Tab Troubles

In August 2014, I had to travel.  I dutifully packed my bags and carried my laptop with the wires in my cabin baggage.  While transiting through airports, I realized the weight of the laptop.  I was beginning to tilt on one side.  Battery drained faster than it could be re-charged, and the heat sizzled my lap.  Disadvantages outweighed advantages.  My smart phone did the same thing as my laptop, but on a cut down version.   I admire the ingenuity of the electronic companies.  They had conned me into buying a device which was touted as a travel companion, but in reality was not.  I should have got a desk top instead, which would have stayed at home.

Now the question. How to get another device which is truly a mobile computing device, which sits in between a smart phone and a desktop?  The answer was a tab.  So I got myself a Tab, 3g + wifi.  It is a great performer, low on power consumption, easy to carry,  not heavy, especially if it is in a duffel  or a back packing bag.  So far so good. But it had a terrible downside to it.  Someone got the number of the Tab sim and decided to call.  I was surprised to hear the Tab ring, and I felt ridiculous keeping a book sized device to my ear.  Apart from being unwieldy I had to use both my hands, lest it fall and break.  How do I stop the tab from ringing?  The answer lay in removing the sim, which would make it just a wifi device, not 3g, it will be wifi + 3g when I travel.  Easier said than done. The Tab had a micro sim slot and the smart phone had a normal sim slot.  When I carry the Tab and smart phone I had to carry the cut out piece of the sim card carefully.  That small piece of plastic would determine whether my Tab became a 3g or not.  And God help me if I put the sim wrong side in or forced it into a micro SD slot, which sits alongside. It will go to the factory for surgery.  Why don’t they keep both the slots on either side, or on top portion of the tab, instead of the side?  Why can’t the word ‘sim card’ be written more clearly?  Why can’t the tab hold the normal sim instead of micro sim, when the smart phone and Tab had come from the same company, why the difference in sim slots?  Maybe I should write to them and enlighten them on my discovery. But when a message comes, they both beep, where should I look?  First it was confusion, then a eureka moment.  I will look at the smart phone  first, if it needs a detailed look then it would be the tab.  Now I carry both – smartphone within reach and tab slightly out of reach.  What happens to the laptop?  It has become the unofficial desktop.  Destined to sit in one place, and do my bidding.


The Prince Returns

After attending a high intensity training, the Prince was back to take charge of his “Failsafe Company Inc”.  The training sessions were conducted by erstwhile directors of Lehman Sisters.  The subject – ‘Failure a stepping stone to success.”  Lehman and Failsafe had striking similarities.  Both were born roughly at the same time, and both fell into bad times a few years of each other.  Erstwhile Lehman Director made a powerful presentation – “Failure is a perception, a state of mind, there is no such thing as failure,” he went on to explain.  Prince was impressed.  He knew it all along, but nobody had believed him. Now Prince had to put all that he had learned into practice.

He marshalled his men and asked, “what should I speak on”, “jobs” was the unanimous answer.  Prince sat through the night and wrote out his thoughts, which looked like an overdone resume.  Next morning, as he started telling the crowd how to land the lucrative job, people started to leave, “What is the problem” he asked his men, “Sir, We thought mostly men would come, but it is mostly women, and they are not interested in jobs”. Prince complained to his mentor at Lehman Sisters.  “It is not working”, “keep trying, you will succeed, remember hard work is the key to success” was the answer, and “Don’t forget to take a break”.

Prince went to meditate up in the hills.  No phones, no internet, nothing.  Fifteen days later, he was back fresh as a flower.  “Now what shall we do next”, he asked.  Sir, “Global Warming is a hot topic.  Everyone from Barack Obama down is talking about it, and you should say something on this”.  “Fantastic” replied Prince.  “This subject is close to my heart, and I know a lot, and where shall I speak”.  “Sir, down South is a good bet, because it is always hot there”.  Off goes Prince to South and starts talking on global warming, and soon crowds begin to disperse.  “What is the problem now” fumed Prince.  “Sir, we think the venue is wrong, because the people here were agitating on the power situation”, “Then which is the right venue”.  “Sir, actually, both the venue and the subject are right, but the people’s mentality is wrong. They don’t care about global warming, and as long as their mentality doesn’t change, things cannot improve”.

