food

So I am not a food blogger and don’t pretend to be one. But I am a food lover. Anyone who knows (and sees) me knows that. And as a result of which I love cooking and experimenting with food. Although I do realise that those two aren’t natural corollaries of each other. But I am happy union of both-I love to cook and love to eat. I DO NOT like to share.

I know that when most people say that they ‘experiment  with food’ they mean they try out new recipes of exotic food. Which I do. Or rather I try to do.

You see I suffer from a fundamental disorder: inability to follow instructions. It’s not a minor affliction. Many great personalities suffer from the same disorder-like Barack Obama, Woody Allen, Simon Cowell and my mom.

So for example if I decide to make a blueberry muffins, there are things which come in the way. Like not having an oven and the unwillingness to invest in one so that I don’t cook fatty, buttery that go straight into my ever accomodating waistline. Like having colourful muffin butter paper but no muffin moulds to hold that paper. Like the high cost of blueberries in Singapore and the absence of them currently in my fridge. Like my inability to measure exact amount of butter and sugar-Is it two corelle cups? Or two corningware cups? Or duralex cups? Or stainless steeel cups? And how many mg is half an ounce? (math was never a strong suit). Simple confusion leads me to gloss over finer instructions with the adage ‘the devil is in the details’ in my mind. Or had you heard differently? 

And above all, I have on my side the fundamental positive attitude that everything will turn out alright. And somehow it does-on most times. Positive attitude is everything-read the SECRET.People can accuse my food of being many things, but they can’t accuse it of being ‘Boring!’ (As for my personality-that’s not under discussion right now)

When my adding and subtracting from authentic recipes sometimes hits a perfect equation, I am ecstatic in the manner of the scientist who found the missing link in the gene pool. I had a ‘eureka’ moment the other day when a few friends came over for tea. Poor, unsuspecting, harmless things didn’t know that they had just agreed to be my lab rats for product testing.  

I wanted to serve pita bread with two types of hummus.

Problem: One pita packet costs like $4(Rs 120) in Sing. And its fat in the manner of amritsari kulchas. And tasteless. So I decided to make my own. Only didn’t have an oven to bake Pita bread in. Hmmm….After some research, I downloaded this recipe from the internet.

And now come my experiments:

First I decided that I wanted to make the Pita a little flavourful. So I added herbs to my bread. And sesame seeds. And extra virgin olive oil-just one teaspoon (FNS teaspoon)

Then my big secret. A long time ago, my emotional self had got the better of my rational ‘no-oven-because-you-are-fat’ self. So I hoodwinked it and discovered a near perfect way of baking without an oven or a convection microwave.

Step no 1: Switch on the gas to a high flame

Step no 2: Put thick tava on gas

Step no 3: Put flat non stick pan on the tava

Step no 4: Cover the non stick pan with lid.

Of course you can’t be accurate about temperatures and things like that, but as is obvious, I prefer experimentation to accuracy.The internal atmosphere in the nonstick pan mimics that of an oven, compartment heating without direct heat. I thought it was pretty smart- although many ‘authentic’ foodies are gonna send me lotsa hate mail after this.

And now the hummus- In addition to the traditional hummus, I made one with hung curd, cherry tomatoes and basil.And everyone liked that one better-they said it was lighter and more flavourful.

For dessert, I thought I’d try cheesecake. I love cheesecake but I have never tried making it as I’m the only one in my family who likes it. My hapless friends were about to bear the brunt of yet another juvenile experiment.

So I took this recipe and added my own twist. I beat fresh blueberries alongwith the cream cheese. I made a blueberry preserve and added it on the top. And also added some of the crust to top it ’cause I just love the crust. Again the verdict was thankfully positive.

So I hoped you enjoy my additions and subtractions to these recipes.For once, my friends were all praises of what they called my innovativeness. Like what you see? Why don’t you try it and tell me the results. Or if you are in Singapore, you can call me at 84598120 or email me at sandwhy@gmail.com and I would love to cook them for your next get together (don’t worry-no guinea pigs this time).

Welcome the Dragon

Life was simple when I was growing up. There was one radio station on air, one channel on the tube, one shampoo in the market, one brand of bread in the Kirana store. We had an uncomplicated, unidimensional existence. Then liberalisation and technology opened a pandora’s box of choices and our simple life was, as they say, history. Complex choices confused us to the extent that we started asking existential questions about things that were just ‘understood’ before.

