Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I succumbed.
To good looks, sex appeal, and personality.
The object of my affection goes by the name of Nokia 6300. Okay, I know that a couple of weeks ago I wrote about being the proud owner (rather retainer or brand custodian of a Nokia 1100 of truck driver fame), but I have been feeling strangely renewed in the past few weeks and may be this is a part of that phase.

Two days prior, I also bought new glares, but that was only in response to my old ones breaking in the struggle to get out of my hair.

Of course the seduction took a while. Almost everyone surrounding me was constantly flashing their beauties with their mega pixels…and their N series and chocolates and razrs (me, the gizmo bumpkin wouldn’t even know what they meant, had I not done time at a Men’s magazine which had an enviable gadget section).

Anyway, they all passed on like random strangers trying to hit on you, and I remained unfazed by their charm.

Till I overheard a female colleague gushing about her latest acquisition, proclaiming it as the best phone in the market. Now this woman has taste, so I will trust her to pick something elegant. She also has something that means business about her, something very alpha, so I would trust her rational mind and discount sentimentality.

Plus she clearly gave me three good reasons to acquire it—looks, dependability and sensibility. Off I went shopping the same evening.

A new phone is like a new relationship—you are so sensitive to its texture, its secrets, how it responds to you, and how sensitized you are to its every move; it’s like discovering something new everyday. And not about devouring all of it in one day, which ideally, one can do if one reads the manual (ha!).

But there is something nice about being surprised. When it doesn’t do what you think it will do—like refusing to go into redial mode like my earlier model with just one move would do, or saying “message saved for sending” and actually sending it!

Now, someone from Nokia better take note of this –exactly what does this statement mean—what is my phone trying to tell me? That ‘I will consider whether this message will be sent or otherwise,’ or that ‘I will save now to send later, or just that ‘You are in queue,’ or ‘Wait, let me do a reference check on your recipients’ …It’s one thing to hold a sleek, sexy thing in hand. It’s quite another to not know what it is up to.

The fact remains that three days later, I am still suitably intrigued by my tech-toy. For someone with the attention span of a fruit-fly, that says a lot. And it still hasn’t hit me that 2 mega pixels is a big deal. Or that a full-screen camera is a desirable thing.

I must say that I am less nervous about using it, even though my heart still skips a beat when it rings, so much so that I have permanently put it on silent mode—it was one of the earliest things I figured out, and wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure out a silent mode for everyone around us?

Ok, there I go again, complaining about information overdose and sounding like a mendicant or some art-of-giving-or-living-or-whatever-it-is-practitioner.

I am neither of the above, and I can never be, unless someone figures how to get me into silent mode

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The ex-files

A few weeks ago, I got a missed call from an unsuitable boy I once had a crush on. In my fengshui pursuit of clearing the clutter from my life, I had of course deleted his number from my phone book, but my voracious south-indian memory didn’t fail to recognize it. What could he want now, I wondered.
Come morning, I stopped wondering, and moved on with my rituals, radio, work and other things. He had clearly been ctrl_alt-deleted from my life, but I wasn’t from his.

Of all the open windows on the hard-disk of this thing called life, something that keeps popping up are the ex-files. They have an uncanny knack of doing it. Some may creep up during holidays and festivals in the guise of what might be construed as a mass-sms. Non-commitant, neutral, impersonal, but at the same time, encrypted, registering their shadowed presence.

It's like saying, "I know you have moved on, but this is just so that you remember I was once around.” Sometimes, it might be a carefully chosen e-card or greetings for the new year or Valentine’s day or that kind of thing.

Some might go a step further and include you in their listing of forwards. Or worse, send you a link to their photos with totally random strangers at totally random places.

The point is, when you choose not to be with someone, you have really thought it through. People break up much before they actually break-up. And it always has a validation, at least in your head, however shallow that might me. I for one have a problem with men who send forwarded messages. Or wear pleated trousers. Or men who don't stand by their friends, or are indifferent to yours. Or just men who don't smell clean. But once it is in my head, it has to be out there.

Men on the other hand, still want to leave the window of 'we can still be friends' open, which more often than not always ends in disaster.
I do have friends who can’t seem to ax the ex and in some creepy way, I know they are still looming large. The real trouble is, having trouble with closure. When they can't stop calling, or emailing, or smsing or scrapping or orkuting or IMing or whatever their techno happy triggers get them to do.

I remember reading somewhere that all it takes is a sixty day detox program (yes, apparently, it is like being in an alcoholic recovery program or something)

And it is not just about ordinary people. Haven’t we heard of stars being slapped by their exes in public, or someone who dropped a glass of wine on her husband's ex?
So finally, as the halo of cumulative wisdom builds around me, I have learnt that the only way that works is ctrl+alt+delete.

Yes, it is hard to forget their phone number, even though they might be out of your phone book, or forget the caller tune, or forget his birthday or his brand of cigarette. But, when you look at it as one more bit of trivia your super-wonderful brain remembers, it ain't so bad.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hairrrum scarrum

It is strange that I found myself roughly the same time as I found my hair.

Okay, this sounds deep, but I have a point here. If there can be a human mascot for tropical, evergreen, deciduous forests, it is my family. Each one of us has been blessed with manes that will pass down to at least three generations unless we marry extremely bald people. The only difference between the mother’s side and the father’s side is the degree of wiriness, rather twistings per inch in the locks; my mother’s side scores slightly higher for its tighter ringlets. I fall somewhere in between…

I remember feeling like a gawky adolescent, in my thin frame and ample mane, sighing at the girls in my class who tossed their hair from side to side by mere flick of a chin, while mine remained stubbornly unaltered. It took nearly two hundred brush strokes to part it into two, and then a further fifty before it was rendered to a form that a child from a decent family should assume—I am referring to my two long, oily plaits, which ran up to my waist.

