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Urban Junkie

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Labrador Wisdom

Boogie and Gypsy are a bit peeved that they have not been properly introduced on this blog. Although they have been mentioned in passing a few times, they would like to be given a chance to say their piece. So here is their long-overdue photograph (the yellow one is Boogie, the black one’s Gypsy) – and in their own words, the golden rules they live by.

Boogie has distilled the wisdom and experience of nine years into the following words of advice:

1. It is never a bad time to take a nap
2. Melting eyes and a woebegone face can usually get you anything you want
3. If they give you an inch, take two yards. It is the only way to ensure your place on the bed
4. Turning into a dead weight is the most effective way to avoid doing what you don’t want to do
5. The surest way to make sure you have the pillow to yourself is to drool on it
6. When you’re really in trouble, it is best to grovel
7. Be suspicious of anyone who wants to lure you out of the room with a biscuit. In life, there are no free biscuits
8. Be careful of going to sleep with your toes exposed. You never know who may be lurking with a nail-cutter
9. Never, NEVER waste food

Gypsy admires Boogie and thinks she's really cool. But while she emulates her in many ways, she secretly disagrees with Boogie on several important issues. Here is a glimpse of Gypsy's ideology:

1. It is never a bad time for a walk
2. Keep your eyes on the ball at all times
3. Speed and agility are the surest ways to win – and don’t let Boogie tell you otherwise
4. A good tummy rub a day is essential for happiness
5. Cuddling up with someone you love is a cure for all evils
6. Be suspicious of doorbells that ring before 8 am. They usually mean a visit from the vet
7. An outstretched paw can make up for the gravest of misdeeds

8. A bean bag is the best thing ever invented. After chewies.
Never, NEVER waste food

Boogie and Gypsy would like to thank you for your attention, and are available to respond to questions, comments and discussion.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Not so easy after all

I have a mobile phone that doesn’t work in my bedroom. Or in the kitchen. It just about comes to life in the living room, but the only place it is truly happy and communicative is in the balcony.

This is the first time this has happened to me, in the 6 years that I have interacted with this otherwise wonderful invention. I have heard stories, sure – of phones that charged roaming rates beyond the 6th floor and which lost their signal completely beyond the 10th. Of phones that sulkily went dead if left alone on the table for a couple of hours. Recently I came across a story that made me feel immensely better about my own phone – of a colleague whose phone works only near a flower pot in his house. A finicky BSNL connection, with a refined sense of aesthetics. Calls home are thus prefaced with instructions to “Go to the flower pot and I’ll call back”.

Clearly, I have been particularly lucky with my cellular service providers thus far. I had a blissful time with Airtel in Bangalore and then an equally blissful one with Hutch in Delhi. I regarded as gross exaggerations all tales of woe told to me by friends, and until a few months ago did not fully understand the concept of a ‘call drop’. This time around in Bangalore, however, I seem to have made a mistake in opting for Hutch. (A choice driven, I must confess shamefacedly, by an addiction to their Tarot readings – which I subsequently discovered were not offered in Bangalore anyway. More cause for grief).

And so begins the journey to get a new mobile connection.

A while ago I had written this post about reveling in the convenience and smooth sailing that contemporary life in India seemed to offer. (No more queues at gas agencies, no more struggles to get a phone connection and so on.) Alas, I spoke in haste. The difference between smooth sailing and an obstacle course is how badly you are in need of something. They chase you with offers of loans when you don’t need the money; they chase you with free credit cards when you already have three. And they chase you with an Airtel connection only if you already have Hutch and are not looking to move.

But the act of applying for something – thereby revealing that you actually need it – seems to turn you into an apology for a human being. Not quite the scum of the earth, but just a couple of notches above that. Cellular service providers, at least, seem to be unable to intelligently differentiate between slippery delinquents who will not cough up their dues at the end of the month (not me) and morally upright, law abiding, bill-paying citizens (me, very firmly). The criteria for establishing such a difference do not help either. The concept of an address proof, for example. Is this the address on my passport? No, I’ve just moved into the house. Is it there on my driving license? No, I’ve just moved into the house. Do I have any registered mail delivered to this address? Any electricity bill? Phone bill? No, (patiently, but through increasingly gritted teeth) – I’ve just moved in. Yesterday. Oh well. Do I at least have the lease agreement? Er … no, again. It is in Mumbai, in the company’s name, not mine.

See the problem? No other option, then, but to do a physical verification – i.e. visit me and take a photograph of me inhabiting the house. And ask neighbours who I have not yet met to testify to the soundness of my upbringing. Between 9 AM and 6 PM on a working day, when I am least likely to be at home – which means, of course, that I do not live there after all.

Thus was acquired my Hutch connection. Now, of course, I am wiser. I will not call up Airtel. I will lie in wait for them to call me. I will sound reluctant and dismissive. After the third call I will be mildly interested but will audibly stifle a yawn.

I will wait for them to make me their most luscious offer. And then - grudgingly - allow myself to be persuaded.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The blessings of computerji

A recent post by manuscrypts – musings on the omnipotence of KBC’s computerji – got me thinking about the absolute power that computerji truly holds over me today, much beyond the domain of KBC. I don’t know about you, but computerji has inveigled his way into the very center of my existence. You know those questions that do the rounds about what-you-would-grab-if-the-house-was-on-fire, etc? Well, no, he’s not the first on the list … but he’s pretty much up there, right after Boogie, Gypsy and the cell phone.

It’s getting a bit out of hand, if you think about it.

For one thing, he seems to have persuaded me to dispense with several previously valued mental (and physical) faculties – or what used to pass for them at any rate. Now, I’m not usually one to boast, but there was a time when the ol’ brain would have been regarded as serious competition to computerji. It could add, subtract, multiply and perform all manner of mathematical gymnastics. It could remember phone numbers and appointments. It could remember spellings of long multi-syllabic words without having to rush to dictionary.com. Modesty prevents me from going on, but I’m sure it is apparent what a marvelous piece of equipment used to reside in this head before computerji took over.

Thanks to computerji and his several lackeys – calculatorji, cellphoneji and i-podji – I can now barely remember my own phone number. I can also barely sign my own name. The fingers that glide so effortlessly over the keyboard refuse to wrap themselves around a pen. Egged on in no small measure by computerji, need I add. Parchment and blue ink may be romantic, he says beguilingly, but they are also messy. And produce an illegible un-aesthetic scrawl that was never pretty at the best of times. True, especially when it is my illegible scrawl we are speaking of.

While the scrawl is no loss to humanity, the same unfortunately cannot be said of phone numbers and sums. A bit tedious to have to look through my cellphone directory every time I’m asked for my phone number. Even more tedious to have to fish out the calculator when counting out change for the dhobi.

Then, of course, there is the social life that lies in an unspeakable mess by the wayside. The amount of time I spend online is beginning to create more than a flutter among friends and family. But an evening spent surfing the net, checking mail, blogging or even simply staring at the screen trying to think of something to write does seem infinitely more alluring these days compared to hanging out at a pub or coffee bar. I’m told that I acquire a vaguely defensive, furtive air when asked about my plans for the evening – a result, no doubt, of wanting to indicate that I’m busy without getting into the exact nature of the busy-ness.

A friend suggests that I observe a computer-less day every week, much along the lines of meat-less and booze-less days. Well, clearly something must be done, but I don’t want to go overboard either. A little light exercise should do the trick, to get the body and mind in shape: a few minutes a day of writing with a pen, a couple of simple sums, maybe … some memory exercises and some conversation practice.

It is such an enticing world that computerji offers, though. Would be a real pity to give it up, wouldn’t it?

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