A fleeting moment of thought! Capture it there and then and you have something. Let it go, and you do the muggle version of Evanesco. The thought then goes into nothingness, which is to say, into everything.
Technology – the great saviour! Technology – the evil depressor!
Technology has blossomed the most in the last decade or so. Websites and social networks have mushroomed. The amount of devices one has to interact with virtually anyone on the internet has skyrocketed. So much so that a working internet connection has become a necessity in many a household. No business nowadays can be imagined without the huge fiber-optic cables laid down under sea across the world, and without the satellites that encircle the earth. The dream of the entire world being a global village has finally been realised. But technology has also brought upon us a curse. Two actually – the multitude of devices and the multitude of options.
The multitude of devices
Just think about it. I have a desktop computer that I first bought in 2001. Although it has been sliced-and-diced multiple times in the intervening years, I have added and removed components in it so many times that now it hardly sports anything that was bought thirteen years ago, it has remained a steady presence in my room ever since. It was the most substantial technology investment that my parents had made at that time, and all I had used it was to play Road Rash in it on Windows ME.
Still, the desktop lingered and I did many great things with it (finding out mom’s long lost friend after nearly three decades was also a part of it, and that was before facebook had happened!). I spent hours upon hours staring at its screen during my school and college days – learning programming languages, discovering the joys of wikipedia and blogger and yahoo and google, freewriting whenever I felt like it, watching countless movies and TV shows and what not, tinkering with images with photoshop, experimenting with different flavours of Linux… You get the drift.
Over the past few years though, I have been plagued with a multitude of devices, all intent on accomplishing the same thing over and over again, and using different paradigms every time.
Two years ago I bought a laptop. And.. Things changed since then. Now that my desktop wasn’t my sole window to the world, it’s role started to diminish. Now I didn’t use the desktop for photoshop for example, because the laptop had an HD-ready screen and a dedicated graphics processor. Programming was a different ball game on a laptop though, so that stayed with the familiar desktop. Also, at that time my laptop’s graphics processor wasn’t properly supported by the Linux platforms, so my FOSS experiments stayed with the desktop too.
I had felt constrained by the limited resolution that my desktop’s monitor offered (1024×768, imagine!), so I bought a full-HD monitor for my desktop in March last year. God was I happy! I could finally watch HD movies on my system, and using Visual Studio / Photoshop was a delight with all the extra screen real-estate I now had. On a whim I installed some games too. I’m not really a hard core gamer, but I enjoy killing some enemy soldiers on screen every now and then. But then something else happened. Another device entered the ecosystem.
A Smart TV. This had built-in WiFi, could be controlled with a mobile device, supported DLNA, and was accompanied with a state-of-the-art Yamaha home theater system. For obvious reasons watching movies on the desktop was now out. I could just stream it onto the TV and enjoy the more immersive experience. During this time I also realised that I no longer enjoyed typing out long passages (blog posts, for example) on the desktop. The laptop was more convenient, and more intimate. I could even use it in pitch darkness – a setting that I happen to like. The desktop was reduced to a mere downloading machine by then… neglected in a corner but switched on 24×7 to download new TV episodes and movies in full-HD quality.
As luck would have it, during August my company gifted me another device – a Micromax FunBook. It was my first experience with Android, so naturally I was excited. I loaded it with apps of all shapes and sizes. Being a low-end device it wasn’t able to bear the load of many of them, yet I liked to use it. In the end it served as a Kindle for me more than anything else, and I managed to read a number of volumes on it, including a translation of the great Indian epic Mahabharata and Gregory David Roberts’s magnum opus Shantaram. But my zeal to acquire more devices wasn’t over as yet.
Next up was Google’s flagship smartphone – Nexus 5. It got delivered right on time, on my birthday itself! And I spent the night cutting up my SIM card to perfection, applying the screen guard and loading it up with numerous apps. What did I use it for? Phone? yes. Whatsapp? yes. Facebook? yes. Kindle? yes. Flipboard? yes. RSS? yes. Music? yes. Podcasts? yes. Youtube? yes. In short, it was the perfect convergence device that I was looking for. The silver bullet. Same thing for everything.
You must be wondering that I must have stopped after that, no? After all, what more I could want? Sorry to disappoint you, because two days ago I bought another device.
