Sunday, December 30, 2007


The festive season isn’t what it used to be. Good thing, say the PYTs. Gmph, say I. Muchly disappointed that we can’t order a truck-load – truck-load? Not even a head-load! – of authentic mince pies. Blitzed by hoardings and full-page ads about parties on New Year’s Eve. Confused about where and when The Gang assembles. Aching from misguided efforts towards the corpore sano … oh, OK, can’t blame that on the season, it’s a year-round constant.

WHY must ALL ads for these parties feature LARGE pictures of nekkid (well, almost) women? Are they trying to attract hormone-driven male teens who’ll shell out 3K to see skin? Do women form no part of their target audience? How do these joints think they measure up on the value-for-money angle? Face it, the bug-eyed male they’re aiming at could probably get far more direct satisfaction for the same amount of money. Beats me. A young friend (who is not unknown in the blog rajya) pointed out that the clubs, at least, also hold the promise of PYTs in TLDs (Tiny Little Dresses). I suppose that holds some appeal. Me, I knew I was old and past it on 31st December 1996 when my first reaction to the acres of PYTs in TLDs was ‘Those poor children will catch their deaths of cold!’

As for ourselves, we shall aggregate (a) selves, to wit, about 30 people who have been there, done that and don’t want to go there again, thank you (b) booze, with due attention to Smirnoff green apple and (c) food, large amounts, duhleeshus, from Bengal Club. We shall then hie ourselves to the terrace of a friend who combines the tools for a bonfire with the skills for a barbecue, where we shall stuff and irrigate ourselves till sleep overtakes us. Since we shall play our own music and not be at the mercy of some baseball-capped DJ who insists on playing house / HNeemesh, we might even Dance. All in all, a plan.

Pity about the mince pies, though.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


There are a lot of helpful comments on the last post. Thank you very much, kind people. I shall respond to each individual in turn when I feel like a human being again (and not a rat’s breakfast. Don’t ask. If you’re on the platform at Mughalsarai Junction at half two in the morning waiting for India’s premier train, you actually get to see what rats have for breakfast. Excuse me while I have a quick puke).

I have not as yet bought a laptop. But I HAVE witnessed a superb spectacle. Now if only we Indians had sense enough to MARKET this …

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In my-y-y life ...

Dependence. Realised once when the object of dependence is gone, realised again when a poor substitute arrives.

Laptops. My first, back in 2001, was a big clunky tank of a Thinkpad, shaped like a mini-bar and twice as heavy. I lived with that machine for nearly 4 years, carried it to just about every major city in this country and some cities outside. Plugged in what used to be called an air-card, stayed connected (as some of you might vouch) from Coimbatore and Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur (Kawardha beat me, though). Ran presentations off it 3 days a week, rummaged through it for old files and data, watched films on it on long boat rides to Haldia and on longer flights. I was a travelling salesman and it was my box of samples. We belonged together.

The Tank eventually gave way to a sleeker Thinkpad. With a touch pad. There’s life outside the track pointer!? Glory Hallelujah! I was converted within a week. Week? It took a day. So fickle are we, so quick to luxury. I sneered at that little nub that had been my support for years. But T2 and I were not long for each other. In two months, I changed assignments and bid her adieu.

In the next office I was Shown a Laptop. Such a laptop, O citizens of the cyber-world, such surpassing grace! A sleek metal shell with nary a straight line, blinking lights, a low businesslike hum … it might have got a featured role in Star Wars, it might even have made a pass at R2D2. It was a Character. But it was not a functioning laptop. I’d power it up, go into a meeting, come back and clear my mail, have a cup of coffee, finish a few phone calls – then check to see whether it had got around to asking for the password. It was the Ultimate Babu – solid, slow, dim-witted, contrary, unable to adapt (no DVD drive, ONE USB port?) and No Bloody Use.

There was a story behind that machine. Apparently my predecessor in that office had Attended an International Seminar. (Held in Calcutta, alas – International Seminars are so much more effective when they’re held in Rio or Majorca, but what to do, what to do.) And at that Seminar he saw one of his ilk, a fellow Babu from Bengal, yea, even a Bald Babu from Bengal, Making a Presentation off a Laptop. Which Presentation was Well Received and Mightily Applauded. The Predecessor, bless his naïve soul, thought it was genuine appreciation, little realizing that after lunch at a seminar all applause has One Great Cause, to wit, the need to Prove that We have been Listening and no NO we were NOT asleep. The Predecessor also Made the Next Presentation. Where he used transparencies. And Felt Inadequate. Wherefore the Word went Forth, Fetch me a Laptop, yea, even the Finest in the Land! And the query came, what are the specs? Then was there much bewilderment in the land (or at least in the company) and a plaintive question was heard, what specs? For specs there were none. Whereupon the Chaps at the Authorised Gorment Supplier exulted. And Fell About Laughing. And fought among themselves to Unload their Dud Stock.

