Thursday, April 30, 2009

Damn blog!

Trying to describe a blog to my 'not-so-tech-savvy’ mother-in-law (Mil) was a real challenge. I started with the usual ‘A blog is a web log…an online diary of sorts…’

Mil: So what are other people doing in your diary? Or you in other people’s?
Me: Well, it’s not like a personal diary you know. Just a place where I write, and let others come and read what I have written. Got it?
Mil: Got it.
Mil: But why would a person have so many diaries? Isn’t one enough?

That’s when it struck me that an analogy from her familiar world could help.

Me: Forget what I told you about a diary.
Mil: Oh! So it’s not a diary after all?
Me: Uff! Forget it for the time being…am trying a different analogy.
Mil: Analogy?
Me: Forget analogy…I am just giving you a different example. OK?
Mil: OK.
Me: It’s like buying houses.
Mil: Ah!
Me: Just like a person can have houses, land, property in the real world…a person can have blogs in the virtual world…I mean, the world of web…I mean the world of computers (knowing that she would understand ‘computers’…but not ‘virtual’ and ‘web’ etc)
Mil: Oh! So they must be expensive? How much money did you waste on yours?
Me: Mine was free. There are some that are charged.
Mil: Why was yours free? Is it in a slum in the world of computers?
(Me frowning)
Me: No it’s not really a slum. It’s just free because mine is owned by Google. And Google makes money in other ways…and not by actually charging for the blog.
Mil: How?
Me: From advertising revenue. Companies place their ads on the Google search engine, and Google takes money from these companies for their ads.
Mil: Oh!
Me: And just like houses, one can make money from one’s blog too.
Mil: How?
Me: Just like you give your house out on rent, you can give your blog out for advertising. Google and a few other companies can analyze what your page is about so they can serve ads on that topic. This increases the chances of your readers clicking the ad which increases the chances that you’ll earn something from them.
Mil: Oh! So, it’s like you have let them use your boundary wall for posters.
Me: Exactly! (relieved that she is finally getting something)
Mil: Doesn’t that destroy the beauty of your house? I mean blog?
Me: Yes, to a certain extent it does. But people don’t mind it, I guess.
Mil: So how much do you make in a month?
Me: Nothing, because I haven’t selected that option for advertising on my blog.
Mil: Said ‘no’ to potential money? God knows what you kids are up to these days! Anyway, so these people who come to your blog are like visitors to your house.
Me: Right. And they see how I have decorated it, what I have kept in it. And then they comment on it.
Mil: You mean bitch behind your back?
Me: Maybe some do. Others bitch (or sometimes praise) on my face. That’s when they leave comments on my blog.

Mil: I see. But do you really like too many people visiting your blog? Isn’t there too much cooking and dish-washing involved?
Me: In a way, yes. I need to maintain it well…and be a good host.
Mil: And do others treat you well, when you visit theirs?
Me: Oh yes! Everyone wants their blog to be the best…and most-visited. So everyone treats everyone well.
Mil: So you must be visiting those who give you the best cookies and cake?
Me: Yeah right. I have a few favorite blogs that I visit again and again.
Mil: I see.

Me: Anyway, so just like people have different houses for different purposes (beach house for weekends, a house in the city for easy commutation, an investment property to make money)….people can have different blogs for different kinds of writing (personal, political, business, hobby-based, dream-based, etc). And each has its own address, which in the computer world is called an URL.
Mil: I get it.
Me: Really? You do?

Mil: Of course. People who can’t afford houses in the real world, console themselves by having these blogs in the computer world.
Me: That’s not what it is…
Mil: Of course that’s what it is. If you two had listened to me and not gone for those expensive vacations and eaten outside every second day, you could have owned a house in the real world…and not played with these stupid blogs that have no value, and that require so much work.
Me: We can afford a house…just that…

(She is not interested any more…and I hear her telling my father-in-law)

Mil: Soon they will have a baby in the computer world too….Ah! How I hate computers!

Monday, April 20, 2009

An Affair to Forget...

It was never meant to work out. But I lacked the foresight to realize that, till it was over. I was too young and naïve.

Like all affairs, it was all mushy at the beginning. All day at school we held hands and shyly smiled at each other. Apart from a few girl-talks and giggles with my girlfriends, we were inseparable. Most of my classmates were jealous, considering we were doing so well together. At lunch break alone, we parted…only to be together again.

I returned home from school…to catch a glimpse of him again. He visited me every day. My parents were quite supportive of the relationship. Though sometimes they told me I was too small, and should also engage in singing, swimming, watching T.V, playing with my friends etc. I did all that…but none with the passion with which I spent time with him.

It was an obsession. As I grew older, the obsession grew worse. And I knew it would take every bit of my waking hours to keep the fire alive. I tried. I did have a life beyond him as well…my friends, relatives, music, college fests etc. But he was the possessive, jealous kinds. If I spent too much time away from him, he would punish me…and the results were never good. On such days, I cried till my eyes were swollen, pillows drenched. Sometimes I would hate him so much that I felt like breaking up. But he wouldn’t let me do that. And I, for some reason, couldn’t do it either. I kept on with him just to prove to my jealous friends that we were destined to be together. And I knew they said behind my back ‘What does he see in her?’