A second generation Kindle Paperwhite. Why? Because I couldn’t stand the glare while reading ebooks on my tablet and phone. I like it too. I’ve already read The Secret of the Nagas on it and it feels exactly right. Feels like paper, visible in the darkest of room and in the brightest of sunlight, and sturdy. I can see myself reading books upon book on this thing and not grow tired of it. It really is an amazing device.
But even after owning so many great devices all at once, I feel empty… constricted… tied. I feel like this -
Yes, the above picture talks about charging devices, but I feel like a slave of them on a more fundamental level. I feel confused… with so many devices around, which one to use when? Should I read this blog on my laptop, or is my phone more suited for it? Should I post this facebook update from my desktop, or tablet? Does Reddit look better on its android tablet app, or should I prefer chrome on my laptop? First world problems, anyone?
The multitude of options
Having all these devices vying for my attentions has another side effect, as I’ve realised. I’ve become more of a consumer than a producer. When I just had my desktop, I’d used it to build stuff. I loved to create wallpapers and web layouts on Photoshop. I loved to write. Once I created a WordPress theme from scratch, and another time using the underscores framework. I even tried to create my own CMS in PHP, and succeeded to a large extent too! I used to tinker with Linux so much that once I had three flavors installed on my PC, along with Windows! Back in school I had famously completed two years’ worth of my Computer Science syllabus in mere three months, and had managed to top every single exam they could throw at me. During my BSc years I learned so much about Web Design and Development that I still draw upon that knowledge – nearly five years later! But now I do nothing of that sort whatsoever.
Earlier when I planned to do something, I usually got it done to perfection. Even the things that I couldn’t make wasn’t due to lack of trying. I tried and failed, and felt good about it later. I used to do just one thing at once, and whatever I did, it took me forward, somewhat.
Now what? Now I am a chronic planner, and nothing else. So much so that whatever I plan on doing it never gets done. I had planned to write a short story sometime back. I have it all in my head. But I can’t bring myself to actually writing it. I had planned to make a really nice app for my own use. I have everything needed to make it all written down, and even got the development environment put together. But I can’t bring myself to actually code the damn thing. I had planned to refurbish my homepage… that thing has been on the internet for nearly three years. I have the new design all mocked up. But I can’t bring myself to actually open Photoshop and layer it out. Only recently, I conspired with a friend to write a novel. Yes, an actual novel. I have the story all figured out. But I can’t seem to bring myself to start writing. All this because of too less time on my hands, but mostly because of too many distractions that I suffer from. There’s simply so much to do!
What should I do on the two days of week that I get off? Write a blog post? Read one of the numerous unread books? Catch up with housework? Go out with friends? Plan the next scene? Do some coding for pleasure? Watch a movie? Listen to an audio book? Go for a walk? Organise my stuff? Daydream?
I have so many unread books lying around that these days I’m even reading multiple of those at once. I read a paperback on my way to office, and an ebook on my way back home. Nowadays I’ve even started the Harry Potter series on audio, and with the new Kindle I’m on my third book of the Shiva Trilogy. I watch two movies during a weekend, but download a lot more during the rest of the week, because you know, my TV is awesome.
And all this social sharing that has become the part-and-parcel of modern life is driving me crazy! You go somewhere? You post it on facebook. You read a book? You update goodreads. You bought something online? You rate it on the website and cross-post it on twitter. You listened to a song? You scrobble it on last.fm. As if the locus of your own life has been externalized. You live for others, not for yourself. And you try hard to keep up appearances. It’s all very depressing.
Where does it all stop? In order to cure distractions, the powers-that-be came up with more applications – that of the distraction-free variety. So my phone has a distraction-free note-taking app. My PC has a distraction-free text editor. Even WordPress, the software on which this blog runs, has a distraction-free mode of its admin backend. Does that help? Somewhat. Of course, getting rid of all distractions would be akin to going back to the first principles. Not using any of the devices. Not heeding to any of the beeps. But for a citizen of the internet like me, it all seems much too harsh, no?
I’ll just need to live with it.
All times presented here are approximate.
By some insane twist of fate, Saurabh Luthra, Mayank Misra and I end up in the same cab. We feel that it should be fun, and at the same time sarcastically mourning the loss of the fourth passenger to another cab, who is sarcastically the best person around.
