Friday, 13 October 2017

Let's bring back the pen and paper

When was the last time you scribbled something on a piece of paper , let alone write a full document or letter for instance ? Signatures on official documents or on credit card receipts won't cont . I am sure only a handful of hands out there rising in affirmative to such a question . But not too long ago hand written paper was a dominant mode of communication . That was abut a couple of decades back , before the invasion of digital media into our private space . I use the word ' invasion' to emphasize on the rapid shift from pen and paper as the primary means of expression and communication to a strategically placed set of buttons with letters printed on them - the QWERTY keypad or keyboard as we know today .

Don't get me wrong here . I am all for the revolution that digital media has brought in our lives . In fact , without this very revolution , I would not have been able to be writing these words at this very moment with an intention of reaching out to a wide-spread audience out there . It's the convenience of electronics , far reach of the internet and the free platform that all forms of social media provides that has enabled people from across all spheres of life to share their opinions , irrespective of tone and nature .

But do you miss that feeling of your fingers grazing through a sheet of paper while your pen races down it to put your thoughts into words ? Don't you miss the feeling of seeing how artistically you would have stretched the loop in the tail of a G or that long strike you made on the letter 'T ? Even the blotted spots of ink and the strokes of correction had a charm of their own . The personal touch , you can say , that's amiss today . There was a time when one was known by how neat , artistic or messy was their handwriting .

via Google Images

Well , we had proper handwriting classes in our school back in the day . I am not even sure such a thing is taught in today's schools and even if it is ,whether there is much stress on it on part of the teachers or parents . Why would they,  knowing that even primary school students are expected to submit printed assignments now. When everything can be copied , pasted and edited , one can have the luxury of ignorance and being correct eventually anyway. A young mind could do without that luxury . Rather a little bit of hardship in the form of actual 'writing' would go a long way in imprinting the fact that not every wrong doing can be undone ; you have to bear the consequences of your actions

We tend to remember better what we write on paper rather than what we type on a computer or smartphone. In fact , there has been some research on this and it has been proven that traditional way of note-taking yields more benefits than the same done on a computer.

Why would you deprive your child of such an essential habit ?

But yes there are still some of us who enjoy the pleasure , even though occasionally , of putting pen to paper to jot down few lines of random thought or may be even keep a journal . Love letters and greeting cards – how can we forget them?!! The amount of intimacy that a hand-written note brings to a relationship is unparalleled compared to a WhatsApp message or an SMS . But in the rapidly changing dynamics of the dating world and relationships in general , hand -written letters or cards is very much a thing of the past and almost tagged as 'old school romance'.

I picked up a pen myself a few days ago after a long time ; longer than I could remember when was the last time . And surprisingly I did not recognize my own hand-writing and at same time had a tinge of sadness to have noticed the deterioration in  it. To be honest , my handwriting was not that great in the first place but it was still pleasing to the eyes to say the least , something which I could not say of it any longer. But I am not one to shy off from a battle . I kept on writing , scribbling words , random thoughts , mostly out of context . I wrote until my wrist started to ache a little , reminding me of the rustiness that had settled in . As they say , you never forget how to ride a bicycle , the same would be applicable for writing too. Once you survive the initial bumps , the road is one to content and joy.

So why don't you try for yourself . Pick up a pen or even a pencil for that matter and grab a piece of paper . Write a page on whatever is going on in your mind at this very moment . Write about anything and stop not until you fill up an entire page and then some more which I am sure you would be willing to. Let's bring back the pen and paper , at least some of it , enough to salvage the pride and relive the romance .

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

What we see may not be what it is !!

Let's talk about something that talks about everything - the media itself . The word media is a plural form of the word medium and it represents all sorts of tools to disburse information to the masses . Having gotten this out of the way , let's get to business . What was the last thing you subjected yourself to on any form of media ? There is a high possibility that it was on social media , the most powerful tool of information creation as well as distribution of our times . But still what was the news ? Was it some instance of  violence happening in some part of the country or how some politician has yet again abused his/her power to create mass hysteria ? When was the last time you read about something really positive and full of hope of a better future ; may be a new drug in the making or a new innovation that would solve the pressing problems of the society ? I bet , it was quite a while ago.

It's not like good things are not happening around you . There are definitely people working to make the world  a better place . There are noble initiatives being undertaken , acts of courage and selflessness being carried out and new discoveries and inventions happening . But who bothers ?