So, when I was growing up there was a single astrological chart based on the Hindu calendar. The one my parents had got made and never revealed to me, fearing quite rightly, a demotivating bias. I knew it existed but was blissfully unaware about the details except that I was a ‘tula’ or a libra in the Hindu calendar. But it was all too confusing for me to understand what that meant. Life was simple.

In my teenage years, I was introduced to Linda Goodman and zodiac signs. This was an exciting discovery, as she explained what signs meant in layman speak, adding juicy details like the compatible signs, famous people with the same sign and Alice in wonderland quotes. It fired my imagination and within weeks I had memorised (whatever happened to by-hearting things?) her chapters on my sign. By the zodiac calendar, I am a Cancerian, which means that I am intuitive (check), sensitive (check), imaginative (check). I would also like to believe that I am meticulous, ambitious and the best mom ever. On the flip side, cancerians tend to be moody, introverted and despondent (who me?). True or not, these maxims stuck to my head as I explained away my many outbursts to the moon cycle, diligently looked at every scorpion as if he could be the ‘one’ and blamed the mercurial Cancerian nature for my emotional binges.Feverishly I began to follow the daily horoscope, dutifully avoiding walking under ladders on unlucky days and filling out applications when the ‘time’ was right. I used to marvel at newspaper astrologists, who knew exactly what was going on in my mind that day, until my college friend pointed out how general the predictions were- they would be true for everyone! Which is probably why I married him even though he is a Capriconian.

When I was in college, everyone discovered feng-shui. Tentacle-like plants sprouting from gaudy beads entered Gujju drawing rooms and acupuncture became the neighbourhood cure-all. The Chinese zodiac was introduced to me in placemats of Chinese restaurants adding another dimension into my astrological hotch-potch between courses of sweet corn soup and Hakka noodles.
So I discovered that I am a horse, which means that I am supposed to be a simple, outgoing, fickle, strong minded creature. Which was difficult to reconcile given that I grew up thinking that I was complex, moody, imaginative and sensitive. Yet if you really thought about it, I was sensitive and moody, yet I was outgoing when I was in a good mood. And if you counted changing channels while constantly reaching out for popcorn as activity, I was super active, just like a horse. And I definitely had a great sense of humor and sharp intellect of the horse coupled with the crab’s imagination with a maybe a teeny bit of the horse’s arrogance. Errr….I think I have covered almost all human characteristics.

Nowadays I have a rather pragmatic point of view. I adopt whatever prediction suits me. For 2012, Cancer predictions are dire. ‘Negative thinking could be the bane of your existence. Hard work shall be required, if accomplished, efforts maybe rewarded’ prophesizes indastro. More on the same lines follow. It was enough to upset me the whole of Jan.

Until the tinsel and christmas trees were swiftly replaced by red lanterns everywhere in Singapore. Which is when I remembered that I was also a Horse and there maybe still hope for me. Sure enough, Goto Horoscope predicts that in the Dragon year of 2012, ‘Horse shall be in spotlight. If he is in creative field, he will achieve maximum success in his work’ and such like. I cheered up immediately, threw out the tinsel and got a new feng-shui plant.

Already my year is improving-we have four straight holidays in a row in Singapore, so soon after Christmas.I am writing with full enthusiasm (its wonderful what confidence does to you). The air seems warmer and happier somehow. Expectant mothers are floating about everywhere- everyone wants a Dragon baby.

So, Happy new year and Gong Xi Fa Cai !( Have a prosperous year)

Lopsided Love

Recently Neil Nitin Mukesh was quoted saying, ‘I don’t like scrawny women. I prefer ‘healthy girls.’

Okay, so now imagine the sculpted  Mukesh with a really ‘healthy’ female. And DO NOT think of Laurel and Hardy.

It’s tough enough to be fat in today’s shallow, thinner than stick- thin obsessed world. But it’s defintely worse if you are uhm ‘healthy’ and your special someone is the type who has the abs/ size zero figure of a pin-up model. And he/she gorges on fries with casual disdain. While despite a diet of lauki and dried chilli, your weighing scale continues to tip over gleefully at slightest contact.

Her friends whisper, ‘He must be really rich’.’ His colleagues wonder why he married someone so much older. Your childhood buddies snicker ‘Bhabhi must be keeping you very happy.’ Mom-in-law comments, ‘Gym jaaya karo.’