We’re cruising the expressway with speed that befits the structure. Old songs are playing on 91.1, and Saurabh is humming along. There is slight chill in the air, and the weather gods are threatening to make it rain anytime. Looking out the window, seeing trees and cars whiz past is an experience in itself.
We talk about investment banking and unbiased research. About the most used phrases in IVP (phat gaya tops the list!). And SM, of course.
First sign of trouble. Our cab’s front tyre on the right gets punctured, and we’re parked on the rightmost lane on the expressway. We get out of the car (Mayank takes out his bag too), and Saurabh gets talking about the traffic rules in the US. And about how he took a U-turn once in Minneapolis.
Out comes an orange from Mayank’s bag and we start eating. Saurabh comments on our lack of litter awareness as we throw off the peels there and then. Mayank contradicts him by saying that this is biodegradable waste which is actually good of the surrounding trees. We throw off the seeds too and mark the spot (right next to the Mayoor School it is), for we will be coming back to look at the orange tree in a few years – the legacy of us being there!
Somehow the two of them start talking about relative velocity, and making fun of me in the process… trying to measure the velocities of each and every vehicle that passes us. One of the cars stop, asking for directions to Delhi. I send them on their way, and then we wonder about the consequences if they had been going in the wrong direction.
The tyre is replaced and we are on our way. But our car troubles are not over yet. We hear a strange sound, and smell a strange smell. It turns out that the newly replaced tyre is about to go bust as well. The car shudders even at ~40 kmph. We stop again, while the driver examines the damage-to-be. The cab supervisor is called up, who promises another cab at another place.
We move along, slowly this time. At every sign of shudder the driver slows down. At every sign of its absence he speeds up again. We’re in for a tough ride!
Saurabh doesn’t worry though. He inexplicably draws a leaf on the window. And the old songs on 91.1 continue. Slowly, but not so steadily, we cross the DND Flyway… Ashram… Nehru Place… and reach the Moolchand flyover, where a cab is promised to us.
Saurabh has the best idea. Why wait for the cab? Why not have paranthas instead? He remembers a nearby place, which he and Abhishek used to frequent in another time. Off we go, (Mayank brings his bag here too. He treats it like his siamese twin!) and as luck would have it, we find it too! It is small and utterly crowded. But our chances of getting through the crowd look good because we have Mayank with us – the tallest BA in IVP’s history. We send him in. And wait.
Fifteen minutes pass like this and he still hasn’t got through. We curse ourselves for sending him in. We get the order changed to get it faster. We prod him… incite him… goad him… egg him on… Anything for the egg paranthas now!
Eventually he comes through. But instead of three, he brings in only two, and that too inside a paper लिफाफा! We are horrorstuck by the notion, but start eating anyway. He gets the third one a little later, in a proper plate this time for a change. And we eat them like there’s no tomorrow. The entire thing is finished in a fraction of time it took to get it ordered and cooked.
The second cab comes through… just as we are done eating. We hop on, and joke about the utter absurdity of the whole thing. And also about having to work during the weekend. The rest of the journey home passes without any cab-related, or parantha-related incident.
Home sweet home. 127.0.0.1
Over the years I have come to realize that people are necessarily transitive in nature. Man, being a social being, cultivates a string of relationships as soon as he is able to do that. He then (wishfully) thinks that they will last for a lifetime. Of course they don’t. Because people are necessarily transitive in nature.
Think of it this way – every person living on this earth has his own pace. Some proceed slowly, others are fast. Some have a habit of racing ahead when they feel like, but slack away when they don’t want to go on. Somehow somewhere in between, you are bound to cross paths with someone. You are bound to come within their radius of influence, and benefit by it. (or even suffer due to it too… depends on what you get served with!) Yet as each one of your influences have different speeds of moving forward, you will lose out on them some day or the other. The higher the relative velocity of you two, the sooner you will lose them. Either you will move on, or they will. There is no other possibility.
Wait.. It seems that there is! What if your relative velocity is so low that it is almost negligible? Then you can be inside their radius of influence for a long long time. You can become friends with them. And perhaps this is the best definition of a friendship - relative velocity tending to zero.
