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The THUNDERBOLT is back!

Okay, okay… I know this post is goanna be really clichéd. Almost every guy/girl with a weblog in his/her name will have passed through this situation. But, not updating your blog on a daily ah… at least in a monthly basis isn’t a crime, is it? When your blog finds no footprints of yours (save those of the readers, if there are any, that is…) it has a more than 90% chance of being extinct. I’ve seen millions of interesting blogs wither away into the realms of eternity with the author even forgetting the username & password of his blog!

In my case, well, disinterest wasn’t the problem. In fact, I pragmatically used some of those boring periods in college to cook up the bases for new posts. But, when your parents outrightly refuse PC usage, what are you supposed to do? You can’t write your posts and simply upload them into your blog through airwaves, can you? Okay, okay… I know what you’re thinking right now… And I did exactly as you thought, only to be caught once again. (Fell prey to my father’s advanced snooping techniques for the umpteenth time!) And, Achan is now staunchly against the idea of re-taking DataOne (I’d run up a broadband bill of Rs 1850/-, and you can imagine what happened at home!) until S3. To make things worse, the phone line near my PC suddenly went dead!

With no-net, I was almost like, half-paralyzed. Had it not been for the BH Library, I’d have even deleted my orkut profile. But problems didn’t stop there either. The admin soon banned Orkut there too!!:( It was then that my gaze fell on Achan’s IBM Thinkpad. If there weren’t any presentations in the vicinity, it was mostly unused and safely rested in Achan’s shelf. Though the Thinkpad was over a year old, it had a DVD RAM Writer, 1 GB RAM, Bluetooth, and what not! Thankfully the manufacturers had thought about people like me, the Thinkpad even has an internal DialUp modem. This meant, I could use another phone-line to get connected. (Provided my parents weren’t at home – and that regularly happens every Saturday!)

But even those feisty hours, or rather minutes (I say feisty, because I use NetOne – the free internet connection provided by BSNL 😀 ), I spent with the thinkpad, just gave me enough time to reply to my scraps and chat with a few people. And, like Me pursuing 'back-breaking' study schedules...bolt from the blue came the much-preponed series exams. Needless to say, with my ‘back-breaking’ study-schedules, I didn’t get time to log on either…(That, obviously, was a joke. Hope you got the sarcasm)

Now that the damned series is over, time is on my side. And, that translates into more orkutting, blogging & photography, thanks to Achan’s thinkpad! So don’t be surprised to see me online most-often. So, keep connected. And, ready your eyes for a treat of sorts, hopefully by tomorrow!

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General

The Inheritance of Loss

Quite an ‘inspiring’ post to adorn your blog with, eh? Well, there is no element of fiction in this one, so to speak. What I’m about to write is an absolutely-authentic account of what happened to me yesterday, the day before my 18th birthday. I might as well put a ‘statutory disclaimer’ right here for the ‘elite’ who prefer displaying their goodies(to be more precise, their N70s, 6680s, w700is et cetera…) They might ‘crap’ this post about this guy cringing over the loss of his puny 6030…. Oops!!! Damn!! I spoke it out… Anyways, don’t mind my previous sentence; just read on if you’re interested… 

It was a typically ordinary day at college. Had 3 periods in the morning session, followed by a 2 hour break and the unceremonious workshop. There was a ‘formal’ announcement that a few people from Kairali TV would drop in to ‘interview’ our class-reps(For God-alone-knows-why). But, even those soon-to-be-celebrities didn’t find the idea of getting themselves ‘interviewed’ remotely amusing! At the end of the day, the ‘Kairali’ people, well, almost kept their word. They slugged along idly in a decade-old ambassador, 4 and a half hours after the said time of 12!(Sitting idly in a desolate island for four hours is heaven considering the #$%^@!# these people show on TV!) The college bus had to wait till the whole damn ‘interview’ got over. We got the hang of it. Ranjith(my buddy… Need to dedicate a whole 3 page post to him), me & countless other batchmates @ GEC Barton Hill decided to walk the 2 km road downhill to PMG. It was around 5 ‘o’ clock when we finally reached PMG. Ranjith had to meet his Dad, so he bid me an ‘Advance Happy Birthday’ and left. I was left with Deepak(a Kollam-based guy in Mech). Quite soon, he too got fed up giving me company and went his way. I was alone(er… with some 45-odd people I’ve never seen before, that is). All buses to Sreekariyam were packed. So, I had no option but to wait. It was then that I made the decision I’d regret all through my life…L I decided to call my mother using my 3-day old Nokia 6030 just to inform her that I might be late!! 


