Monday, December 28, 2015

A Christmas whimsy

The last bell jingled and he climbed off wearily wiping the sweat from his brow (in the North Pole!). He had no breath left even for one 'HoHoHo!'

Being stuck with distributing toys to children, and going 'HoHoHo' while doing so, had seemed so much fun when it all started. But, then, those had been times when children actually hung up socks at night and eagerly opened them in the morning; and were actually joyous to see a top or a wooden horse in the morning. Ever since they started saying, "Eeew! I wanted a clockwork train not this nasty old horse", the fun had started draining out of his life. What was the point in being Santa Claus if he could not make children happy?

If things had, at least, been easier to do, it would not pinch so much. Earlier, all he had to do was to squeeze himself through various sizes of chimneys. Now...with mortals having dispensed with all chimneys, except where they kept them on for ornamentation, he had had to squeeze himself to the tiniest of shapes in order to do his delivery job. had just become a job now. It was no more fun.

How could it be fun, anyway? The time was when what he delivered were toys...bits and pieces of fancy and fantasy with which a wonder-struck child could create its own worlds; its own games and its own fun. Now, though, what he was handing out was cookie-cutter fantasies into which a child would lose itself, without ever knowing the multitude of unknown fancies that had died still-born. What he now gave were no longer toys for children. They were the sort of games that adults played, except that, when adults played, real people suffered and/or died.

He sighed again, his mood quite at odds with the festiveness of the season that he represented. He really should not be brooding like this. It was just the thought of all his artisans now lying idle. With the sort of toys that now spread happiness, it was no longer possible for him to be making any of it here. Bulk orders on Amazon and FlipKart had replaced the busy toy factories of Santa Claus. Learning to place these orders on what the mortals called the Internet had occupied all his time during the rest of the year.

He pulled out a toy from his pockets. The mortals called it a Smartphone. He looked at it gloomily. This year he would have to spend learning to use this toy. It seemed likely that, some time soon, he could not place orders without using what they called Apps on these Smartphones. It was hard, hard and so uncaring of the elderly, for these chaps to keep making changes that made him have to strain himself every year.

Then his face brightened. Anyway, the children of these times played with adult toys; did not really care much for bells or reindeer. So, why not just ask these Amazon/Flipkart blokes to directly deliver the toys, appropriately packed in socks? Santa smiled...that would make it worth having to learn all this App gobbledygook. figure out what to do with the sled and the reindeer...

Before that...time for one last...


Monday, December 21, 2015


"You know this odd-and-even rule that is getting applied in Delhi..."
"That 'odd' reminds me. You know the odd thing is that even though I have a book published..."

Giving up the esoteric ways of Delhi traffic as a topic, my friend plunged into the next.

"Really, the way the media dealt with the Chennai rains..."
"I know. My promo messages of my book just got flooded out on Social media"

As a last ditch attempt to get me off the subject of MY book and assuming, rather idiotically, that he could wean me off my book by talking of someone else's book, "This trolling of Barkha Dutt's book.."
"I know. People like my book but are too shy to write a review to say so. HER book they even take the trouble of going and saying they did not like it."

By now, like my friend, you would have got the point. I AM obsessive. Once my mind is on one subject, it refuses to pay attention to other insignificant things like flooded-out cities.

Ah! It is not THAT. When I look into the mirror, I do not see the ONLY important thing in the Universe staring back at me. The most handsome, the most alluring, the one with the inbuilt Axe-effect...all that, yes, but NOT the sole thing of relevance to me in the Universe. This obsession works equally as well, if not a shade better, with other things too.

Like the time my mother sent me out to get some sugar from a neighbor. On other days, when things are casual, I would spend a couple of hours chatting with her since she was about the only adult who did not think that conversation with a child should constitute exclusively of how he was doing at school. So, where with the others the conversation would be wound up with one disgruntled grunt, I could spend a couple of hours with this 'auntie'. Not when I was there for sugar, though.

"How are you, Suresh?" (Kaise ho, Suresh?"
"In a hurry. Can I have some sugar?" (Jaldi mein hoon")

There. The moment this borrowing sugar thingy entered the equation, she had ceased to be a person and become a mere sugar-vending machine. Such is the nature of obsession.

