Sunday, December 20, 2009

For the want of a fitting title...

It’s been a long time since I entered the Den of Drums and Dreams, but for occasional peeks to ensure that my blog counter kept ticking. But then, it seemed like it’s mine own visits which dragged forth the counter. It looks like the algorithm for the blog counter read something like asunder:

If(IP of machine is different from the IP captured on the blog)
Increase blog counter by one
If(IP is the same)
Dekh le yaar. Lag raha hai banda thoda feel ho raha hai. Kabhi kabhi increment kar de...

Algorithms apart, readership is not a variable I keep a tag on, for the fact remains that it is tough to read blogs. More so for my blog, for the extra parables placed per post!

As for the topic of this post, it’s the art of flirting. And no, it’s not that the author has turned candid enough to discuss ways and means of flooring gals, for he thinks that such a phase in life is either way ahead of him, or way behind. Neither paradigm suggests any better an alternative.

People often accuse me of the lack of “an ability to express myself”. Synonyms of this accusation would mean not being able to keep up the conversation with a girl, or not being able to exchange pleasantries with a girl for more than half an hour. (Thirty minutes, my!) Further blemishes include not being able to “show off” (‘Showing Off for Dummies’ is yet to hit the stands. I promise to buy a copy as soon as it does.) These allegations get hurled at me left, right and centre, day in and day out. Further, I always owed an explanation to those who advised me round the clock, on this topic. That’s exactly what this post does. It delves into details of selected, nay, hand-picked instances when I tried “expressing” or “communicating” to girls, and their reactions to the same. The latter would explain why I even stopped making attempts, thereafter.

Disclaimer: The dumb reactions given below are those of certain girls that I felt like “communicating to”. This is never an attack on the gender as a whole. I agree that guys could be equally dumb, if not more equally. Oh yes, go ahead and include me too...

Scenario I:
First-girl-to-whom-I-felt-like-communicating: “So, what are your hobbies?”
Me: “I am the drummer of our band, at college.”
Girl-to-her-dad: “Dad, you knew this? He plays the band!! I love it when people play the band for Ganpati and for weddings, in Mumbai!”
My instant reaction (non-verbally communicated), amidst a couple (and more) of clenched fists – Lady, I play the drums, and not ‘the band’! Second, it’s not what they do at Ganpati and/or weddings. It’s what they do as part of a ‘rock band’.
I corrected her, describing that my drum-kit ain’t the portable type, and about its being a five-piece kit assembled around the drummer. I went on a step further, wandering into the stretched limits of futility, to describe the amount of left-right brain co-ordination required to bring together all four limbs. The wannabe Avril that she was, she beamed: “Oh, so you play the jazz?!” There she went again, till I told her about jazz being a genre of music, and not the name of a percussion instrument.
Girl-trying-to-move-closer-to-being-Avril: “Oh! What songs do you drum for?! Boyzone?!”
Yeah, right. If there was an Oscar for “the best musical ear”, this would have been reason enough for my contacting them to stop giving the award annually. Such people are beyond awards, believe me. Imagine my drumming to Boyzone’s “Words”! Ain’t it too awesome?! And if this does not suffice, I drum for Altaf Raja too, damn it!

Scenario II:
Second-girl-to-be-communicated-to called me up. She wanted a couple of songs for which she supposedly searched the entire Internet, and even “Google Search” did not return any results (PageRanking presumes common-sense, yes). I had asked her for her search keywords, typed it on to Google, and it’s the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button that gave me the required songs!! But the songs were in the Real Media format, and it used to be part of e-mail etiquette, to send an indirect apology, if a song was sent in Real format. I sent her this message:
“Hey. Sent you the song. It’s in Real format. I couldn’t get hold of any other.”
Quarter of a minute past, my mobile buzzed. Her reply read, “I am not particular about the song being real. I could give it a try even it were the duplicate version.”
I wondered about how she, and possibly the Flintstones, survived their era, if at all they did.