.The Phone I'd owned once...                                      The 6030 was a er… birthday gift. It was actually meant for my mother. Amma actually got her old Nokia 1110 drowned!(That phone was a gift from my Uncle to me, but eventually Amma laid her hands on the booty.) One fine Sunday morning, it suffered a 3 minute ordeal in our IFB Front load washing machine, enough to render it’s display out-of-juice(Don’t ask me how it went inside…) After an hour-long ‘advising’ session by Achan on how to safeguard a mobile handset(His hard-earned MBA is showing itself off these days…), amma decided to allocate some 4000 bucks for a new handset. Being the only ‘Mobile Maniac’ in the family, the task of choosing the right handset was assigned to me. I didn’t need much time to propose the 6030. I’d recommended the same model to Pashu(Prasanth, one of my best friends, I owe him a gigantic post too!!), and he’s jumping with joy at the moment over his choice. But Achan wanted a better model, so I introduced him to the 3230. He too, it seems was quite exasperated with his year-old 6020 and was planning to get himself a new phone with Bluetooth. And pat came his deal. Achan gets the new 3230, Amma gets his 6020, and I’m left with my 2600!  I was quite okay with it. This was the first ‘purchase’ of a cellular phone among us. Having got 4 handsets as ‘gifts’ we’ed never come across the idea of actually buying a mobile phone before… 

The visit to Planet Nokia was awe-inspiring. I spent about an hour there ‘testing’ all models (including the N91). The sales rep. was about to kick us out, forcing a 3230 upon us, when Achan suddenly changed his mind. He just said “Enikku ippo 6020 mathi. Nyaan ninakku oru 6030 vaangichu tharam. Ninte phone ammakku koduthekku! Irikkatte ninakku ente vaka oru Birthday Present!” For a moment or so, I was left open-mouthed! For the first time in my life, I got a Birthday Present from my ridiculously-frugal father. Yipee!!! I nodded humbly, trying to put on a that-will-do-I-don’t-mind look, striving hard not to shout with joy.  Achan gave 4000 Rupees, to get a Nokia 6030, 1 rupee(They weren’t actually bluffing about the 3999 thing), and a box with fireworks(Deepavali offer!). Within no time Amma learnt to use my 2600, and she was quite happy with it. Stereo headset intact, I was grooving with ‘Ananthapuri FM’ in my 6030,  & logging into Y! Messenger using its XHTML browser. Finally I got a GPRS phone!! I was on top of the world!!! 

 Coming back to PMG, (It was the 3rd day in the the 6030 almanac), I gingerely took out the 6030 from my Jeans-pocket and called home to announce that I’d only reach home by 5:45 since I had to go to the library to return a few books. Then I saw this red KSRTC bus coming toward me. It was literally empty and the black-in-white board announced in shabby letters: “Sreekariyam”. I quickly ended the call, put the mobile in my shirt-pocket and hopped onto the bus. It was then that I ran into this dark man wearing a reddish check-shirt. I quickly said ‘sorry’ and jumped in. I gave a ten rupee note to the conductor, took the change and put it in my shirt-pocket. It was then that I noticed what would later ruin my birthday. There was no mobile in there!!

 This usually happens to me. I might hold the mobile in my hand and check my pocket for it… But, this time I was dead sure. It wasn’t with me. I quickly informed the conductor. A lady kindly offered me her Nokia to call my phone. But, just as I had expected, I got the reply: “The subscriber you’re calling is switched off. Please try after some time…” Someone had stolen my 6030!!

 My instinctive reaction was to break down, but I didn’t. I remained calm, and tried to think. It was then that I remembered my collision with this dark guy. It was him!! One old man had seen him collide with me too… I got out of the bus, and hitched an auto back to PMG. ( The bus hadn’t gone far, I thought I could catch up with him). I searched everywhere… but in vain. This man was a pro!! I’m done in…  

For a moment or so, my mind was blank. But I didn’t panic. I was still calm, (I think I’ve mastered the art of remaining calm, thanks to a measured daily-dose of yoga) but still desperate. The 6030 was my birthday present. It was more of a body part than a mobile phone. I could still vaguely remember that slight tug in my shirt pocket. I felt like I had lost an arm or a leg, or rather… someone had amputated it!! 