Prince was exasperated.  He called up his mentor at Lehman Sisters and explained the problem.  “You got to create a need for your product, before you market it, you got the logic wrong side up”  his mentor explained.  Where is the product here thought Prince. Prince called his men and asked them to make a plan for the next month, and give it to him the next day.  The plan given to him was brilliant.  Prince will ask the crowd what should be the topic, and he will speak on that.  Next meeting was at a railway station.  “What should I speak on thundered Prince, looking down at the people in front” “We don’t want words, we want action” the crowd replied.  Prince turned to his men, “What does that mean”.  “Sir, they want you to do something for them”.  “Do what”. “Sir, anything that you can do for them”.  Prince looked at the crowd and asked “Do you want roads? gardens? homes?”  People again started to leave.  “Why are they leaving?  Didn’t I say the right thing?” “Sir, actually, there is no space around for making roads, gardens and houses, this is a railway station, and the area around is congested with shops. Prince was at his wits end.  There has to be way out.

He decided to get a refresher course from the best professors in Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, on how to impress people. The refresher course was a great breath of fresh air for Prince, away from the mass of humanity which he had to confront all the time back home.  Here no one bothered him, and no one asked any questions.  It was  all peace and quiet.  At the refresher course Prince understood one thing.  The name of his company and its motto needs to change.  His  professors had one message for him “What is the best thing your company had done”,  they asked.  Prince had a long thought.  “Be honest with your answer his professors had urged” Prince replied “making money”, “there you are” they said, “the name Failsafe does not match with its activities, and change its logo”.  “You should have a board meeting and decide on a new name for your company.”  “This is a tall order” thought prince, “No one is going to agree”.  Prince flew to USA and had a long talk with Lehman Sisters and their message was similar.

Prince flew back home all charged up and ready to go, but his men urged caution.  “Sir, our enemy is talking of scams”.  “What is a scam, I have never heard of such a word before”.  “Sir scam means corruption, and according to them, we are corrupt”.  “Let’s tell the people that we are not corrupt and not to believe lies told about us”. In the next meeting Prince started talking “Friends, don’t believe the lies being spread about us.”  Before he could begin the next sentence, he saw people begin to move away.  Now what is the  problem, he asked his men.  “Sir, the problem is no one believes us”.  “Why is that” asked Prince.  “Sir honestly, we don’t know.  We don’t understand what is happening”.  “You are absolutely right, thundered  Prince at his men, my professors were right all along, I need to change the name of the company, then everything will be alright”.  “Sir, what will be the new name”.  “Failwin”.  “Who wins, we or them?”.  “It does not matter who wins, as long as somebody does” Prince replied.

Crowded political space

There was a time when there were not many options; a car meant either Ambassador or Fiat and so on with other things.  It all changed with reforms, now we are spoilt for  choice.  Political space is beginning to resemble a market place;  men and women of various ideological hues  bordering on idealism and utopia and the din, noise  and shrill voices trying to get their points across, similar to our roads where cattle, bicycle, honking cars and motorbikes vie for space.

Audience appears captivated by the demagogues, religious fanatics, preachers of free market economy,  self-appointed anti-corruption crusaders etc.  It is getting louder as the days pass.  TV serials seem to be out and TV journalists are in with a reach unimaginable two decades ago.  Roads, electricity and water is passe.  Now it is all about four C’s – corruption, crores and crony capitalism.