Scenario III
My granddad, being an astrologer, believes in selecting auspicious dates for routine tasks like leaving hometown for studies, etc. He had told me that the 19th of June would be a good date for me to leave hometown for the city I would do my MBA in. I messaged the girl in Scenario II, that 19th was the date suggested by granddad. Her reply, quarter of a minute later, read:
“Oh! Did he predict it??”
Yes, he did. Now the astrologer, by definition, is a travel agent plus a magician. An astrologer, who tells you that you will leave home by the 19th, while simultaneously using Godsend-ERP systems to block tickets for you on the same date. IRCTC would have done better then, to recruit astrologers!!

Quick conclusion – (case-study like!)
As Subramonia Sarma sat staring into his laptop, he could not but help noting that the clock on the taskbar read 2am. He had a couple of exams in line, a day later. Will he be able to finish the portions? Will he even collect the course material? The library had only limited copies of course material, and this was an added impediment. On the other hand, would he meet girls to write a “Scenario IV”? If so, when? If not, why? He sighed, before closing his laptop, post publishing his latest blog.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Forwards and (the) future!

“Here’s wishing you, your family, your neighbour, his family and the stranger across the street a Very Happy and Prosperous Diwali. May this new year bring the best of blessings from the Almighty.” - 195 characters

“Hr’s wshng u, ur fly, ur nghbr, hs fly n d strngr acrs d strt a Vry Hpy n Prsprs Dwli. My dis nw yr brng d bst of blssngs frm d Almghty” - 135 characters

I get the first of the above two messages. Then I get the second, from another source, two minutes later. The first message had 195 characters, whereas the second, devoid of vowels, added up to 135 characters. The analysis follows:

1) The world now survives on gadgets. It’s upto binary 0s and 1s to work through electronic circuits and remind someone about his / her duty to wish his near-and-dear-ones on their birthday or on auspicious occasions.

2) The number of characters was counted for a purpose. Anything above 160 characters becomes a second message, which increases the cost of sending the message. A wholehearted wish ain’t all that wholehearted, on further analysis. The vowels are mercilessly chopped to cut costs. And to then send an encrypted message that would have had John Conway rethink his Game of Life.

3) The ‘stranger across the street’ was not added to make the nonsensical message look more pathetic. It is to state the fact that people don’t bother to edit out irrelevant portions of the message when re-forwarding it. Which is why you get messages with the prefix “to all employees of Bharat Fertilisers”, even if you don’t have the slightest notion of what a plant looks like, or for that matter, how you spell the word LEAF!

4) People may note that even the Almighty wasn’t spared in the encrypted message!

All in all, we have a gadget which sends trimmed messages to a whole bunch of other gadgets, through radiations transmitted from one end and received at the other. And if you blame me of taking the emotions away from such a transaction, I will have to assert that there wasn’t any.

This provides further insights on two types of mobile users, and in fact, two kinds of people at large. The first consists of those who ‘wish to wish’ and bother not about the monetary spend involved. The second consists of those who ‘wish not to wish’, but compulsion and reasons-known-only-to-them force them to forward a digital representation. The latter category deserves a word of thanks, for it is they who stimulate our creative juices. They cause us to think. We put pen to paper, write down their message the encoded way, and call other friends to decrypt it. When someone wishes “your fly” a Happy Diwali, you do need a bit of analysis to set things right. And a word like wshng needs to be stared at for minutes together, pre-Eureka-moment. You could very well have five such friends / relatives texting you daily for a month, and get your IQ boosted to the level of joining the MNSA H-IQ SCTY (sorry, The Mensa High-IQ Society, I mean!).

