Saturday, November 13, 2021

Kriti Arora Profile - A Post on Orkut


This is interesting. 

I swear I don't know who Kriti Arora is and what her Orkut profile looks like but the Blogger team seems to have decided that I should write about her. An 'Ideas' panel has automatically popped up on my Blogger homepage and among the many AI-generated blog ideas for a post most of which were about cricket and cricketers, this one seemed the most outlandish as I had not the slightest notion of why such a thing was suggested to me. 

May be I have written about the long dead Orkut social network in the past thereby triggering the AI to suggest something guaranteed to give me more views? Thank you, Team Blogger, for taking pro-active concern at the state of my decade long stagnasis on my blog and suggesting some motion. 

I now have one more opportunity to learn something completely new and have the luxury of not writing about it. 

In all fairness though, I did find it interesting that the original Googler, after whom was named, has brought the defunct domain name and is now using it to promote another social networking site named Hello. Quoting the first paragraph


I’m Orkut.

You may not know me but 13 years ago I started a social network called while I was working as an engineer at Google. I'm the guy was named after. In 2014 when Google announced that orkut would be shutting down, it was a sad moment for us. orkut had become a community of over 300 million people and was such an amazing adventure for all of us. Nobody wanted to lose what we had created together. We met amazing new people. We went on dates. We found new jobs. We even got married and had kids because of orkut. We made it happen, together."

His thing, the baby that brought the world together, actually mostly India and Brazil, may be a faint blimp on our generational memory but that it lived for a short while, back in the day when all of these concepts were brilliantly new and shiny and Google Chrome still needed to promoted, is reason enough for its happening.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Always With Me

Sunday, 8th August 2021

Dear Ma,

I write this to you in mild disbelief. I half expect to walk into you tidying up the next room. That you would tell me of today’s must-read Indian Express article or order me yet again to abandon my decade old T-shirt. This I understand is no longer possible and I am here to talk about my memories of you instead.

My first memory, from long long ago, is your laugh, humming the eternally popular Ripon Street baaraat band tune “Tequila”, and a just-learnt-to-walk version of me stumbling along to it. You don’t drink and I can’t dance so this is a strange thing to recall. At the same time, it is so you. Your giggle and your endless stock of made-up games put you up as a firm favourite of generations of children, three your own and everyone else’s. The ease with which you engage a child’s endless energy is sure proof that you did never grow old. It is our privilege to have grown up under your joyful and imaginative attention.

My second memory of you is sombre. The impact that moving to Bharuch had on you, an out-and-out Kolkata girl uprooted from its urban bustle to a small back-of-the-woods town in Gujarat, into a world so different from what you had known. Your initial shock and your subsequent rising to the occasion were something that even a 3-year-old me could appreciate. As hundreds of your students and acquaintances from two-plus decades there will attest, Kolkata’s loss was Bharuch’s blessing. Adventure is often shown as conquering distant hills and forbidden valleys but the wonderful, protected life that you and Baba gave us 3 kids in a land so different from your own was no less exciting and brave.

My chosen third memory of you is more a running film than a specific span of time or incident. A camp-fire, a relentless passion for doing the right thing in the right way, which comforts greatly but occasionally burns. You do not appreciate half-heartedness in any form. I think you’ll agree that filtering your emotions isn’t your forte. You laugh as hard as you roar. You are a rock of comfort in critical times but don’t shy away from letting the tears flow either.

I remember the roasting you gave me when I, in teenage ignorance, ridiculed your favourite poet Dylan Thomas’s “Fern Hill”. I recall your thirst for knowledge, a core trait shared with Baba for 49 years, which kept you learning and inquisitive all through, in your own words “up-to-date”. Cable TV, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, microwave oven, PC, laptop, smartphone – you negotiated through them all, living it up virtually as much as IRL. Your sudden revelations of knowing the latest Guru Randhawa song or the exact details of a Jason Statham fight scene leave me wondering who is the older among us.

I worship your energy in all that you do – host of a ridiculous amount and variety of get-togethers, most opinionated road-trip participant, queen bee of your Brahmo Girls school girl gang, painstaking saver of money for incremental improvements, teacher of history and English in all their nuances, writer book-lover librarian extraordinaire, setter of impossible standards for pet care, denouncer of political extremism and sloppy dressing (phew, that’s only about 10% of your abilities) – all with a warm heart and a booming voice. Your beloved parents, Dadubhai in his meticulous perfection and Dimma with her emotional core, live on and spread their goodness through you. Hope your reunion with them and waggy tailed Putputti is even more perfect than I can imagine.