I was once researching with a group of teenage girls on the topic of redefined beauty when one of them, a perfectly pleasant-looking girl commented sincerely ‘I want to put on weight. I have tried everything- eating sugary, fried things all the time but it doesn’t work.’ Stunned silence ensued as our collective eyes narrowed menacingly, while we struggled to keep an understanding smile plastered on our faces. 

Later her friend confided, ‘Her boyfriend’s really huge. They are such an odd couple-I don’t know why she’s going around with him,’ she declared with the cruel objectivity of a college girl.

Now imagine the jibes the poor boyfriend must be fielding all the time from smart-asses in college. Makes me wonder why he’s going around with her. And yes, tons of respect for both of them.

And of course I know of many friends who have been constantly ribbed about their post pregnancy weight by insensitive other-halfs. Which makes me want to retort, ‘Why dont you try it first and we’ll see how you come out of it!’ Men have nerves of floss.

All of which makes me glad I never married thin;-)

One of my post pregnancy friends was particularly stressed about her weight gain, despite the fact that her hubby wasn’t one of those- ‘oh, look how thin she is’ types. But then he was a built like a model. And he works in the ever dubious ‘entertainment’ industry. For months my friend dieted and worked out, but she just wasn’t able to lose the last 5 kilos. Then disaster struck. During one particularly motivated session at the cross trainer, she pulled a muscle and was laid up in bed for weeks. Plus her marwari ‘dieting-sheiting-chodo’ mom came in to look after her. For weeks, I got agony phone calls from her as she wailed about her increasing girth while munching delicious chura and dal batti despodently.

Then the phone calls dried up and I assumed her dieting and ‘working out till death’ routine had begun again.

Till I met her at a party. She was still a little over, but positively ravishing and glowing in satisfaction.

‘Wow! You look lovely,’ I murmured congratulating her on her renewed self confidence.

She laughed and thanked me, looking very much like the life of the party.

For a moment I felt a warm glow of girl power. At last she had overcome her petty insecurities and stood up for what she was.

Until her hubby walked in behind her. The ex-model was still smart but he didnt have a uhm ‘model-type’ physique anymore, Mom’s dal-baati-churra formula had done it’s work- he looked happy and ‘healthy’.

My friend grinned as I stood mute in confusion. She leaned in to whisper with a wink, ‘If you cant lose it, get him to gain it!’

My recommendation for anyone who’s frustrated with their lopsided loves. A month of daal-baati is far better than weeks spent huffing and puffing in the gym.

Slow and Steady- and in Britain’s face!

It’s an oft-repeated old childhood tale. The over confident hare who is used to winning, is one day trumped by the unlikely tortoise. The story isn’t clear about what happens next but one would assume the hare shamefacedly accepting defeat and grudgingly acknowledging his competitor.

Cut to real life. Backed by industrialisation and a modern navigation system, the hare (Britain)went about winning, colonizing ancient civilisations hundreds of miles away. So confused was he by his belief in his own superiority, that he thought the monarchy was for the people’s own good. Churchill himself openly declared that ‘those lesser breeds, without the law were better off under European rule than they would be under the tyranny of local despots’. To advance their rule, the Monarchy, like Lord , handed to its enemy the very weapons that would lead to its ultimate destruction. Like the modern English education system. Or the railways that mobilised cheap labour. This very english-speaking, cheap labour, slowly and steadily, led to British downfall. The IT industry, ignited by American innovation and fuelled by Asian implementation effectively pushed Britain off the map. Dollars flew from one corner of the earth to the other, bypassing the Atlantic.

The threat was at Britian’s door-even London isn’t immune- after losing its status as the ‘first city’ and the ‘biggest port’ , its now close to losing its premier position as a financial center. Britain is a has been. All the while, the world is tumbling to India’s door, with the promise of a huge market and growth is sight.

So what does the hare do? Does he, like his mature kiddie counterpart, graciously accept defeat and make way for the winner?

Not the British. The stiff upper lip that never wept quivers like a spoilt school boy at the prospect of defeat. He stamps his foot in frustration, angles for attention and when that fails, resorts to shouting insults in the lowest manner he can imagine.

So overcome by their frustration, a UK mom, Emma West rants racial abuse in a tram, declaring that her Britain is F*** all now.And that fellow passengers in the tram should go back to ‘where they came from’. They are not British as they are black.

And Jeremy Clarkson pastes abusive banners on Indian trains all the while driving around a Jaguar with a toilet seat in the country.