An SMS may stand for a Short Messaging Service, but people make it so short that a few days hence, the Almighty may end up saying something to the effect of “Lt thr b lght!” And lght thr wl b!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


It started in 2004, and ended in 2009. In 2004, she sent a message per week. The time horizon reduced as the messages increased in number. Unaware as I was about this, she used to message others too. She then called. The calls were about things unconnected to me or what I did, and I used to hang up within a minute. I did not realize then, that she called others too. But, the calls never meant anything to me, any time.
Then I started getting the calls every day, not to mention the messages that kept coming at regular intervals (at the rate of one in every few hours). Some messages were informative, but the calls were never so. They were boring. I started hanging up within seconds.
I never replied to her messages, unless it was absolutely necessary. I never felt like it. But I used to read them, till late 2008. Post 2008, I started deleting them as and when I saw them. As for the calls, I stopped picking them up. This was when I realized that her being in touch with me bugged me.
There was no further thinking required. I had to stop being in touch. This I did, and did it real quick. All it took was typing in ‘DND’, and sending it to 121...
Such is the sustained trouble that recorded calls from mobile service providers offer us customers! :P

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Someone's been drowning...

“Man hopes for a lot of good, aims at the better, and dreams for the best.
Albeit, what he insists on is space – personal space, free and untrampled upon.”

Has this blogger become serious all of a sudden? Has the ‘humour element’ readers have been talking about, vanished? Is he looking for variety in writing, yearning for higher laurels? Or is he just whiling away time? No, definitely not, are you kidding me, and a partial ‘yes’ would be the answers, respectively. Which proves, at least in part, that the author has not chosen to send humour to the grave.

Now, if the above “couplet of wisdom” still looks frightening, it shalt aptly be modified thus:

“Man hopes for a lot of good, aims at the better, and dreams for the best.
Albeit, what he insists on is space – personal space, free and untrampled upon.
The swine may re-read this, and assimilate the facts (instead of the virus)”

If you talk about copyright issues, the first quote was mine and the second, more so! My cousin brother, elder to me by three long years, still expresses his dissatisfaction at having accepted, without a round of rhetoric renaissance, “fairy tales” with loose plots. There were instances when he wanted the story to go on and on, when his mom uttered the ultimatum that went “...happily ever after”. Thoughts oriented so, he blames the wolf for having spread swine flu, for its having failed to eat up the three little pugs (oops, pigs I mean. Apologies to Vodafone – This is between “You and I”!!!)

He went on to reflect on much more, linking ‘fairy tales’ with Darwin’s theories of evolution, in statements like “Had the witch in the ginger bread house eaten Hansel and Gretel, we would have had lesser kids.” I had to stop him there. That was a word of admiration for someone who is buried neck-deep in SAP, but still has the time to wring Aesop’s neck and scream at him for not getting his work reviewed prior to getting it published!

But my concerns lie elsewhere.

My worry is about the fact that someone would soon disappear. Disappear from sight. He/she would still be alive and audible, nevertheless - which is why I am voicing my concern only on my blog. Else, I would have done a clothed-Archimedes version - the “HELP!!!!!!!!” equivalent of a “EUREKA”.

The character that would soon disappear is the news-reader. I call them the
news-(d)readers, for all they bring in are “facts of dread, from around the world”. The job of an average newsreader has been to rattle off news starting right at the Centre, moving on to the states, followed by the States (repetition intended - note the 'S' in uppercase!), through the rest of the globe to a bit of markets, commodities and business, sports, a weather report that almost always predicts the diametrical opposite of what’s to happen and a final monotonous recap which makes it sound like the newsreaders themselves are sick, tired and in dire need of a better tomorrow! The radio, due to lack of a visual medium, makes it sound even more sinister.

As the concept of news evolved, (degenerated, if you ask me), all TV channels chose to be on their toes. The only way to retain comprehensiveness in news is to remain up-to-date, and keep repeating the headlines once in as-close-to-a-millisecond. Now the only way to do this is to maintain a scroll-bar at the bottom of the screen. Great idea, yes. Next, somebody wanted to display the date and time on the right-hand bottom of the screen. This had to be placed above the scroll-bar, for time and date may not interrupt the flow of news.

Further, no coverage was comprehensive, unless the markets were tracked. That was another row added. Sensationalism added yet another level to this wall, for any bit of news, irrespective of how irritating it turned out to be, had to be flashed as “Flash News”, “Breaking News” or an “exclusive sting operation". And since this ought to be much more visible than the other scroll-bars, an extra row with the title appeared above it, calling for the viewer’s attention.