I boarded the next Pattom bus. I needed to go to Achan’s office.( located at Vydyuthi Bhavan, Pattom. My father is Deputy Chief Engineer, TRAC, KSEB).  Within two minutes, I reached reached Pattom, and the bus stopped right in front of his office. The guard let me in(He knows me, I guess… I’d come here before many ‘a’time for various reasons.). After a minute-long ordeal with the lift, I reached the nineth floor(The floor that occupied Dad’s office). Achan was busy with a bundle of files concerning some upmarket steel firm. I stormed in and announced what had happened without skipping any detail. I noticed his expression worsen as I went on with my explanation. Then, all of a sudden, he gained his cool. I still can’t figure out how I managed to say that so openly & calmly to him.(again, kudos to the Yoga lessons & my grandfather who had painstakingly taught them to me.) I thought he’d fire me, but surprise-surprise, he didn’t!!(Has the world gone topsy-turvy so fast???) 

An hour later, we were on our way to the Museum police station. I had called the BSNL Call center and the sleepy customer service executive advised us to lodge a police case, and sent the FIR. He said, then they’d think about deactivating the SIM. However Pashu told me(His mom works with BSNL, and that too in the mobile department), that all  I had to do was to get an acknowledgement from the Police station (the police-station in whose limits the incident happened), and I’d get a duplicate SIM with the same number after I pay Rs 112. The balance would also get carried over. After some 15 minutes of drive in the rain that was gaining strength exponentially, we reached the Museum Police station.

 

I’d never been to a police station before. My first image about police stations came from good-old Malayalam movies, where the SI sat behind a desk in a small room with a lock-up and all. There would be a photo of Gandhiji neatly framed on the wall,  a dark telephone & a decade-old globe resting in anonymity on the desk with millions of files strewn all over. When I actually got to see a Police station (The recently inaugurated Sreekariyam Police station, opposite to my school) my image was kinda’ shattered. Everything looked so modern; perhaps the Indian cops were at least trying to be like their foreign counterparts.

 

That day, I entered a Police station for the first time. It was a two storeyed building with some 100 or so odd-two wheelers shabbily parked all around. I didn’t take much time to realize that these were seized for traffic offenses and their owners didn’t even bother to get them back. It was guarded by two sentries. There was even a ‘reception’. We went inside and briefed the ‘receptionist’ about what had happened. The man gave us an is-that-all look and directed us to go inside and meet the SI.

 

This SI guy was a 30ish man with neatly combed hair. His name was Mohammed Iqbal or something. He seemed exasperated when we got inside, like someone had woken him up from a sound sleep. The room was the exact opposite of what I’d expected to see. There was no Gandhiji pic on the wall. I couldn’t find the globe either. However there was a brand new PC with ADL connection. Everyone’s on the high-tech way, it seems. Even the number of files on the desk(which proudly bore some four different telephones including a state-of-the-art Panasonic Caller ID phone & a brand new Sony Ericsson w810i) were bare minimum Achan politely told what happened and gave the typed-out complaint. He quickly read it and instantly remarked: “Sho… ee PMG il ninnulla moshanangal koodi varikayaanu” placed a call to my number in a jiffy. He slammed the phone when he got the switched-off message and called a plainclothed guy( I think he’s the appointed Mobile Phone theft-watcher) who politely brought us outside the room and asked us to wait outside until he gets all the paperwork cleared.

 

Waiting in a police station for even a miniscule 3 minutes could be an ordeal, and I learnt it the hard way! There were a couple of ‘undercover’ journalists sniffing around for information. I also spotted a few people in the lock-up. All were 20ish youngsters with Charles-Sobhraj kinda’ looks. Even their stares could bring up a chill in the deepest of your bones. However, thanks to the promptness of the mobile-phone-watcher, I didn’t have to spend more time in that ‘fortress’. He politely settled us off, giving us a ‘certificate’ showing that the concerned Nokia 6030 was stolen. Now we could apply for a new SIM.

I half-expected a riot to break out at home, considering the fact that  we were soaked down to the skin pursuing the travails of the 6030. Lo & Behold, I was spared again! Thankfully Achan sensed my despair on having lost a birthday present. However I had to silently attend a crash course on ‘How NOT to get your Mobile Phone stolen’ conducted by my all-knowing father! 

A visit to the BSNL office at statue the very next day solved the SIM card blues. Even BSNL, it seems, had decided to move on with the tide. Within merely an hour, we got a brand new SIM with the same talktime & the same old number, reassuring my already strong faith in ‘Bharat ke sabse bade door sanchar seva’.  All we had to spent was Rs 112/- for the new SIM. I was back with my 2600 again!