Its okay Jeremy, you did manage to get the eyeballs that you so desperately needed. Mostly from Indian viewers of course. Meanwhile Prime minister David Cameron rushed to distance himself from the show, claiming that he was caught on camera as he was exiting his house and really had nothing to do with the content of the show.

After all, the PM is desperate to keep UK’s ‘special relationship’ with India based on colonial dominance a century back.

India’s economy is growing three times the speed of UK’s.

The TATA group ins the largest manufacturing employer in Britain.

Indian companies employ 90,000 people in UK.

Despite all political will against immigration in UK, India-EU are poised to sign a new trade deal that will let thousands of indian workers to EU in exchange for access to the Indian market.

So, its okay Jeremy Clarkson, it takes time to get used to the other side.

Now be a good hare and give us an ovation!

Ten things I promised myself at the age of 18

When I was 18 ( a very very long time back) my gang and I, with the infinite superiority of the very young and foolish, made a pact. When we would be 30 (that was the outer limit of our vision), we would NEVER:

1. Not be able to fit into our college  jeans.

2. Attend a Ladies Kitty Party. Never Ever.

3. Make kids center of existense. Never be the type to just sit around and look after kids (back then we thought mums who looked after kids could ‘sit around’).

4. If due to unforseen circumstance, were a housewife, not to feel sorry for self.

5. Struggle. For anything.

6. Whine about husbands, maid servants or extended family.

7. Have an arranged marriage.

8. Live abroad.

9. Be confused, insecure, nagging WIFE. Would be ideal girlfriend-type who guzzles beer, plays poker and watches tennis while trashing  house with abandon. 

10. Shout or scream at kids using blanket adult dogmas such as ‘Because I said so!’ ‘You’ll understand when you grow up!’  ‘You’ll thank me later!’ (Yeah, right. Kids will never thank you. Have you ever thanked your parents?)

11. Buy unnecessary, overpriced stuff that you don’t need just to feel better about your day.

12. Be like our moms. And be happy about it.

Oops! Turned out to be 12…could never count.

You know that saying: ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your future plans.’

I HATE that saying….

Is your smart phone too smart for you?

If you have been a regular reader, you would know that I am not exactly tech-savvy. I mean I’m not one of those geeky early adopters. Ok, ok I admit (as I did in the past) I am the last on the bandwagon. Fine, I’m one of those who dashes and just manages to latch onto the overcrowded tech bus, hanging out on a tiny toe and half a hand,  just as it leaves the stop.

So, uptil now I was largely impervious as, one by one, like bowling pins, my friends and family succumbled to the latest thingamajig in town. People on the street were suddenly lost in themselves, bent over like drones, only an occasional smile escaping every now and then. In the elevator they no longer met my eye. In trains they were lost in intimate exchanges as I looked around, companionless. I hadn’t felt this left-out since secondary school.

Finally three months back, I took my first baby step into the ‘smart’ world with a I-pod mini. Still resisting, still very much a digital immigrant, it’s use was restricted to the gym. ‘App’ still meant job application to me. Then I finally cracked and bought the I Phone. For days it stay stuck in its box at one corner of my cupboard. I behaved like a narcotic addict around it. Or rather a person terrified of turning into a narcotic addict with the first puff.

Good sense and some ragging from the hubby got it finally out of its box. And it was as I had feared.

It took me all of six days to turn into a hardcore addict.

I was now lost in my I-Phone in the trains, checking out weather and traffic for my journey (as if it ever changes in damp Singapore). I was one of those bent over in the streets, feverishly following the GPS map, even though my destination is right in front of me. The phone could find my friends anywhere in the world, whether they wanted to be found or not. It could teach phonics to my 4-year-old, it could entertain my daughter, it could consolidate and organise all my work, it could show folks back in India what Orchard Road looked like pre-Christmas. But most importantly it could order my favourite pizza anywhere in the world.

It made me marvel, (like the pre-web 90s,) how the hell did I survive without it? Just six days back.

And then the phone amazed me with Siri. For those who don’t know (I surely didn’t two days back) Siri is Iphone 4S’s new, intelligent voice recognition  software. Of course, most of the time Siri gets confused, he doesn’t understand what u say unless you are speaking in absolute quiet (good luck with that in Mumbai) and in a Brit/American accent, so its really of no use. But Siri is more fun when it doesn’t understand you. It doesnt give monotonic answers like ‘Sorry, I didn’t get that.’ It talks back like a real human being.

Like I was demonstrating to hubby the other night. For the nth time Siri didnt understand me when I said ‘Call Ashish’

‘I sheesh? Is that so?’ Siri asked 

‘No,’ I replied.