Then came the task of sharing screen-space with the reporters onsite. But the scrollbars had to stay, and the screen space had to further convey the geographical location of the 'place of concern'. This meant that on top of all space shared, a bit of ‘virtual estate’ had to be set aside for the outline of a map too! The reader was now sidelined to a corner, and occupied the space statistically equivalent to one-eighth of the screen!

Perspectives from a couple of persons were barely enough, and panel discussions were the solution. CEOs from all four metros remotely attended conferences. Now, the channels decided that they would take the reader off screen! Her voice remained.

Alas, readers. The newsreader has been drowning in the very news she has been reading out. Comprehensiveness and timeliness, as virtues, have been laying rows of bricks to cement out the reader. She has been losing out on her space nowadays – shrunk, thrown around the screen like a pinball, taken off the screen, squeezed between numbers, angry ministers, mountains, maps, markets, clouds(!), SWINES, etc, etc. But she manages to peep out, to keep afloat – either through an insert, or merely through her voice. She makes her presence felt, and the news stands conveyed. The article is, then, an appeal to all television channels that broadcast news (and other information that they claim to be news - like the minister's dog that went missing. This was one news item. Then he got it back. This became the sequel).


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Finally, an own composition...

Twenty four years was what it took to come up with a track lasting 100 seconds! Several initial attempts found the drain, till this one came through. The details of the recording done are as given below.

Keyboard used: Yamaha - PSR-450e
Method of recording - Line-in
Duration - 96 seconds

Criticisms, specially technical ones, are always welcome.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What’s (not) in a name!

I was 6 years old then. The first standard it was, and I was ahead of the class for I knew “counting numbers” till 100, and I could write this essay titled “Myself” almost flawlessly. This is not to claim that my writing skills were as sharp then, as they are at present. For, never have I felt that I have done justice to the English language while penning down my thoughts. Rather, this is to reinforce the fact that I learnt the essay by rote. I could quote the entire essay from memory at any time of the day. My relatives wanted to hear it every time they visited my house, for it was the custom then, to make children perform “academic item numbers”. In return, I would get a lot of praise, whose artificiality I could make out even when I was a performer (of) ‘myself’!!

But, come the exams, most of the class got a 10/10. I got an 8. For the extent of hype society had built on 'marks’ as indicators of academic excellence, and of their role in a person’s “living happily ever after”, I thought my reward for having screwed up this exam would be being thrown back in time and into the Stone Age!

An evaluation done at home, of my first ever written exam, revealed two serious glitches:
1) I had this hobby of getting stuck at the dots. By this, I mean the dots of the letters “i” and “j”. I spent a minute, in decorating every dot, till it either emerged bigger than the letter itself, or the paper underneath gave in, whichever was earlier! For all the big dots made on paper, my answer sheet more resembled a road map of important cities, all denoted by big dots of graphite! On a macro level, all dots together cost me a mark out of 10.
2) I misspelt my name! Now this went against the established paradigm of “being yourself”! I had spelt my name “Subramania Sharma”, but the mark-list showed otherwise. It read “Subramonia Sarma”. I learnt up the latter spelling later, and thought it was the end of all trouble, but how wrong I was!!!

From “counting numbers”, through a “Science group” in the 11th and 12th, a B Tech in Production Engineering and an ongoing MBA in Marketing, a lot of things have changed. A ‘myself’ now would come to pages, and would be more indecisive than deciding one’s favourite colour and best friend!

But, all through, I have had this habit of being a show-stopper. Roll calls go on smoothly until they reach my name. This is when teachers stop, struggle with the phonetics of my name, and try five variants, before I correct them with the not-so-obvious sixth way of pronouncing it. I end up telling them it is pronounced as “Subramania Sharma”, but written Subramonia Sarma, for that’s my grandpa’s name, and the spelling stuck when my parents named me. I was not in a position to complain then, for little will a one-year old foresee the troubles that a name would bring him, years later in life!