Corruption appears to have life breathed into it and has taken on a three-dimensional form, it is under the ground, on the ground and in the air.  Media pitches in with its expose’ and adding the word ‘gate’ to every sour looking deal.  At the Watergate,  wires got crossed and the right end went to the wrong ears and the game was up.  Back home  when papers get to the wrong hands the game begins.  Television journalists have created a new form of entertainment,  better than the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law kind;  rudely interrupted by commercials, which is called ‘a break’.   A great change from the song, dance and tear jerkers of Bollywood.  It is beginning to look like Tom and Jerry re-play without the usual ending.

From Adam, humanity has got it more times wrong than right – it was fruit then,  it is papers now.

A Case of Bent Spine

A dead king,  known to have ruled briefly,  reportedly killed in battle,  humiliated after death by having a sword stuck in his posterior, unceremoniously buried,  rather thrown in a pit – place of burial unknown.   A case for the jobless detective,  to hunt for a man so far back in history.    With his genetic deformity he probably had trouble getting on a horse and wielding his sword.  Was he left-handed,  right-handed or ambidextrous?    If poor Richard III had known he was going to be immortalized he would probably have gone in for corrective surgery.    At least put up a good show after death,  if not in this life.

Curiously,   sometime back a person was buried at sea.   He led a remarkable life.    A sort of heroic figure,   popular with a few and unpopular with many.    Caught unawares,   hopelessly outnumbered and killed in battle.    Why wasn’t he interred unceremoniously like Richard III?    Probably because the battle was fought in his home,   his back was straight,   was tall,   bearded had three wives and many children.

Bent backs are no more great feature.   They abound in plenty.    Their spines are barometrically oriented and can sense which way the wind is blowing in the corridors and quickly align to the right or left accordingly.   They could be immortalized like Richard III,   but Shakespeare is not around to do it.

Ballerinas and Champagne

Thirty million Euros is a lot of money to spend in a span of two years on ballerinas and champagne as reported in a press report.  Costliest vintage champagne probably taken from a ship wreck should not be more than 1000 euros per bottle, and the ballerina(s) for those like a former prime minister need to add another few thousand euros. Clearly, thirty million is difficult to spend in two years, just on Ballerinas and Champagne.  Maybe, they forgot to add an Atlantic cruise and five star hotel stay at every pit stop or a charter flight to Antarctic with the ballerinas, champagne and waitresses in attendance.

During my recent visit to Delhi I asked a farmer about ballerina.  He mistook it for a ball and started giving me directions to the nearest sports shop where I could buy a foot ball.  Then he proceeded to ask me why I needed a ball.  Ballerina being such a hard word to understand, I refrained from asking about champagne.  I knew I would be directed to the nearest “wine and beer shop” where wine is rarely available.  Should I ask him about helicopter or chopper?  No, he would not understand surely. Maybe I should have asked something more close to his understanding like bijli, pani, sadak or makaan.

With elections close it would be interesting to watch, how ballerinas and champagne get converted to weapons of mass destruction to decimate the opposition.  It would require a team of ingenious engineers, scientists and rocket scientists of the calibre of Einstein and Thomas Alva Edison to convert the Champagne in the bottle to a nuclear weapon and get the Ballerinas to press the button to have a truly spectacular effect and win the war.  They should start calling for applications from the scientific community to prepare the blue print and make a prototype ready for demonstration in the deserts of Rajasthan.

When they do win the war, what will they do with the left over champagne?  Pop the cork and celebrate like in Formula I?  With little else to sell, they could probably market the Champagne  re-branded as “Ballerina Champagne”.

Nairobi Airport to City

In the summer of 2009 I had the privilege of transiting via Nairobi to another country in Africa.  I was flying from Mumbai.  The flight over Indian Ocean was uneventful, nothing special, just a vast expanse of sea.  A little after 5 hours of flying, we hit landfall.  Soon thereafter I could feel the gentle descent.  While approaching to land I could see Mount Kilimanjaro on my left partially hidden in clouds.  Nairobi airport is at 5000 feet above mean sea level approx.  Finally we were on land.