Comic Con turned out to be far less than what I’d expected. It felt nothing more than a book fair for comics. But then, what else I’d expected out of it? I’m not really a comic person. I’m a novel person. I prefer to be absorbed into a book for hours on end, and prefer to visualize the author’s world on my own. I don’t need help from an artist to do that for me. I feel that a part of the magic is lost when you read a comic, or even a graphic novel. What if the dragons were supposed to be bigger for you? What if you wanted your superhero to be grander? With comics your field of vision is constrained.
Not that I abhor comics entirely. I’ve read my fair share of Amar Chitra Katha. I even read them aloud to my five year old nephew, who absolutely loves them! For him the visuals help, because he still needs to develop the grand scale of imagination needed to picture mythic worlds. He would often come to me, his favorite comic in his hand (these days it’s Tales of Hanuman), asking me to read his favorite parts to him. He would point out the characters and settings, recognizing them from the pictures. He even tries to draw them – speech bubbles and all – imagining the conversations between his favorite heroes. But I never did that when I was his age. I could never draw, you see.
Some part of me is jealous of the artists too, because they do what I can’t. And that’s another reason why I don’t read comics. I feel somewhat inferior.
“A lot has happened since I last wrote here…” Umm… No.
“I’ve not been writing since long…” No no no.
“Once upon a time there lived a boy in a far-off land…” Definitely not!
Writer’s block is real. And I’ve been affected by it yet again! Hours upon hours I gaze on a blank sheet of paper (which, by the way, is another of my cliche phrases), and come up with nothing. Nothing at all. And then I start to wonder whether I’ve lost my ability to write anymore. 54 days and I haven’t written a single post here. I’m not that busy. Not anymore at least. Yet I’ve been shirking away from writing. Reading is going on, full steam ahead. Already completed three books this year. But writing.
So here’s what I have thought. I’ll do some freewriting for a couple of days. Maybe more, if the block doesn’t go away. I’ll just pick up a piece of paper and start scribbling… the first thing that comes to my mind. It won’t be pretty, I know. But at least it will be something. I might post it here if I find it suitable. If not, then I’ll take it to my grave.
friend [noun]: A weird creature who clings like a parasite to your life, sucks out every disappointment, every failure that makes you feel gloomy, and restores your faith in humanity by a good measure. A friend will laugh with you (at you more likely!), call you stupid names and crack the poorest of jokes. He will poke fun at almost everyone you know, will embarrass you in public places, will irritate you, and will easily make you mad enough for you to want to kill him. But he will always love you, will always be there whenever you will need him, and will always give you whacky (and sometimes really nice) advice – whether you ask for it or not!
A few years ago when I was shopping for friends, the salesman showed me two specimens that fit the above description perfectly. I did the only thing that any
sane insane person would do in that kind of situation. I told the salesman: I’ll take both! And here they are, my proud purchases:
If you think you know what pandemonium is, you are wrong. Well, unless you’ve had me and these two for company… Then you definitely know! You know when sometimes you go for a walk in your neighbourhood park in the morning, and you see a lot of those old people standing in a group and laughing grotesquely over nothing? If we three are there, then they will have a lot of genuine things to laugh about. (And perhaps then their laugh will not scare away kids or make them cry in horror!) Why? Because we are like that only. Thank you very much!
We can laugh at anything, but usually we laugh at Akshita because she is the most gullible one! You see, she is a big fan of SRK. (OK just big doesn’t really cut it. Think Huge. Gigantic. Enormous. Immense. Massive. Tremendous. Colossal. Extensive. Commodius. Mammoth. Monster. Jumbo. Heavy-Duty. Hulking. You get the drift!) Yeah. That much fan of SRK. So teasing her is a piece of cake. You just need to call him champu one time in front of her. Just one. Unity. After that I will pray that your soul rests in peace.
Kitna hot hai yar! She said on Saturday, while looking at the SRK wallpaper (obviously) of her iPhone 3GS (a technological boo-boo that doesn’t do bluetooth to either Nokia or Samsung). Hot toe potty bhi hoti hai, Srishti said. We had met for celebrating Akshita’s birthday, and we enjoyed a lot. Because we spent it by lots of SRK bashing, and fueling Akshita’s hate for Hidesign at every opportune moment!
But then, however gullible she may be, we actually do love her a lot. So we got a cake for her. See -
You’d think that we are really good friends of her, isn’t it? Well, I’m about to prove you wrong! This is what we did to the cake once we were done with it!