Another instance is when my friend asked me my full name. People normally don’t think so much, for they are already loaded with information on how and why there is an “o” in Subramonia, and why the “h”, so much required in the name ‘Sarma’, is not present. Further, there are others who take the spelling for granted and end up calling me Subramonia, where the m-o-n is pronounced as in Pokemon! Further, the first syllable in Sarma gets pronounced as sa- in sarcasm. Back to my friend who badly wanted to know my full name.

I told him that my name has four parts, one of which is my name, the other my dad’s, a third which is the name of my ancestral home and finally, a family title. Our pal, being spontaneity personified, remarked, “Man! Ain’t this good! You mean to say that, in ancient days, all it took to reach the house of a Tam Brahm was to know his full name! You seem to carry the entire address in your name! Try and put in information like your blood group, academics, etc. Your name can then stand for a mini CV!” Very funny, I told him. But yes, he did have a point somewhere. Tangentially, though!

My chemistry teacher had his share of fun with my name. I won a ‘solo instrumental’ contest when I was in my 7th. The certificates were written by one of our Chemistry teachers. A word of praise for the latter. He was one who conducted the entire youth festival single-handedly. Every event finished dot on time, and no prize distribution ceremony had logistical issues. A person with such impeccable record faltered only once. And that was when he wrote my name on the certificate. He ended up inserting the name of a chemical in my name, with the result that it finally read:

Subr’AMMONIUM’ Sarma

Second last, the ‘o’ in Subramonia makes people think I am a Bengali. It takes a while before I tutor them with phonetics, and bring them from Bengal to Kerala!

Last, there were people who gave up altogether. This was when I was attending the GD/PI session for one of the better b-schools in the country. The process was conducted by seniors who were studying in that institute. There was this female who tried a dozen times to get my name right, but failed. She then struck off my name from the list, and wrote “difficult one”. For the rest of the process, that’s how my name was addressed.

(Un)like (what) they say, what’s (not) in a name?!

Monday, May 18, 2009

‘Local’ized pain, ‘local’ized pleasure

Life is on the rails. A break is when the train stops at a crossing. Observe people rushing into a Mumbai Local train, and one of the following, in isolation or otherwise, is what you may come to think of.

• There is money being distributed for free inside.
• It’s heaven in there, with plush furniture, a couple of air-conditioners whizzing away to freezing point, and rail-hostesses to attend to you.
• A million angels (good-looking ones, of course) are at wait.

Go in, and you realise that ‘rushing in’ was not worth the effort.
• There ain’t any money (and this ain’t due to recession, mind you).
• It’s far from heaven inside. A concept called the rail hostess was never born. The furniture is limited to basic, bare, back-breaking woodwork.
• Did someone say angels?!

While you are busy pondering over why this city (or the train) is the way it is, a fist punched into your groin brings you back to reality. The moral: Guard thy essentials, before thou shalt guard others’.

As time progresses, the sound of the rails grows on you. You shed the act of philantropy for a reason called ‘reaching office on time’, and you learn to casually and (apparently unknowingly) bash up a couple of ruffians for the most coveted place on the train, the footboard. This is when you learn to go beyond the journey. My classmates may pause, read the last sentence, and realise as to why I have underlined a part of it. In case you haven’t been able to place it, just continue to think beyond.

That’s how we have been taught to solve a problem. Think beyond it. Bypass it. (I would have called it ignorance!) Others may forgive the temporary derailment.
Three weeks into daily to and fro journey in this ‘wonder machine’, this traveller has gathered enough anecdotes to narrate. What follows is humour that was once pain. Humour that was observed amidst the blows dealt, punches received, and tramples borne under clenched teeth.

1) There was this kid with a suitcase, and there was his dad with a bigger suitcase. The train halted at Dadar. For non-Mumbaiites, Dadar is one station that is crowded when normal and best-not-described otherwise. As soon as the train halted, ‘the dad’ gets out, leaving the kid to himself. The fact to be noted here is that busy Mumbai even causes ‘the dad’ to forget his kid, momentarily, though. Shouts of ‘papa’ then reminded him that he had a son. Try as he might, he could not even see his son amidst the crowd and din, forget going in and pulling him out. Now, passengers travelling by the Mumbai local trains have this one appreciable quality. Innovation - on the feet, on the go, and the willingness to help one another. Other states in the country ought to learn from them. The kid’s bag was lifted (above all passengers’ heads) and changed hands till it reached the dad. Next, the kid was lifted in the same manner. He was passed on till he emerged from the top, while the dad was busy looking through the door! I got reminded of those thrash metal concerts where the vocalist hurled himself on to the crowd, and was passed around like a plaything before the exhausted audience decided to put the thing back on stage!