Every Sunday, washing the aforementioned hair was some ritual—being soudi, I was doused with gallons of coconut oil and massaged till my neck was dislodged. Post the laborious wash, when my ringlets were at their glorious best, and I felt like some star from the sixties for precisely thirty minutes, my mother would say, “Comb your hair now, or it will be difficult later…” And it would— it would expand to six times its volume thereafter—I never understood why people need volumnisers.

A few years later, I did the same to my baby sister, and often wailed about having to perform motherly duties of such nature—trapping all of her into those damn two plaits and getting her ready before her cantankerous school mates started yelling her name from under our balcony. I had a bad childhood, as you can see…

As I grew older, and the hair wilder, there were jibes at every corner:
Do you use conditioner?
When was the last time you oiled your hair?
Have you thought about straightening?
Have you combed it?
It’s so rough, no?

I silently wished that I would undergo a genetic transformation and wake up one morning with Neetu Singh tresses that one could sleep through and still look like a daisy. I had no role models—there were no Noyonika Chatterjees or Kangana Ranauts or Kamal Sidhus -- films and television were teeming with straight silken tresses… and I felt like an outsider…

Till I realised—my hair was actually me, crying out from being made to conform, being what you are supposed to be, rather than what your heart wants you to—and then it all became crystal clear… to liberate me, I would have to liberate my hair.

After much research and rejection, I landed at Mario Miranda’s flat. His son Raul was the man picked for the occasion, and I found myself in a room facing the sea, watching Mario sketching, and new-born boxer pups flitting about with their mother in tow. “Wow, I am really doing this in style,” I thought..

Raul turned out to be the man who re-baptized me. The first thing he said was, “Wow, this is wild—I love your hair. There’s so much you can do with..” The lock-chop resulting in a fido-dido look did great things for me, but most importantly, I felt redeemed.

He also taught me to throw anything resembling a comb out of the window. Forever. I soon learnt the fine art of finger combing and scrunching.

It was also the time my mum was lining up suitable boys for me, and was obviously cross that I had destroyed my biggest asset! But I was beyond caring. Finally, I had found the freedom to be me, and was at a point where I could celebrate my hair, and metaphorically, me. Finally, I found the courage to let my hair down, literally and figuratively.

So now when someone musters the audacity to ask me, “Why don’t you try straightening?”, I look them in the eye and say, “No, because I enjoy being me.”

How times have changed! Now, I get asked, “Are those real curls?”

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Phone unfetish

For someone who has an opinion on men who carry umbrellas or wear synthetic, I am rather dull when it comes to flashing my own devices.

Okay, I will make a confession here— I am something of a gadget relic; I have a Nokia 1100. I also own a tape-deck, which incidentally, empowered me to listen to a 12 year old tape of Alan Parson’s Project, post his concert in Bombay, while the rest of the world was still figuring out ‘how to get that CD?’ And I have a hand-me-down laptop from my brother which still gets me all worked up on account of blink-and-you-miss-it option to choose from Linux or Windows. I also do not own a six CD changer, or power windows. I just change my CDs and roll my windows on my own. What? Doesn’t go with my image? I have heard that. Get a life? Well, get in line. I am like that only.

I am not in a hurry to sort any of the above. Especially my phone with the in-built torch. For the upwardly mobile and technologically snobbish, it is the same phone that was till a few years ago, advertised as the highway truck driver’s phone, or the phone for the nation or the farmer or some such. Today, they don’t even sell it, I am sure. I do notice that autowallas and cabwallas have higher end phones, so obviously I own something representative of a different era. Gadgets to me, are about convenience, not about elegance.

A friend of mine, the I-like-to change-my phone-every-six- months type always has a point of view when she looks at mine. “O God, how can you be seen with this? Move on!” I actually felt sorry for her finding an identity in an inanimate object and smiled to myself.

But I must admit, I did go through an interim snobbish phase, when I got myself a 6610 or whatever, and it looked oh-so-delicate that my ample hold-everything-I-own bag didn’t seem like a comfortable home for it. So I got one of those bags which had a special pocket for the phone on the outside. Except someone else also knew about the ‘special phone pocket’ and the phone got nicked. It more or less convinced me that higher end technology is not meant for me.

A few years ago, I worked on an advertising campaign for something called intelligent switches. Apparently, the various lighting systems and gadgets in your house switch on upon your arrival. Now, how ridiculous is that, I thought. Imagine telling someone, “even my door can sense my arrival.”
But there is a huge subtext to why my phone makes me feel empowered. It does have its advantages, for sure.

Advantage one is that no one wants it, so it will never get stolen. I have left it behind countless times in loos, at work, in my car, at shops, restaurants, and always got it back.
Advantage two (which is what the sales guy made a pitch for) is that it is really sturdy and low-maintenance; I really dropped it a couple of times to check if that was true and it sure was! So, I am not worried about scratches and bruises …
Advantage three, and this one has a deep, philosophical bent to it is that it helps me clear the clutter from my life.

Let me explain. In my phone are various numbers (I call them miscellaneous) that I have never called and never intend calling. They are usually the ones that are thrust upon me by randoms, “Let me give you a missed call, so you’ll have my number. Or worse, “I’ll biz-card it to you”. And thereby the numbers gather. Till one day when I actually have to save a number and my phone memory says its full. And then it allows me to do what I love doing: replace the miscellaneous with the real. Deep, no?

May be I find a certain comfort in knowing that a gadget is not more intelligent than me.