Which is why working life was so bad for my soul. I would meet my boss in a party and, by way of light conversation, say,"We still need to receive data from the marketing guys for our performance report". Starting from a glazed look in the eyes, he would, by stages, be converted into such a close replica of an Egyptian Mummy that he could have been mistaken for Tutankhamen. It never crossed my mind that the chap may prefer scotch to vodka, be proud of his daughter's kung-fu skills, prefer Baldacci to short, that he could have a life outside of being employed in my office.

Or take this friend of mine, for example. He had a torrid time at his office and used to discuss it with me (Poor chap. Little did he know what he had let himself in for). You know what, as far as I was concerned the only topic of conversation that springs to my lips when I see him is those problems at office. AND, then,

"So, I hope your problems are sorted out now?"
"What problems?'

AND, know what, I had to go in great detail telling him what HIS problems were and he seemed to have no recollection of them. Merely because it had been a decade since we last met, they seemed to have vanished into the distant past, while he had seemed stuck like a fly in amber in that time, as far as I was concerned. Obsessive...

Ah! Well! Now that we are all agreed that I am obsessive there is this little matter of a book...

Oh! ALL RIGHT! No need to run way just because I mention it every now and then.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Learning social media lingo

"You know that smiley - the colon-bracket one.."
"Yes!" I said proudly. "I have mastered its use."
"Actually, you know, it is not meant to be used as a period. You do not need to put it in after every sentence."
"I don't put it in after every sentence", I said indignantly. "I also use that colon-P thing every now and then."
"Exactly what I mean. It is perfectly OK to write sentences in Social media interactions without putting in ANY emoticon at the end."

Am I rushing ahead of myself? The chap who was offering helpful advice about punctuation in Social media is a nephew who was teaching me the basics of social media lingo. Being tutored by the old in your youth and by the young in your dotage is a peculiar fate reserved for my generation, as I have had reason to lament before.

Having just learned about emoticons, I was happily proud of my mastery of these two when this 'tutor' of mine comes and punctures my balloon. Well...I am afraid that his advice fell on deaf ears, since I am still not convinced that they are NOT the social media equivalents of what we used to call the full-stop (even though no-one ever bothered to tell us what a half-stop was.) What he did manage, though, was to abruptly truncate my interest in learning more emoticons. If people will keep poking their noses in and making rude comments about the extent of your learning, is it a wonder that you lose interest in education?

There were some other things that I learned all by myself. For one, it is best to see what opinion everyone is holding about anything and agree with it wholeheartedly. Otherwise, you will get stomped on, vilified and may even face the fate worse than death - being unfriended or, horror of horrors, blocked.

It is all right for you to think that clicking 'Like' is the equivalent of 'I have seen this status message from you' on Facebook but use it with caution. You could end up clicking a 'Like' on someone's lament for a pet dog and be thought of as a heartless brute, who was probably throwing a party to rejoice in the death of the poor beast. (God know what new lessons would need to be learned if and when that 'Dislike' button goes live. You could end up clicking the 'Dislike' on the same lament, intending to express how deeply you dislike the death of the canine and the other person may feel that you are a heartless brute who dislikes someone lamenting the death of a pet.)

Never fail to 'Like' any pic put up by any of your friends - it is a given that the person thinks she looks great in it, else she would not be wanting the world to look at it. If you fail to 'Like', it is clear evidence that you do not LIKE the person, or so it shall be construed. What I am yet to understand is exactly what am I supposed to do for all these videos that everyone and his uncle is sharing these days. Is my not 'Liking' them losing me all my friends? Alack and Alas! My ignorance will end up losing me good friends and lose me all MY 'Likes' on my status messages!

Useful though these lessons are, they only constitute social media behavior and NOT lingo. Lingo does need a tutor and, having dispensed with my previous one on account of the aforementioned disagreement on the use of emoticons, I am hamstrung. I realized the depths of my problems when I discovered, by the use of deep ratiocination, that 'hv' stands for 'have' and 'gr8' stands for 'great'. As usual, filled with enthusiasm, I used these liberally in a chat - with someone who was carefully using English till then with me - and ended up with this conversation.