The thing is , this sort of information that ignites hope and fulfillment does not excite the human mind the way fear and anger does . You are most likely to discuss something that causes some sort of displeasure in you. It's the primitive nature of mankind to prioritize something that seems to threaten their existence rather than something that might conserve it . And almost all the media houses are catering to this primitive instinct .

via Google Image Search

There is a huge bias that has crept into the world of media over the years . Each and every news channel have their sworn allegiance to some political party or the other . Things were not the same during my growing up years . I still remember the topic for one of my school debates was 'The effects of media on the modern world' and all the participants talked about was whether or how the modern society has  benefited from the media more or less .  But as the times changed , people in power became more aware of the potential of this tool to not just reach out but even manipulate the general populace to form an opinion of their own interest . Even the social media is not bereft of this bias . There are people paid to handle Facebook accounts and Twitter handles just to forward and spread their party's agenda . Mind it , all these happen in the name of information and awareness.

So what to believe and what not to ? This is something that we need to answer ourselves . No one can make us believe something if we do not want to .  I have always believed that the world is not all black and white. There is no all-good or all-bad . There is always a lot happening on the other side of the coin, the side which is not being shown to us.

Mostly the public is neutral to any kind of bias , unless we are subscribed to some agenda ourselves, . So for the larger group , it would be in the best interest of our own sanity and peace of mind to question every bit of information that we are being bombarded  with over the news channels or social media . Take everything with a pinch of salt and understand before you react . Read more books on diverse topics and broaden your horizon of thinking.

"Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility."    -   Robin Morgan

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book review : The Sialkot Saga

Courtesy : Google Images
I recently finished reading up , the Sialkot Saga ,  the latest book by Ashwin Sanghi .  Here's my review of the book.

The story revolves around the lives of two male protagonists , Arvind and Arbaaz . Both having their own ways and sense of business , start from humble beginnings to become two of the richest and most powerful people in India . Its a story of how their lives are  entwined owing to personal and business rivalries and how the political and economic scenario of India across several decades affect their decisions and actions .

While the narrative is interesting , there is an element of predictability as most of the events seem to have been portrayed in countless Bollywood movies . A young Muslim slum dweller starts from the streets of Mumbai to become the right hand man of the most powerful don of Mumbai eventually replacing the latter and earning a position of power in politics . A young Marwari boy starts on his own with unique ideas of money-making which do not border on the ethical and conventional to manipulating the share market and investment sector , amassing a great fortune in the process . It all sounds familiar but nevertheless interesting with adequate amount of drama .With Bollywood , underworld and politics thrown in the mix , it definitely packs a punch .

Like all other Ashwin Sanghi stories , this one too has a connection to ancient Indian history which is narrated in parallel to the main storyline , eventually merging into a single conclusion . The story brings into account powerful Indian rulers of different times starting right from Emperor Ashoka to Maharaja Ranjit Singh .  In the main plot , each decade is marked with significant events that changed the lives and mindset of the people of India .

Positives :

1) The crisp narrative leading the reader through several decades of events without suffering from unnecessary dragging .
2) Detailed explanations of the functioning of stocks , shares and investments with well placed actual references which makes the financial heroics of the protagonists realistic .
3) Major events in modern Indian history and politics have been very well crafted into the storyline.

Negatives :

1) Lack of any major twists or revelations . Predictable turn of events .
2) A lukewarm ending to an otherwise action packed story .

Overall , The Sialkot Saga is a heady mix of potent ingredients but might end up leaving the reader wanting for that missing element .

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The bits and bytes of being an IT engineer in India...

Yeah, I am an engineer...more so an IT engineer. One of those million faces in the bandwagon that started rolling somewhere in the early 90's and has now become a major face of |India's economic growth. There is no denying the fact that the Indian IT industry is a major contributor to the country's GDP as well as its reputation for skilled workforce in the international arena.

But once we go down deeper, brushing aside the statistics and numbers, there we find a much humble, if not sorry, picture of an individual spending his entire youth , writing away lines and lines of code and then re-writing most of it  . Yes, the IT engineer himself. He is no superhero but someone super-humanly over-working and multi-tasking (read : slogging for hours , juggling between code, spread-sheets, tools and of course yes, Google, to meet the deadly deadlines). Yet unlike the doctors or even his engineering brethren from other fields like civil or mechanical, the society does not have the slightest clue of what he actually does, leave alone having any regards for his efforts. Even his family members spend pensive hours at night wondering what sort of lawful work extend to such unearthly hours when most of their neighbors are either sleeping or weeping over the latest episode of the popular TV soap  !!

