Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall


Summer hues of fiery orange disappear in a breath-
Leaving a steadily creeping chill in the air, in its stead.
Fields overflowing with the golden harvest-
Transform into the farmer's gratified smile..
Across the picturesque landscape-
An array of oaks and maples greet you on every side.
The falling dry leaves, carpeting the ground,
Penetrate the veil of quietude.. 
Making the only perceptible sound.
As benign winds whisper of seasons gone by..
I realize...that fall has arrived, on the sly.



Sig 2

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Festivals and I - A love-hate relationship

I call myself a recluse. ( It's my prized excuse for not letting anyone call me unsocial) I rarely see any point in attending rowdy parties, getting drunk with a group of friends to celebrate the end of an agonizing period of poring over textbooks (exams in other words). My idea of 'fun' is so entirely different from an average tween's...that sometimes I fear I might be a deviant. Besides overcrowded places make me nauseous. I prefer my peace and quiet.
That's why I'd rather be at home neatly wrapped up in a blanket on a cold rainy day relishing my cup of steaming hot chai (I'm a tea person yeah) and reading my favourite author's latest. That's my idea of heaven.

So you must not be surprised when I say I sincerely despise the period of festivals in my city. Be it Holi or Diwali or Eid or Durga puja I'm always dreading the season of crowded streets, malls, cafes, food joints, deadly traffic snarls and menace of auto-drivers hiking fares dutifully taking advantage of the festival frenzy.

But then.....why does my heart skip a beat every time I pass by a street hawker's stall and see a young girl buying her umpteenth new puja outfit with the hint of a gratified smile on her lips? why is there an explosion of excitement mingled with happiness somewhere in the pit of my stomach when I see my neighborhood being lit up with hundreds of tiny electric bulbs of every color a few days before diwali?


When I see a little boy putting an end to his Ramadan fast on CNN by peeking into the kitchen his mom is cooking up a delicacy in...why is it that I unwittingly end up smiling myself? Despite hating the tradition of smearing oneself and others with colors (which create irremovable stains on every part of your anatomy and your precious clothes to boot).....why is it that it feels so nice when I see a group of merry-makers on Holi with virtually unrecognizable features? Why do I get an intense urge to buy a Christmas tree every year and spend an entire day decorating it painstakingly as soon as December approaches?

I think it's because I'm human. It's because every religion has its own unique way of viewing the Almighty and despite the fact I do not believe in ritualism or superstitious customs...I am tempted to believe in the message of joy and cheer that each festival helps spread.

We're living in a world infested with the fears of war, hunger, poverty, religious fanaticism, governmental repression, terrorism, global warming and uncountable other evils. To phrase it differently...we're steadily running out of reasons to stay happy and keep that smile intact.
Maybe that's why we're reluctant to let go of any opportunity to celebrate. All of us look forward to these festivities in the same manner in which a newly employed person awaits their first paycheck.
Getting together with people you didn't get to see for a long time owing to that hyper hectic schedule, spending quality time with loved ones and family, shopping for clothes, shoes, accessories, cooking up scrumptious meals and sharing them with others...no matter what festival it might be these are undeniably the common traits.
A festival is a way of celebrating life, our treasured beliefs and the wonderful feeling of co-existing in harmony inspite of the innumerable differences. Fun isn't it?

So in the end I say..do not be misguided by 'my' idea of fun. Go out there and join in the celebrations. Cherish these moments of your life which might never come back again. If not anything else the memories of all the good times spent with friends and family will stay with you for a life time to be recollected in moments of solitude some day in the future.

Sig 2

Monday, October 04, 2010

Yuuki and Me


The final year of my school life saw an unprecedented rise in the number of cell-phones and other gadgets that were sneaked inside the classroom with careful prior planning (yes they were banned). It was a matter of great pride for the adolescent owners who had so far been denied this guilty pleasure by respective parents. Although most cell-phones would be switched off during lessons there were a few who were bold enough to keep texting the person sharing the same desk as the English teacher droned on about the Lady of Shallot.

Now don't get me wrong. The geek and the poetry-lover that I was, I used to listen to the teacher's intricate explanation with rapt attention. But even so at times I'd experience a pang of jealousy every time the sleek, good-looking rectangular device (usually a phone, i-pod, music-player or a digital camera) was passed around by the owner to be admired by the rest.

So after a few weeks of prolonged persistence (read constant whining) my parents handed me with a small cardboard box neatly wrapped in a bubblegum pink paper that encased my birthday present. My first phone with an inbuilt radio and 1.5 megapixel camera, music player and other features that were considered 'wow' back in those days....suddenly became the center of my universe and I was inducted into the elite group of cell-phone owners in my class without ado.
All was forgotten in the course of the next one month....homework, sleep-overs at a friend's place, my favorite tv shows and even....Yuuki.

He would faithfully lie at my feet, raise his humongous furry head to look at me with pleading eyes at times and express a disgruntled 'woof' in a last-ditch attempt to get me to atleast scratch his ears. But I was too blissfully lost in a world of messaging, forwarding silly jokes and pointless phone conversations.
In fear that his mistress would never pay him attention again....he grew more irritable and made off with my textbook in his mouth as I sat on my bed doing homework one day. Just to get me to chase him of course. Needless to say I was irked beyond imagination...but somehow the sight of a discontented Golden Retriever holding a textbook between his strong canine jaws managed to tickle my funny bone. I had no time to rush over to mom and dad's room to get our old Kodak.
Instinctively I reached for my phone, opened the lens cover and clicked.