Before every ‘date’, I would panic…as if it was our first date. ‘How will it go?’, ‘Would I make a good impression?’, ‘Would I be good enough for him?’, ‘What if I make a mistake?’, ‘Will he leave me for someone else?’ Questions…and more questions.

I kept on…as if it was a habit hard to get rid of…like a drug addiction. My relatives knew about him too. Some aunts loved him so much that I would think they liked him more than they liked me. Everyone thought we had a bright future together. They held parties to celebrate our relationship, toasting for us to be happy and together always.

But my parents had had enough. They had supported me all through this relationship, right from the very start. But knowing how much he tortured me, they wished I would give him up. They said ‘There’s more to life than him. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.’ But deep within, I knew it was not ‘others’ I was concerned about…it was ME. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up…having done so well all these years…having made ‘news’, and ‘gossip’…having carved this ‘image’ of two of us happy together. The world still thought we were happy lovers. Even in their wildest dreams, no one imagined that it was such a torture ‘within’…such a storm.

Sleepless nights…headaches…early mornings…pain killers …and sometimes even sedatives. It was a vicious loop I had got into. I got so sick of him after certain special ‘dates’, that I could have almost killed myself. The only way out…was to move away. But we continued posing to be happy lovers…for the world’s sake.

It was as if we had been together all our lives. On our 19th anniversary…one of those special ‘dates’, I finally had the courage to look him in the eye, and say ‘Darling, let’s call it quits.’

In memory of my torturous relationship with Academics. I quit after my Masters. That made it 19 years, if I am to count ‘nursery’, where I learned to identify numbers and colours.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Of Faux Pas and Morals - Part 1

It came to me like an epiphany...
That the greatest morals...
Are born...
Out of the greatest Faux pas…

A shiny board outside the office main entrance 'ATP welcomes Jennifer Whelan and Jeff Spooner from U.K'

The garden watered, pruned and cleaned.
The office spotless...dustless...and chat-less.

The largest conference room bustling with last-minute action...
Microphones tested, projectors adjusted, chairs aligned...
Bisleri bottles placed on milky-white, crispy-starched table cloths.
Two men posted to serve tea or coffee from shiny jugs.
IT department on their toes...configuring usernames and domains.
Men in their best ties...women on their highest heels.

Enter Jennifer and Jeff in white Toyota Corollas...
With the promise of a few million...

Jobs need to be saved...and some more created.

Handshakes...garlands and camera clicks..

Chairs pulled...people seated
Throats cleared...
Introductions and words of praise and hope...
Silence...and the sound of laptops booting...

Presentations made...

More laptops booting...more presentations
And more...

Till the final and the most important one...
Figures shared...statistics unraveled...
Some promises...
Claps and sophisticated cheer...

Jennifer at the head of the long conference table...
Jeff walking past petty mortals...sparing a kind smile at some...

Jeff stops...
By me...
Looks at the notepad I have been taking notes on...
Walks away...

I look at the notepad...
Amidst smiley’s and some vague figures...
A message that I wrote for a colleague beside me…
Because we couldn’t speak…
While the presentations were on...
It said…
'These guys must be crazy to pay us so much for this project'
Friend’s reply...
'I don't care what these morons pay...I haven't been more bored in my life...these presentations suck!'.

Moral: Never keep a notepad with you in a conference, unless you are making a presentation yourself.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crime or Not a Crime?

So piracy is a crime.
May I ask, why?

Haven't we all bought fake Gucci bags when we were young (with our pocket money)...from New Market, Commercial Street, Connaught Place, Fashion Street or the like, depending on the city we grew up in?

In fact most often, I have seen exact replicas of branded products (bags, shoes, belts, clothes, watches), right outside the respective brand showrooms...on the street opposite. In Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber... (a horrible movie that I once happened to watch...on one of those days when in the DVD parlor, I was suddenly possessed by some spirit with bad taste in movies. These spirits lurk in different corners of the DVD parlors...some are posted in the Comedy section...some loiter around the World Movies section...the worst ones around the Thriller and Horror section...always waiting to possess innocent movie buffs like me. They must have either died watching crappy movies…or died before they could watch a movie that they had waited for long to release. Hence they want us to suffer as much. Tell me...hasn't it happened to you? It's true...if there are spirits anywhere on this planet...they are in DVD parlors...)

Anyway, where was I?

Ah! In Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, Jennifer Love Hewitt (imagine if that middle name someday becomes fashionable in India...we will be left with Jaswinder Love Singh, Rudraprasad Love Bondopadhyay, Ponnamma Love Iyer, etc!!...what a shame!)

(Sorry readers, I won't digress anymore...promise!)