But this guy was once a dreamer.  Armed with a geeky attitude towards life and the picture of a Matrix-like world, he had set out to create something brilliant that would save humanity someday. Slowly and slowly he had equipped himself with the various languages understood by the computers. Be it C, Java , Python or Oracle, there was no stopping him. He felt himself to be just a step away from becoming the next Tony Stark alias The Iron Man !!

And then something happened. Something seemingly exciting at first but supposedly sure to disappoint later happened...he got a JOB !! And overnight , the dreamer posed to change the world with he strokes of his keyboard finds himself encapsulated in the abstract world of a cubicle.  There he learns the norms and rules of this new world and by the time he comes to his own, the passionate dreamer morphs into a deadline-chasing machine. His dreams squandered and ideas under-rated, the guy gets programmed to perform the same tasks, day after day and then getting assigned some other task, perform it day after day. 

And among all these, the fear of being labelled an under-performer looms all the time. There are also frequent rumors of downsizing going around in the office canteen. So he postpones his plans for the weekend to the next weekend , only to postpone them again to the next. He loses track of  important dates like birthdays and anniverseries and gives family functions a miss. He slogs and slogs harder to get those few extra bucks to sustain a decent livelihood. After all, the society still knows he is an ENGINEER !!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Just in case...

How many times have you wondered what if you had gone up and asked somebody about what had been boggling your mind all the time ? Most of the times you have let it pass only to realise your mistake later or further wonder !!

The world we live in is moving fast . So fast that even the surest of meetings get cancelled due to a a few seconds of negligence. We have evolved to realize the saying more than anything  else that 'Change is the only constant'.  In this rampantly changing picture we try to fit ourselves in and while we ponder over the chance of having an opportunity, somebody else is already walking out with it.

Be it about asking out that attractive friend of your cousin whom you see at a party or asking your boss for an extended vacation, it's all about asking the right questions at the right time.  Even if it is the slightest of chances, may be just 1 out of 100, yet you never know. That once percent of chance might be written in your name and waiting to be just grabbed.

That innocent looking hook with a dot under it, yeah the question mark, is a more of a friend than a bothersome companion and hence definitely not someone to be ignored. So let not those question bubbles popping in your sea of thoughts die a death of hopelessness. Rather give those questions a chance, a chance to come out and serve their purpose - to check for all those what-ifs and may-bes and create opportunities if exist. So the next time let not a question die its untimely and undeserved death. Reach out...and ASK, just in case there is a chance !!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Press F5!!

Being a techie is not easy...take my word on that. You kind of get addicted to all those shortcut keys you press millions of times throughout the day. And if the case is like mine....sitting before the office computer for 12 hours or more everyday , then you are bound to think like if you could get some of those shortcut keys working in your real life. Did I just mention life ?? Yeah!! if you do have one (pun intended). 

Think how easy life would have been if all you needed to do to reach office every morning was to just Ctrl X + Ctrl V yourself , from your home to your desk ????? Tempting isn't it ? Many a fight could have been avoided if we could just Ctrl Z our actions and words.Having a tough time collecting your groceries from the neighborhood store ? Ctrl A to your rescue...pick up all those packets at one go man!! What if you could just keep pressing Ctrl S throughout the day and save all those money you see coming in and going out of your account !! And pressing Windows key + L could have just locked them behind safety vaults.

But there's one shortcut key that excites me more than anything else. It's the utterly functional function key F5 , the Refresh button. Many a soul out there would have loved to start their lives afresh. What if we could just just stop worrying about cleaning up the mess and tackling those problems and could just start it from scratch. A clean slate, a life full of fresh energy and the ultimate sense of newness would be awaiting after the page reloads successfully.

Well, all said and done, just as we are rapidly moving towards a world of cyborgs, use of such keys and buttons for our day to day activities don't seem too much of an unreal fantasy. Till then, may be being more humane and less of a machine is not a bad idea at all. Life would have lost much of its meaning without the hardships and hassles. That explains the sense of triumph on reaching office on time , having fought your way out of the traffic. Picking up the grocery with seemingly several hands would still give you the sense of superhero-like strength and the endless number crunching to save your hard-earned money at the end of the month would keep on giving you the feel of being a genius. May be we can still keep our heads above the water until somebody presses down Alt + F4 !!
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