Thus it came to pass that I was saddled with that Thing.

Out of evil cometh good, for the sheer awfulness of it goaded me to look for a new laptop. Which was how I came to find Penelope. Ah, Penelope, love of my life etc. (J. Humbert Prufrock?) Light, good-looking, easy to use and above all good to me, she was a Toshiba M300 Portege. We were together for two years until I switched to my present assignment. When I handed her over I saved her soul on three separate hard drives, but woe is me, I can never have her body again. (This is about as carnal as a middle-aged bureaucrat can get.)

My next was a Sony Vaio. Very posh, all mod con except maybe hot and cold running water and a back scratcher, but it Lacked Soul. I always had a sneaky feeling that it secretly sneered at me because I never played Halo or set up a video conference on it. Face it, a Vaio’s great for graphics and multi-media, it has major snob value, but it makes little sense for a dinosaur like me. When it was stolen last October, my sense of loss was tinged with a faint relief.

So now I’ve raided the office store and dusted off this Thinkpad. It’s bigger and heavier than the Tank (with a screen I could hire out to INOX) and only marginally faster than The Thing, but I’m grateful that I have SOMEthing to keep me company over the morning coffee until I can get a replacement.

Which brings me to what B.W. Wooster might, with his usual twittering brevity, term the res, the nub, the gist, the crux of the matter. What should I buy? The Toshiba M500 Portege would be the obvious choice, but it’s way too expensive. Poor value for money. Sony is out for much the same reason. HP have a couple that come close to my specs, but they’re heavy. The IBM X series are in there, but they don’t customize. Dell have put together an offer, but they’re trying to push a Latitude 430 – it’s light and small, but it has a 1.2 Ghz processor, no built-in optical drive and reviews say it super-heats to about 60 Celsius. I’m too old for Half-burnt Hams, thank you very much.

So where do we go from here? I use the laptop for (loads of) documents, the occasional presentation, photo-dumping, the Net and once in a long while, an in-flight movie. Which means I need a stable system (enough RAM), a fast but not super-fast processor, all the slots and ports possible, mid-range graphics and decent sound in a LIGHT package. Since I have a ginormous flash drive for data back-up, the optical drive can be external (translation – it can go in my checked baggage and not cripple my shoulder). Budget is not really a constraint, but it wouldn’t hurt if it came cheap.

Suggestions, wise people?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Coming soon ...

So the month is over and I should soon be back to a regulated lifestyle better befitting my geriatric status. The interlude ended appropriately. After seeing off Only Girlfriend, Brother-in-Arms and the Terrible (but Infinitely Adorable) Two at 4 a.m., I went back home for a short snooze before my flight to Delhi. Only to sleep through the alarm and be awakened by a call from Jet Airways asking where I was. My watch said 6:30. Take-off time. I’d missed the flight.

They put me on the next flight. At no extra cost. Hear ye, hear ye – be it known by these presentments and avouchments that I totally heart Jet Airways.

On a (slightly) more cerebral tack, one conversation sticks in my memory. Said conversation was under the watchful and rather wary gaze of Dipankar and Prashant, a pair of ace baristas­ who ply their skills in the Café Coffee Day in the Infinity Building out in Sector V. (I can recommend the Grande, especially with three shots of cream.) Since I’ve started recording my gratitude, let me also mention that they were very polite the first couple of times we dropped by, gathered our coffees and walked outside without paying. Of course, we were only stepping out for a smoke, but it is testimony to their savoir faire that they did not emit outraged squawks. After all, it was close to 2 a.m. Within a couple of nights we were regulars and they had us down pat, right down to the re-heat and extra servings of whipped cream.

So, the conversation. Marijuana is outlawed in the USA. For no good reason except that the pharma majors are scared witless of the hit on their market share if it could be bought over the counter. Makes sense. I have to read up on that. From there, a discussion of human motivation and government. How stupid is it to outlaw prostitution? Wouldn’t it be much better to legalise and regulate it? Wouldn’t it make a dent in violent crime, in the spread of HIV? Have to read up on that too. By extension, a lot of stuff that's outlawed in the name of morality would actually be pretty innocuous and healthy if it were legal and regulated. Covers practically every possible situation between consenting adults, though there are grey areas where such activities cause physical harm to either or both parties.

Meantime, what do YOU think?