My friend came to pick me up and we drove down to city.  The journey out of airport was quiet with the usual wide roads, but the landscape changed once we got close to the city, with chaotic traffic jams and innumerable sign boards advertising wild life tourism, which went on to reinforce what was already in my mind, that I am well and truly in Africa.

The sight of street boys selling various items soon confronted me, while still in traffic jam.  My friend gently reminded me not to lower the windows.  A little later I understood the reason why – Several boys were selling daggers, sheathed in what appeared to be a small hand held bicycle pump.  All one had to do was twist the cycle pump look alike and pull, which was being demonstrated – and the 10 inch blade would be out.  It was a bit unnerving to see knife wielding boys near the car.  But what surprised me was, why would anyone sitting in a car buy a dagger?  A calculator, maybe, but not a ten inch dagger. I for one would never buy one, neither did I see anyone buy.  It dawned on me a little later that, it is more for probably stealing than anything else, though I did not witness any robbery.

Free advice and cautions were many.  One stood out.   – don’t walk out alone at night, if you have to, then take a bit of money nothing precious or valuable.  If confronted by an armed robber, never resist, but give what is demanded.  And remember to say “Thank You”!!.  What thanks for being robbed!! Yes I was reminded, never forget good manners.

My stay in Nairobi ended uneventfully.  Try as I might, I could never get to go to Masai Mara.  The two days I was there was not enough, I was told.  It needs planning.  It is eight hours drive to Masai Mara reserve and then lots of time is required to spot the animals, rushing in and out is no way to see Masai Mara.  For witnessing something truly spectacular like a lioness hunting a gazelle or deer,  you got to spend more time.  Two days is just not enough.

Later I did my own little research on visiting Masai Mara reserve and it turns out my friend was right.  At least fifteen days is required from the point of touch down at Nairobi, for a drive through Masai Mara trip.  The Masai Mara reserve can be seen in three ways.  For the daring and adventurous the favorite is walk the reserve with the help of Masai tribe animal tracking team.  Driving through the reserve is the most popular, which involves staying in the reserve for several days.  For the least adventurous the only option is fly over the reserve – it is expensive, but time saver.

For visitors Nairobi has wonderful weather throughout the year, cost of living is reasonable and hotels are available for different budgets, from five star to the back packer types.  The best time to visit is during the annual migration of animals.  I wish I had more time to explore the wild life reserve, which remains a dream unfulfilled.

Working in a Third World Country

A work may take one to different places, even to another country.  But when moving from a developed world to Sub Saharan Africa, we sometimes tend to throw caution to the winds and suffer the consequences.  Sometime around circa 2000 I heard the story of a Lady who landed in Ouagadougou on work.  As was her custom, she had taken preventive vaccinations, equipped herself with credit cards in case things went wrong.  What she was not advised or probably did not pay heed to, was not to venture alone to certain neighbourhoods, which she unfortunately did – the consequences, her bag was snatched.  Worse, the thief managed to get away.  The police did register the complaint and promised to help, which was not a great help.  Back in office, she recounted the incident and asked “what could be done?” After a momentary silence, pat came the answer from a colleague “let us go back to the place and ask around”.  “Do you think, you can get my bag back? Actually I am not bothered about its contents like credit cards, which I have already called and put a stop on transactions. But my glasses, which I desperately need, without which I cannot do much.” said the lady.

So come next day, the colleague and the lady head back to crime scene.  There the colleague motions her to keep quiet and gets into discussion with a few people present.  After a while, they get into the car and head back to office.  One the way the colleague  explains to the lady that one person in the crowd has promised to try and find the person and get her glasses back, but it would cost her.  “How much” said the lady.  “That is what I wanted to ask you” came the reply.  Back at the office, an upper limit of US$ 200 was agreed upon by the lady.  Come evening they again head back to the crime scene, and Lo and Behold the glasses are produced, after much bargaining the price is settled at US$ 100.