2 Weeks have passed since I last placed that call on my 6030. I’ve got adjusted with my 2600 again. I enjoy playing ‘Bounce’ and ‘Mobile Soccer’ during the hour-long lunch breaks. I’ve managed to keep control over my ‘finances’ using the Spreadsheet application. Above all, I keep composing hot new ringtones (which, as always, are always on demand!)

 

So, do I miss the 6030?

Yes. I DO  miss it. I feel like kicking my butt everytime I see the now-abandoned cover, still religiously occupying a dignified corner in my bedroom. Occasionally I read through the Owner’s manual to relive my 6030 memories. The stereo headset is never off my ears… These days, it’s always plugged to my ears when I’m home…

 

Still, Past is past…  Alright, I’ve reported the IMEI number and all, but will I get the 6030 back? The chances are outright slim. However, I haven’t lost faith. Whenever I hear the ‘Celestine’ announcement of a call in my frugal 2600, I half expect it to be the vigilance officer proudly announcing that a mobile phone thieving ring has been busted & they’ve got my phone too… And that’s the last thing I can expect, practically speaking!

So, hey you self-righteous show-off freaks out there: Alright, you’ve got a flashy new handset, But why risk the chance of getting it stolen? Stop showing off & live a happy life!!

 

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General

2006: A Video Odyssey

The other day, after a four-hour rendezvous with music, I decided to change tracks and start doing something ‘productive’ (to borrow my dad’s lingo; one which he deliberately adopted post MBA) Considering the long-list of chores, I was supposed to do that day, that was my only choice. I decided to give first preference to the much-postponed task of cleaning my shelf.

As the decade-old metallic shelf (which shone like a new pin, thanks to a recoat) opened, the soothing smell of Brise’ de Printemps permeated all over the room. I started by dusting a few old suitcases which had never been touched for years on-end. Half-readying myself for some really nasty dust, I opened the tidiest of the decade-old suitcases. It had nothing more than a few old files which belonged to my father, which to my surprise was left without much dust. As, I was taking them out, my eyes fell over some black thing, half hidden by one of the files. A close look at them finally showed me the key to the billion-dollar question that had been bugging me for a decade or so. I’d finally found my Tom & Jerry Video Tapes, which had gone missing!!!

It was after the renovation of our house, that these tapes went into hibernation. I remember being so sad and desperate, refusing to eat one whole night over those precious Tom & Jerry tapes. After all, they had been the window to my most favorite Cartoons in that post-Cartoon Network era (as a matter of fact, I still don’t miss The Tom & Jerry Show!). I decided to try the tapes on our old Akai QH312R VCR, which still occupied a dignified position beneath my Philips DVD player (though it was untouched for some 5 years). A liberal usage of spirit on the ‘head’, 2 old alkaline batteries for the remote, the A/V code borrowed from my DVD player, and bingo! The old warhorse was again ready for battle!

I half-expected the screen to show those countless layers of lines (indicating a fungal ‘infection’), but lo & behold, my eyes & ears were once again treated with the roar of the MGM lion (with his sound noticeably muffled, though) 2 hours and 13 minutes later, I was left speechless, endeared by fits of laughter, and nostalgic; wondering how these tapes survived the tide of times

This rendezvous left me in retrospection, thinking about old times, when Computers where still referred to as complex devices usable just by techies; when DVDs, Home Theatres & Plasma/LCD screens were hitherto unheard of.; when good-old VCRs were the final word in Home entertainment. I was a child of that era. This old AKAI VCR of mine introduced me to the world of movies,(and later made me a die-hard movie addict!) I vivdly remember laughing uncontrollably, watching Mohanlal’s antics in Kilukkam(The first Mohanlal movie I ever saw). How can I forget those times, when I was terrified to death, seeing the Dinosaurs come alive on my TV?

The arrival of the Video Cassette (or Video Tape) was a natural consequence. It was born in the early 1950s when broadcasters found it difficult to manage movie reels extending unto miles in length. Tapes were compact and easy to use. Besides, the tedious process of developing & washing the 35mm film became redundant. A few television studios like CBS tried replacing films with tapes, and succeeded. They realized that tapes reduced production costs significantly. Soon other broadcasters followed cue. Within no-time, almost every public broadcaster widely used Video Tapes.