‘I thought so,’ Siri commented wisely.

And then it got even funnier. Fed up with my I-phone obsession at 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight, Hubby ragged me to shut it and sleep and forget stupid Siri. He didn’t know that I had kept the mic on.

‘We were talking about you and not me,’ Siri announced calmly as I dissolved in helpless giggles.

It really happened. Honest.

 And so I was blissfully lost in my new smart tech world until I took the Mini to the gymthe other day (after it had been properly synched with the Iphone this time). Now since Mini is essentially my Gym walkman, most of the songs on my playlist are upbeat, racy numbers you can exercise to. 

I was in a foul mood that day, having gotten up on the wrong side of the bed-it was just one of those days. Gruffly, I switched Mini on and tapped ‘shuffle’ to play songs in random order from my playlist

Mini began by playing Arvil Lavagne’s ‘What the Hell!’ Very in tune with my grim mood, I began working out vigourously. Five minutes later it switched to ‘That dont impress me much’ and then ‘arrogant worms’. By the time the soulful rendition of ‘mera kuch samaan’ began , I was Spooked. I had all of five sad numbers in my plalist and Mini had never never uptil now chosen these five. It was as if Mini was reading my mood.

 Help! My smart phone is too smart for me! And I am not smart enough to stop!

1984?

Yesterday night, hubby’s colleague came over for dinner.

‘Danny (name changed) is an American,’ hubby told me the day before. ‘He’s from Texas.’

‘Texas?’ I repeated excitedly. Immediately the image of a Texan cowboy jumped into my mind. A 6-ft-2″ Texan cowboy, smoking a Marlboro, wearing long leather boots, looking down at me from his horse and drawling, ‘How y’all doing?’

‘Danny’s black,’ hubby informed me soberly. ‘No, actually he’s African-American,’ he corrected hastily, memories of stringent corporate training no doubt coming back to him.

‘Oh!’ I exclaimed even more happily, as the vision in my mind imploded and another one replaced it immediately. ‘Is he a 6-foot-5″, hip and cool, awesome athletic basketball player type?’

Turns out Danny is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, devoted family man. And he speaks with almost no accent, forget a drawl. And is a complete tee-totaller.

What’s more he’s not even 6-feet-tall, his frame is slightly smaller than my 5 feet-10″ hubby’s. Which explains why most of the food that I had cooked for Micheal Jordan was left over.

What Danny is, is intelligent, charming, well-travelled and effusive, very much like my born-and-brought-up in Chandigarh Hubby.

In short they are both modern men (hubby will kill me if I call him a ‘metrosexual’) and they are the same whether they are from Texas, or Tokyo or Trafalgar Square or Thane (running of T’s now)

A while ago I had written a post on stereotypes illustrating how, despite priding ourselves on having a ‘cosmopolitan’ outlook, we tend to make snap judgements on people based on where they are from . Try as we might, somewhere in our minds, Bengalis=condescending and cutured, Delhiites=Stylish and brash, Parsis= intelligent and absent minded, French= Bongs of the world, Americans= Outspoken, ambitious and screwed-up etc etc. And while these stereotypes definitely stretch reality to a large extent, there is a grain of truth behind them.

People like Danny are changing the rules of the game. They are stretching the truth to the point where it snaps and all the groups fall down into a homogenous confusion. And there are more and more people like Danny now. Many of my Bong friends have never read Tagore, but are fanatic Harry Potter fans, my Punju cousins can’t understand Punjabi but can do bhangra-hip-hop, I even recently met a French guy who works 18-hour-days for an investment bank. And he hates cheese. 

In the over-connected world we have not been brought up by our Texan/Punju/Tamilian parents, but by Apple, Pixar and Wikipedia. And that’s the same, no matter where we are. The truth is that aren’t Punjus, Tamilians, Texans, French or even Indian anymore. We are just modern youth (Will kill anyone who suggests middle-aged).

Don’t get me wrong- I am all for destruction of prejudice and propogation of equal opportunity.

I just wish there was a way that equality didn’t lead to uniformity. At best, it takes the fun out of travel and discovery.  The world is a global village. 

At worst, it sends shudders of Pink Floyd and we-dont-need-no-education down my spine. Globalisation and IT is inadvertenly creating the uniform, robotic ‘1984’ society that we have always dreaded. What’s worse is that we have gone to far to stop now.

 

And that just makes me sad.

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