Thursday, June 18, 2009

Take that

I had spent my childhood in a small town in Gujarat and my engineering from an even smaller town in Haryana. Big city pollution was always a tough ask for me to handle and so Calcutta's grime and dust atmosphere had me gasping for a breath of fresh air. Being Calcutta there was no such whiff coming so I had to launch a desperate search for any cures I could find to the chronic sniffles that had become part of my daily existence.

My road to a sniffle free existence lay in the wonder and ancient history of Dabur Chyawanprash. I don't know what they put in there but it sure as hell does the job! A lot of people always give me a hard time for having such a feeble immune system and hide bound weirdo habits like having two spoons of Chyawanprash a day which are more suited to doddering 80 year olds wrapped in mufflers and sustained by heavy sweaters. However Chyawanprash works for me and you can call me what you will.

I carried on with my Chyawanprash fixes in the US too as there ain't no shortage of Indians around thereby of Indian products. Only today did I notice the most interesting thing about the jar it is contained in. Beneath the image of the flowing white bearded Hindu sage and on the jar of what is an essential component of our 'Hindu' greatness, the ancient science of Ayurveda, the packing address reads "Dubai, U.A.E". Eat that Sangh Parivar maniacs and the Indian Mujahideen crackpots.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unwarranted malice

What kind of a disgruntled person would spend precious hours of his life creating a computer virus? It would definitely take a geek to delve into the intricacies of coding and come up with something which plays havoc with what the everyday user requires of his computer. But wouldn't a geek rather play the next revolutionary computer game, discuss his favourite comic book character's second wife on forums or gawk at pictures of beautiful women on the Internet than spend energy and efffort to design something which he cannot even claim openly to be his handiwork. Hacking to some extent makes sense because there are monetary benefits to consider and also there is the challenge and thrill of sneaking past the security a-la the classy art thieves as glamourised by movies like "Entrapment" and the Ocean's series.

The first virus (from what I've read) was written by a Pakistani guy and was titled "BRAIN". All it did was change the infected computer's C drive name to "BRAIN". Not the most brainiest of ideas it must be said but it was only the first step to much more potent descendants.

Another funny one was the "Happy Birthday Joshi" virus (this again is from the days of MS-DOS) which would seize the computer and would relent only after the victim typed "Happy Birthday Joshi"! Viruses are the psychopaths of the virtual world, their life's mission is random destruction. Sometimes though all they need is for someone to wish them a happy birthday. Is that too much to ask of this selfish world?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A fog of thoughts

I would be in a tough spot if asked to name a single book as my favourite book of all time, but I certainly would have no qualms about naming my favourite first chapter. The first chapter of James Joyce's "The portrait of the artist as a young man" continues to make me draw a sharp breath everytime I read it.

A lot of utter gibberish is often peddled under the "stream of consciousness" tag but here's a case where someone has actually been able to successfully describe the whimsical nature of human thought. The central character Stephen Dedalus is in the middle of a school football match, and the nature of his thoughts are the focus of the entire first chapter. He thinks about his childhood, his home and his classes at his boarding school which are about to be dismissed for the holidays all at the same time flitting effortlessly between the three worlds that his mind occupies.

It speaks volumes of why Joyce is considered by many as the greatest English writer of modern times, that one single chapter. It is about those moments when through the fields of neatly arranged plans and routine actions comes rolling a fog of thoughts enveloping everything in its shadowy wake.