In addition of ruining her cake, we also gave her a Nicholas Sparks book, a small black stole, and… [drumroll please!]
Look at her smile! Look at the glow on her face… the twinkle in her eyes… Look at her speechlessness as she receives the very gift she was hoping for… A taste of the object of her desire in every cup of coffee she will drink from now on!
I did my type of impulse shopping at the mall too. I got this from the William Penn store -
In case you are wondering, this is an expensive-ass German pen that costs nearly fifty times than an average Indian pen. But I am a sucker for stationery so… This is my second LAMY. And I’m sure there are a lot more to come, because now I have this -
One pen to rule them all! No, scratch that. I can never be happy with just one pen. I want moar. Moar moar moar! Sometimes I feel that I am as obsessed about my pens as I am about my books. I’m a paper person, really. The environmentalists won’t be giving me an award any time soon. Heck, I can live with that! Just get me my daily fix of words and quills!
Another story was building itself that day while I was self absorbed in thinking about my newest acquisition. Srishti and Akshita were up to something. I found out that they love each other. There affection for each other is pure, unadulterated, 24-carat kosher. Don’t believe me? Here is proof!
Of course I was the one taking pictures. I was the poor guy stuck between two
lovers good friends. I had to do the needful. Alas!
Women and their compulsive need to get clicked! Especially when in female company! Uff! But there was still one last thing missing. It happened at last, courtesy some random dude sipping his Starbucks coffee -
And the day finally came to an end. We did a lot of things that Saturday.. met each other after months, laughed, made merry, teased each other, talked… You know what the best part was though? We parted on a high note. There were smiles at the end, and not the customary I want this day to go on forever feeling. Perhaps it was a promise to meet again? To do all those foolish things yet again, at a different time, place and occasion? Perhaps because our bond has become so strong that no matter what the distances are between us, we will always remain available to each other? I don’t know why that is. I don’t want to speculate further. I don’t want to wish that that Saturday lasts forever. I want to wish that I get lots and lots of such Saturdays in future.
Perhaps this is it!
I scarcely remember the first time I ever blogged. I think it was 2006 or something… I was still in school… and I think it was blogspot that had got me started. Hell, I don’t even remember what it was called! All I remember is that I didn’t get a hang of blogging at that time, and that I’d deleted it soon after.
So that was my first foray into airing my thoughts to the online world. I hadn’t realized it then, but this event had changed my life forever. In the coming years, I would make and break a number of blogs… each slightly better than the previous, each contributing to a host of bittersweet memories. Blogging came to define me. I learned to write, learned to express myself through the written word – all due to the various blogs that I maintained, and the endless posts that I wrote. I wrote about movies, I wrote about friends. I wrote about love, I wrote about hate. I mocked people I didn’t like, I praised the ones I did. I met new people through my blogs, and I reconnected with old friends too. At the peak of my blogging obsession, I was maintaining three blogs at once, and writing two posts a day.
Until last year, when I deleted it all and made a fresh start.
I had felt a need to reboot myself at that time… leave the past behind and take on life with a fresh pair of eyes, and steaming hot perspective! I was writing sad little posts on my sad little blog about my sad little life, and I wanted to escape the moroseness that had settled in. So I made a clean break of it all… deleted all 200+ posts that were languishing over there… making me too stuck up with a life lived previously… and made a fresh start. It was necessary at that time. I had to stop looking back. I had to forget… the sad times and the happy times. I was ready to embark upon life’s journey anew.
It was November 21, 2012. Exactly one year has passed since then. (As they say in internet-speak, today is new Rajat’s Diary‘s first blogiversary!). Needless to say a lot has happened since then. My blog and I have still remained Siamese twins, yet due to the large number of experiences that I have encountered this past year, I have been guilty of neglecting it in favour of other things.
I started my first job in 2013, and life has completely changed since then. The days of lazily lounging around and talking nonsense are long over. Now I got work to do… and problems to solve! Office has become the centerpiece of my each weekday. It is tiring, sure. But good kind of tiring. The feeling-high-after-a-really-productive-day kind of tiring. And the really best part is the unprecedented respect I get from my colleagues on a regular basis. It really makes my life worth living! Sure, there are times when something goes wrong, or I make a mistake. After all, being part of the software industry is no mean task in itself. But what’s life without a little spice, eh? ;-)
The long commute to-and-from office (I live ~45 km away) has also made me fuel my obsession with the best things in the world – books! While sitting in the cab, I transport myself into a different world altogether – the one woven by the author in his story. One day, I’m touring the Westeros through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister and his lackeys. On the other, I’m trying to come to terms with the identity crisis of Lisbeth Salander. The world is full of good fiction, and I just found the perfect time to read it all!