You could have aimed for the stars with your intellect, education and capabilities but then you wouldn’t give yourself any relief from your duties as Mom either. Through sincere work in whatever life I choose, I hope to respect your ambitions and make a few amends for your sacrifices. I never got to tell you this while you were still here, but you are my hero and your life-story is the stuff of legends. Maybe I will write it all out someday, in all its pain and all its glory. Much as I will miss the immeasurable comfort that you gave me as Mom, I will also remain in awe of the relentless perfection that you sought as a professional.

The greatest regret of my life will remain not being right next to you when your time came. Those stories of my travel which will now remain untold to their most eager audience. That long list of your planned food items during my visits home will now each hurt in their own way.

“Kutush, don’t be selfish” was your one advice in life and I try to follow that within my own limited capacity. But I’ll make this one exception by claiming your time though I know that you’ll watch over everyone that you loved, not just me. In what seems to be the only consolation for your absence from this world, when roaming areas with limited mobile connectivity or on busy days, I no longer have worry about you worrying. Now I know you’ll be there with me, on every mountain trail, in every urban jungle, on every motorcycle trip. Friend. Judge. Guide. Mom. Always with me.

Lots of love,    


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Compulsive Conquerors

There's something inherently violent about the word. Looking at what it meant to the people at the other end of the sword makes it twice as problematic. Yet without any hint of irony, virtual runners are awarded Conqueror medals for iconic (conquered) places like Machu Pichu and Kilimanjaro.

When it is about nature, the conquering word is even more misplaced. Reading a recent New York Times article on reaching the true summit of the highest peaks in the world, it was hard not to laugh at such a flimsy definition of victory. You make it up to the top or near-about on the very edge of your life, rush down after a couple of minutes - call that conquering? Did you really conquer K2, or did you barely survive it? A strange sort of vanity and many light-years from the truth.


Monday, June 14, 2021

Pahadi Aloo

Unsplash - JE Shoots

The subziwallah trundled along, his products on display. Mostly aaloos with a sprinkle of tomatoes for colour, a pushcart full of them. "Aaloo le lo, pahadi aaloo." [Potatos for sale, mountain potatoes]. My neighbour's iron-clad fortress burst open with him stepping out to "Pahadi aloo hi hain naa?" [Are there really mountain potatoes?]

"Ekdum pahadi. Sau ke chaar kilo. Kahin nahin mileygaa." [Pure mountain. At Rs. 100 for 4 kilograms. Only from me.]

I was walking by and took a close look. My untrained eyes couldn't tell them apart from plains potatoes. Still, my neighbour's eagerness suggested that the altitude difference made a difference.

Indeed, the valley of Dehradun sits at the base of
the Himalaya, that benchmark for mountain ranges on this minor planet and conceivably, these potatoes did have some mountain blood in them. Plus, there was also another link to consider, one which crossed two continents and oceans. It took this humble vegetable back to its origin, to the land of the Inca under the shadow of a mountain range different but no slouch itself when it came to mountains.

With the Himalayas and the Andes both featuring on the family tree, it couldn't get more 'ekdum pahadi' than that.


Unsplash - Alexander Schimmeck


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Hard Copy


It has been a little over 3 months since a standard component of my life has returned after a 4-year hiatus. Getting a newspaper in print is outdated and unnecessary. The inquisitive news-seeker has more than enough options online, saving a few trees along the way. The reason I am drawn to holding my paper in my hands, beyond the nostalgia, is the offline nature of it. A team of editors who I trust, Indian Express in this case, serve me the news they thought was important 12 hours ago. Yes, there is curation and there is filtering here too, yet it is the permanency of their choices that makes it seem more reliable to me. No one can get on a server to tweak the words or make the link disappear altogether. There is no chorus of clashing voices in the comments section assigning the news their chosen flavour of interpretation. Just facts and me. The editorial opinions too seem to be personally delivered and not having a space to immediately react to them allows me to process them that much more slowly. Slowness in an age of near instantaneous Internet may be a botheration to most but to me, it’s a luxury I scarcely believe I deserve.