So, in Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, Jennifer Love Hewitt is this hot babe in the advertising industry…a shameless socialite…a maniac of a party-goer…and a desperate social climber. She is all about looks and clothes and shoes and make-up and hair and bags and nails and …you get the drift. Spending all she earns on such frivolity, she reaches a stage where she can’t stop wanting more…and probably can’t afford more (what a profound tragedy!). Anyway, at one point in this movie, she falls in love…with a Louis Vuitton bag, strategically placed in the window display of a showroom. On finding out the much-expected and much-dreaded mortifying price, she walks out of the shop…and then, as Luck (or Piracy) would have it, she notices a street peddler selling that exact bag (exact in looks .. obviously not quality) in less than what the zipper of the original bag might have cost. She takes it.

Now, her’s is an obsession…a madness (so is the movie). But we have all done something like this. I have possessed and used (without shame) fake Nike caps, pseudo Prada bags…and yes, once I also had a Tag that cost me 35 rupees from Esplanade (was such an amazing imitation…even Jennifer Love Hewitt wouldn’t have guessed). It’s another story that it did not work for more than 35 minutes…but we are not into that today.

The point I am trying to make is…we have lived and loved in this world where ‘fakes’ are sometimes such feel-good factors. You can’t afford a real one…either accept it and live your life feeling like a deprived, wronged, jealous, selfish hag…or…give your greedy soul some balm…go to those streets…and pick up those stuff. In fact, am not only talking about branded stuff....every nice-looking thing on the shelf will have an equally nice-looking cheaper variety equivalent somewhere on the earth. Isn't shopping all about finding what you like...and paying less...knowing that you have made a compromise somewhere for paying less?

Now, I haven’t ever heard of campaigns against such imitations. I mean I have never seen advertisements and rallies and propaganda and awareness programs on ‘Buying fake stuff from the street is a crime!’ OR ‘Feel the pangs of guilt when you pick up a Prada from the street vendor…you are hurting Mario Prada’s soul…or his family’s bank balance’.

So why is piracy a crime when it comes to movies?

I tried to rationalize. Well, one reason why people are so sensitive in this matter could be that movies, art, literature are all about our ‘culture’. These are prized possessions that a country is proud of and they also generate revenue that a country cannot do without. I completely respect and understand if that is the sentiment. However, I still fail to realize why it is a crime.

Plagiarism surely is a crime. You are stealing someone’s work…his talent…his skill…his knowledge…his experience…his wisdom…and calling it your own. It’s WRONG. You miss out on quotation marks…you are a CRIMINAL. You haven’t spent sleepless nights acquiring that kind of knowledge…you haven’t read under street lights…or fought for a nation’s pride…or discovered gravity…or fed the poor and ailing…or written verses that inspired generations. So, how dare you miss quotation marks and pose as if those golden words just came out of your mind? I understand and respect this.

But those street vendors of pirated DVDs…for God’s sake…they are not photo shopping the DVD cover and inserting their names under the movie title…in place of the Johars and Chopras and Varmas. They are not claiming to have directed, produced, acted or even spot-boyed for those movies. They are simply making copies…and selling those for cheaper prices. They are NOT claiming them to be the original prints.

You want a better quality print…or want to enjoy the theatre AC, comfy leather recliners…with a Combo pack of Coke and Popcorn (that will cost you more than the movie itself)…go ahead. Who is stopping you? But if you are satisfied picking up a pirated DVD after work…knowing quite well that there may be some scenes missing….or some audio gone corrupt…or may have the climax scene with the camera pointing at a blank wall of the theatre …If you don’t mind sitting on your drab, threadbare sofa….with your children crying in the background (when your favorite song from the movie is playing)…and your phone ringing every 15 minutes (when the white-clad, blood-thirsty female spirit is just about to wring someone’s neck)…and your neighbor visiting to borrow some sugar (when the prime suspect is about to be confronted)…or your local club celebrating some puja with loudspeakers (when the aged father is proclaiming his last wish on his death bed) …or your wife pestering you to go grocery shopping (when the heroine is running her fingers through the balding hero’s hair)….or your mother chanting prayers in the next room (while you watch passionate lovemaking)….Piracy is for you.

Like all other things…if you pay more, you will enjoy more (probably). But if you are satisfied with the less-than-the-best experience, why should it be a crime? You are only paying less because you have opted for less. You are not stealing the original from a shop…or paying less than the market price for the original if you were to buy one….or paying less than the normal ticket rates if you were to go to the theatre. THOSE WOULD BE CRIMES.

True, you are depriving the Johars and Chopras and Varmas of their cents in royalty. But the point is…they did not make the copy for you. You are paying whoever had the guts/resources/inclination to make the copies and sell it in the marketplace. You are paying for the copier’s efforts. And the copier admits that he is a copier. So what’s the big deal?

Maybe I am missing something here….perhaps I haven’t thought about it from all angles. It couldn’t be that simple, could it?
But from my present state of awareness/ignorance/sensitivity, I can see no reason why there is such hype about piracy being a crime. Fails me.