Blogging is ambling along… but not at a pace that I would like. This is only my 27th post since the same day last year. I used to average several times that number in a year previously! Yet, I’ve been doing some experiments with what I write, so that even writing less is as much intellectually satisfying as writing so much more. Quality over quantity!
So once I wrote the story of a frog, from a frog’s perspective. I tried my hand at unformed thoughts, at romance, at music, at forgiveness, at books… Really, even if my posts are not more in number, they have certainly made up for it with the varied subjects of them. [insert shameless self-applause here]
This past year I have grown a lot. Yet at the same time, my attitude towards certain things has remained the same – old and pitiful. Not that I haven’t been trying to put an end to it. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to be able to do it. It’s like a small piece of me is stuck in the past… feeding on nostalgia and getting stronger day by day… and pulling the rest of me towards it… slowly… slowly… steadily… silently. What I would really like to do is to make the rest of me stronger, so that the nostalgic-me fails in its endeavor. And dies, eventually. God will I rest easy then!
Some things are never going to change though. They are not good to have, yet they are so pesky and clingy that I have lost all hope of making them right. I have this insane talent of pushing people away. While I don’t suffer from anthropophobia… I like people and I do have a handful of great friends… but that’s just it – a handful. I use my ability to push away assholes… but many a times I end up pushing away those I actually like. Sometimes I do something I shouldn’t, sometimes I say something I shouldn’t. But the result is always the same. People move away. And I feel left out. The worst thing is that this is never going to change. Sigh.
Someone once told me, that I don’t like to be imperfect in the eyes of others. Even something as innocent as liking someone seems absurd to me. If she knows and I can’t be with her, that’s a code glitch. I can’t let that happen. I’m a detail oriented guy. I see the world with my intense, pattern-matching and highly observant eyes. Moreover, my mind says that the world sees me in the same magnifying glass-ish way. I get close and then I take to myself. As if meeting new people was just the start of a journey I wanted to eventually undertake on my own. I define people as milestones and I sort of move past them. This is my way of telling myself that this era is now done. I think about them as landmarks – relevant to a time that isn’t so relevant anymore.
Is there an end to all this? Is there a relief? There isn’t. Because I’m wired that way. I can sniff out the obnoxious, feel the imperfection, see the injustice, hear the warning bells, and taste the poison. I set my standards about people too damn high, and not a single mere mortal is able to live up to them.
So that’s that. One year of life experience has taught me so much, that I’ll be reaping its fruits for many many years to come. I’ve gained a lot of confidence, I’ve met a lot of good people, I’ve seen great new fantastic worlds, I’ve gained a lot of useful insights about me as a person, I’ve grown slightly fatter, and I’ve lived through so many moments of pure ecstasy! If I have to sum up the last 365 days in a series of special moments, these will certainly make it to the top ten –
- The rather unusual birthday
- My first salary
- Creative Writing
- Discovering Haruki Murakami
- 65 UPPER. 97 lower. (Understand if you are geek enough!)
- Pseudo-swimming in Ganga
- Workplace stress
- My first client demo!
- And dozens of other micro-experiences
It’s been a roller coaster ride – these last 365 days. A completely new me has emerged out of it. Me who is slightly more mature, slightly braver, and slightly more responsible. Wherever I might end up in life, I seem to be going in the right direction at least.
Phew! I never thought that I would write so much in one go. This is perhaps the longest blog post ever on Rajat’s Diary. But I’m still left with one thing to say. One announcement to make actually.
From this day on, Rajat’s Diary will be known as Rajat’s Diary 2.0.
I should have done this last year itself, but better late than never, no? :)
See you next time!
I have a pen and a paper, but I don’t know what to write. I will have to get busy left right and center if I have to get over her. But do I really want to? I don’t know. Thinking about her is sweet. But then again, it is sweet poison. Do I want to die? Maybe, maybe not.