That was probably my first piece of genuine phone photography. And yet the picture came out surprisingly well. Maybe because the emotions captured were hundred percent real.
Yuuki earned a much-deserved pat on the head after a long time and I was happy to have put the phone camera to good use.



Gradually I started taking phone photography seriously...as a sort of pastime-right from the crow's nest in the Gulmohar tree, a couple of street kids getting themselves drenched in the first shower of the season to Yuuki's numerous antics...anything that caught my attention would be captured with my phone camera.

Like a love-struck attention-seeking boyfriend, whenever I'd get busy with studies or the phone Yuuki would lie down on the floor and whine softly or roll over on his back. I'd respond with a 'uh huh...new pose'. Getting the hint he would grab my hair-band from the dresser or start showing off with my old basket ball. I'd let out a loud laugh, aim the phone in his direction and click away without a care or hesitation.

Years have gone by and today that 17-year old girl is a busy career woman of 27. Yuuki is no more. But that CD titled 'My dearest friend', a compilation of his myriad moods (pictures and videos shot using the phone camera), is my most cherished material possession till date. Whenever I play that CD on my laptop..it feels like he is right beside me..so close that I can reach out and stroke his soft fur once again.

When he died I cried so hysterically for days that both my parents insisted on getting me another Yuuki. But by that time I had realized that Yuuki was never really a pet to me. He was more like a devoted friend, a constant companion, one who had risked his life to protect me from a minor traffic accident once. And a friend like him can never be replaced like a lifeless gadget can be.

Even though I hardly get any time now-a-days, my affair with phone-photography continues. In fact the number of pictures I snap on a weekly basis have gone up ever since I got myself a smart phone . I never miss a chance to click away whenever I'm on the move. Yuuki taught me the importance of preserving those fleeting moments that left a deep impression on you for some reason or the other. After all a picture really is worth a thousand words...and probably much more.

P.S : The above is a piece of fiction conceived from imagination written in view for the 'Share Life' contest under the category of Phone-Photography. Please do vote for this entry if you like it. Thanks to Indiblogger and Tata DOCOMO for this opportunity.
Side note : 'Yuuki' is a Japanese word meaning 'courage'. Not to be confused with 'Yuki' that means snow.

Sig 2

Saturday, October 02, 2010

New Twitter : A fail story

I never had any intention of turning this page into a tech blog but even so I'm tempted to talk about the new version of twitter(or more appropriately known as the new twitter) as I'm an active user of this social networking site facilitating open information sharing like no other. I have been lucky enough to gain access to new twitter even before I could whine about not having received it yet. But alas once you get to use new twitter you'll find yourself coming face to face with one disappointment after another. And all your high hopes for the makers to have launched an interface that will render the use of other twitter clients unnecessary will be crushed.

So here's the lowdown on new twitter : good, bad or worse?

Before I begin let me show you how you'll know if you've got the new twitter or not once you log into your account-



See the region bounded with brown? You need to click on the 'try it now' button in yellow which will take you to the new twitter interface which will look somewhat like this-




What makes the new twitter worth it?

Twitter's collaboration with sites such as flickr, youtube, twitvid, twitpic, yfrog, DeviantArt and so on makes it easy for one to view embedded images and videos right from your home page. That's right you don't need to click on a link to transport you to that site to view a video or a picture, you can conveniently view it on your sidebar. The main timeline, mentions, retweets, searches and lists columns are placed on the left hand side of your page making it easier to keep track of all.
A major drawback of the new twitter which showed a limited number of tweets on the home page itself is redeemed in this new version. Now you can view older tweets simply by scrolling down without having to click on the 'more' tab.

What makes the new twitter a big flop?

1.)Despite the fact that the new interface gives you an impression of a twitter client like tweetdeck the new twitter does not enable auto-shortening of links. Major fail story this one. So you need to use a client or browser add-ons like echofon or twitbin every time you have to include a long url in your tweet.

 2.)The old twitter made it possible for everyone to know what medium you were using to tweet..like for example below every tweet you would've found a 'via web' or 'via echofon'. But new twitter doesn't show anything of the sort on the main timeline column itself. To know any further details about a tweet you must...


....click on the arrow button at the right as shown in the screenshot above(see where the arrow in blue is pointing towards) to view further details of the tweet. For example who retweeted your tweet, who replied to your tweet, his/her profile and latest tweets...all such details(or sometimes redundancies) are shown in the sidebar....but you of course need to click on the arrow button first which can be a pain at times-



3.)Another feature of new twitter which annoys me to no extent is the way the right hand side of the home page or sidebar looks like -


The 'favorites' and 'listed' columns are so close to each other they're virtually competing for space. Notice how the last favorited tweet is enormously difficult to read owing to the closeness of the two columns. Major turn off!

4.)You cannot reply to more than one person in a single tweet via new twitter. Yes you must painstakingly reply to each one individually. Only thing you can do to tag multiple people in the same tweet is to type their nicknames/handles manually..although there's the auto-complete mechanism which guesses the name of the user you're trying to tag.

5.)The new twitter does not show the very important and immensely helpful 'Also followed by' and 'You both follow' features when you visit another user's profile. So every time you want to find out who are your mutual followers you will need to switch back to the old version. How irritating is that!

It goes without saying that I've switched back to the old version already and use a client such as tweetdeck whenever I am reluctant to use a browser. I could possibly find out more pros and cons but for the moment, this is pretty much the gist of the new version.

So if you're still sulking like an 8-year old over not being allowed to use the new twitter as of yet, let me tell you it's totally not worth it. Atleast in my opinion.

Feel free to share your views on this.

Sig 2
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