However it still took two decades for the commercial release of Home Video Cassette Players/Recorders. This new product launched in mid-seventies, was a grand success. Now people could record their favorite TV shows and watch them over & over. They could even record Home Videos at throw-away costs & view them quite easily. The American movie industry closely watched the Home Video market, and decided to cash in. Popular movies were soon released on Video. Thus, the Home Video revolution was born!

The first Home Video tapes were called the Beta tapes. Introduced by the Sony Corporation, these tapes were played in a device known as ‘The Betamax’. Due to poor marketing, this format didn’t actually live up to the hype. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) took advantage of the situation, and introduced the VHS system. It well-marketed, and received a great response. Soon, all major companies introduced Video Systems that could play VHS tapes. But, there was no interoperability between the VHS & Beta systems. Gradually, despite being better than its counterpart, the Beta system had bid adieu to the mainstream market. However, it managed to replace VHS in commercial broadcasting and is still accepted as the Video Broadcasting standard.

VHS tapes had their share of disadvantages, in fact loads of them. A minor fall, could irreparably damage a much-protected tape with jerky picture. Besides, tapes were vulnerable to temperatures. Prolonged, non-use could render them out-of-juice, making them defunct. Besides, the crispness of Video & Audio decreased arithmetically with time. With the emergence of the Compact Disc in 1982 & later the DVD in 1996, the VHS tapes began to lose importance. Gradually with the availability of dirt-cheap DVD & VCD players, the Video Tapes lost ground. Today, mainstream movies are not being released on VHS. You cannot find any VCRs in the market either! Like the Record Player, the VCR is extinct!

The arrival of Home Video changed our lives as a whole. It made a couch potato of every movie buff. Words, like ‘Play’, ‘Rewind’ & ‘Fast Forward’ had totally new meanings in our lingo. We could now record our favourite TV programs, and watch them over again! The moviemen who had first laughed all their way to the bank, gradually began to feel the pinch; a huge reduction in the cinema goers! (Today, the revenues from DVD sales surpass theatrical revenues, for almost all Hollywood flicks other than huge blockbusters)

Though DVDs provided theatre-like sound and sharp picture, a minor scratch on the silvery surface could make a whole scene or even the entire DVD unusable. The ‘DVDs will last long’ myth was soon disproved. DVDs were equally vulnerable to fungal attacks. Till date no TV capturing gadget that promises the user(&pocket)-friendliness of the VCR has arrived. As a matter of fact, Camcorders still use tapes to record video.

The disappearance of Videotapes from the markets disappointed millions of viewers. Even the Hollywood did it’s best to tackle the plummeting popularity of the Video Tapes in it’s own way. It made movies. Scary movies. The Japanese novel ‘Ringu’ by Koji Suzuki (which was already adapted into a successful Japanese Movie with the same name) inspired ‘The Ring’ & it’s sequel. The movie, directed by Gore Verbinsky, has Naomi Watts as a divorced thirty-something with a child, working as a journalist. While investigating her niece’s death, she comes across an unlabelled Video Tape with a bizarre video; that changes her life forever. Anyone who sees the tape will die in seven days! She learns eventually in the hard way, after the death of her ex-husband(New Zeeland actor Martin Henderson) that the only way to save oneself from the killer tape is to copy it and pass it on! Both movies achieved smashing success at the box office (and their Home Video sales broke all records). It’s a worth-watch that will actually scare the wits out of your head, and change the way you see the now-unassuming Video tapes.

I remember, seeing it the first time on tape some four years back(precisely the last movie I saw in Videotape). When I saw ‘The Ring’ again, the other day on DVD I had my share of scares, but I still missed watching it on tape! I miss the robotic perfection of the tape being pulled inside. I miss the discreet ‘tracking’ lines almost hidden above & below the picture. I miss recording my favourite programs on
tape.
I miss my old times with the VCR!!!

**************************

It was past 2:30 at night. A sound sleep at noon deprived me of sleep that night. Idly scrolling through the menu of ‘The Ring’ DVD, I saw an item in the main menu. The link read, “Don’t watch this!” It was the ‘forbidden’ video. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to have a close look at the bizarre video again. Those pictures flashed again: The Ring, The Ladder kept beside the wall, The woman combing her hair in the mirror, A finger being pierced, The same woman jumping down the cliff, The well… and static. My heart left a beat. Was I going to get a phone-call announcing the seven-day period left for me?? Naah, it’s just a movie. Besides, I’m watching the movie on DVD, not on tape…

Suddenly the phone rang!!