2) I alighted at Kurla, waiting to board another train to either Wadala or Dadar. After a long wait (an unusual one), the train arrived. Crowded beyond imagination, yes, but there was this relatively empty coach. Proud of my observation skills, I rushed in, when somebody tugged hard at my collar. As was routine in Mumbai, I landed a folded elbow on his tummy. This time, though, the consequence was a bit different. The guy wouldn’t let go of my collar! He then dragged me out. I missed the train, and was about to land another elbow, when I understood he was a railway inspector. I produced my tickets even before he asked for them. He never bothered to even bat an eyelid, let alone check my tickets. Instead, he asked me to show the ‘evidence of injury’. The coach was for the handicapped! My observation skills need a slight tweak, but then I have another year of MBA to go, to bridge the deficit.

I then convinced the inspector that it was purely by accident that I got into he-knew-where, and that I was bad at acting hurt or injured. I then told him about my doing an MBA, and of how I could not even imagine faking a handicap/injury. He then let go of my collar for no fee at all, only because I was doing an MBA. The degree finally got its due, though from a railway inspector.

3) This one is different. More than an anecdote, this is praise. Unlimited praise for a city that lives life on the rails. And quite literally too. People postpone their morning prayers to when they travel by train. The snooze that people lose when waking early in the morning gets compensated for during the journey. Stocks get evaluated. Bhajans are sung. A group of officers find the time apt to take a dig at its boss’ ancestors. Some just stand and stare. Others are on the lookout to offer help. The ‘entertainment gang’ plays a round of cards amidst the entire din. Lovers stare into each others’ eyes. Silent either to not add to the noise, or to reserve the talk and quarrel to post-wedding (if at all they decide to ‘convert the call’).

As for me, I realise:
a. I am done with my morning prayers, but my snooze has been pending for over a week.
b. As an intern, I could possibly afford to not bad-mouth my superiors.
c. The stocks were never mine.
d. There is no one to offer help to.
e. The last time I played cards was when they released a pack of 100 on wrestlers of the WWF!
f. I am single, single yet. There aren’t eyes to stare into. No girl, to speak or not to speak. And I apologise for borrowing from the ‘Bard Dude’ (that’s how he would be known, were he graduating from one of South Mumbai’s colleges).

4) The multitasking I referred to above, though appealing in principle, did turn out to be annoying during execution. I tried reading a copy of the Business Standard, while listening to Metallica. And, I had this chunk of luggage called a Dell Laptop. Portability apart, this is one irritating piece of baggage that can turn your already constrained train journey into a perpetual tug-o-war. Once it so happened that I entered the train, but my laptop didn’t. I had no option but to drag the entire system in, i.e. the bag with the laptop and two people (somehow) glued to either side of it. They took a dig at my ancestors, but that’s something I was prepared for as a trainee interning in sales!

Detour done, it’s back to the newspaper and the MP3 player. Reading a newspaper in a second class coach is a physical impossibility. Laptop on one hand and newspaper on the other made me look like Michael Jackson when he did one of his head-torso-and-rest-of-the-body-along-three-different-dimensions steps!

Meanwhile, Metallica seemed to have understood the state of affairs of my journey. The playlist had so perfect a correlation with what was happening...
1) Just as I got into the train, my MP3 Player said ENTER SANDMAN.
2) When a couple of people pushed me to a side, the song was SAD BUT TRUE.
3) Five minutes later, when I got a seat, my player told me, “NOTHING ELSE MATTERS”.

Too many anecdotes spoil the blog, and hence I believe a sequel could narrate the rest.