"Hv you got the book I wanted? It would be gr8 if you can send it to me like last time."

'ws nt d bst way. cud u send sum1 2 me fr dis?"

Huh! Was that some cross-talk on Facebook? Had I perchance tapped into some coded message for the CIA or whatever? Chills ran up and down my spine. In these days of paranoia, such inadvertent eavesdropping could cost me dear.

Now...who can I trust to check this out and tell me if this was merely the new lingo or some code that will require a supercomputer to break?

God save me! I wish I had never ventured into Social media!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Flooded out

After a hectic meeting on deciding what the Nation ought to know and who were to be on the panel so that they could be shushed by the host, it was time for some relaxation. The Editor let his hair down, just to let people know he did have hair to let down (Unlike me? Yes. So?)

Eager-beaver 1: Sir, there is something amusing on social media. Everyone is talking of some Chennai which is supposedly getting rained on. They claim it is in India.

Editor: Social media! Don't get me started on it. Those people will believe anything. Just because it is raining somewhere in the world, we cannot be using up prime time on it.

Eager-beaver 2: Sir, everyone in media must be seeing that. What if someone telecasts it tomorrow and, by some strange coincidence, Chennai happens to be in India? We might just check it out.

Editor: Hmm! You guys might as well waste your time doing that as on something else.

EB1, EB2 and the hitherto silent EB3 rush out to waste their time. After some time is duly wasted...

EB1: Just as I told you, Sir! No other major channel seems to be carrying the news. Proof positive that Chennai cannot be in India.

EB3: Sir, no state ruled by either the BJP or the Congress has any place called Chennai in it. I am sure it cannot be in India.

Editor: Just as I thought...

EB2 comes in with a young chap.

EB2: Sir. This boy says Chennai is in India.

Boy (stutters, overwhelmed to be in the august presence) : Yes, Sir! You may have heard of Sir C.V. Raman, C. Rajagopalachari...

EB2 (in an aside): Idiot! You will never make a news-person. What is the use of mentioning ancient history in a news channel?

Boy (stuttering even more): Sundar Pichai...

EB2 (whispering fiercely): Idiot! Haven't you learned anything about what is news and what is not? Don't you know anything good is just not newsworthy enough? Surely there must be some lynching, some scam....

Boy (excitedly): Sir! The 2G scam...

Editor (brightly): NOW you are talking. You mean Chennai is there...that Raja came from there?

Boy: Yes, Sir!

Editor: Where is this boy from? Does he really know what he is talking about?

EB2: He is a Madrasi, Sir!

Boy (just a shade underwhelmed now): Yes Sir! THAT word, Madrasi, which you use so tolerantly...that is based on Madras, which was the original name of Chennai.

Editor: These South Indian people and their penchant for changing names. How is one supposed to remember that in India, if they keep changing names?

Boy (totally underwhelmed and, probably, having decided to take up something more useful like plumbing instead): Everyone out there seems to manage to keep track, as witness the Social Media. They find it no more difficult than remembering Mumbai for Bombay and Varanasi for Benaras, I suppose.

Editor: Enough of that, young man! I do not even allow guests on my talk-show to speak and you dare speak back to me?

EB2: Sir, forget the idiot. I suppose we shall need to cover this, then?

Editor: Yes...we cannot let the other guys steal a march on us.

EB1: By the fifth day we can claim that it is our coverage that made the government take action to help the population.

Editor: Good idea! Make a note to put that on my teleprompter. No need to wait till the fifth day. Weather is so unpredictable and we cannot take a chance on the rains stopping before we say that.

* * *

WHAT?? It did not happen this way? The news media knew all along that Chennai IS in India? Are you sure? Oh! You mean that the news of the devastation in Chennai, unlike the Uttaranchal disaster and all, just got flooded out by more important things like Aamir Khan's supposed imminent departure from India. How was I to know that? I always did lack a sense of priorities.