Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Email Addicts

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I know I'm going to draw lot of flak for this topic. But, hey, its the truth. The frequency with which we check mails HAS increased over the years. I agree, I do hear voices that say that it is because of change in career (we have moved from being school kids to college students to professionals), way we communicate (there were days when my grandmom used to wait for a letter from her daughter in Delhi for days, now all my mom need to do is to log on to her mail id to check for her daughter's mails), way we plan things out (how many times parties and events and trips have been decided between friends through email? I still remember a bday party where there were 54 mails within an hour :D) and the way we live. I'm all for these changes as they help a person a lot in communication (if not for my bank emails and credit card emails, I would totally forget the finance stuff and would have to run to the bank every time I want to do some transaction!! Life is infinitely simpler now!) but I've also seen people who check mails every five minutes! Mind you, its not as if they are expecting some important mail... its more out of habit. And in this country and age, where wireless devices are becoming more the norm rather than an addition, I find people checking mails in malls, theatres, parks, beaches (for heavens sake! They come to the beach to get away from it all and they check their mails there!!! One of my friends' husband is a compulsive email addict. The first thing he asked in the Florida beach resort where they stayed was how good the internet connection would be on the beach. Apparently he is not the only one who has asked this question. The resort employees told him about the facilities they had and his joy knew no bounds. Though he had fun with his wife and friends, my friend always says that she does not get her husband for herself for a full day. He is always connected and always checking mails and replying to them. She has learned to live with it but its sad that it has to be like this)!!

Also, people have a number of accounts. Yours truly, herself has four accounts, one for work, one for personal stuff, one for groups and one for junk(I still have no idea as to when I started this one or why I maintain this one... but its better to get all the junk in one of them. I can just log in one day and clean it all up rather than having the junk mail mess up my work or personal one. This id is given when I'm testing a site and I want some service but don't really want them or their partners to mail me). My roommate is tired of logging on to a number of her accounts and just redirects it all to one id and uses one email client. Another of my friends does it too. But, for people like her, the problem in closing down unwanted accounts is that they don't know to whom they've given which id. What if the id they close is given to someone important by chance? (A, I know you face this problem!).

It's good that Google or Windows Live or Yahoo doesn't let you open two accounts in the same Firefox browser (I've stopped using IE long back! So, not sure how it is in IE's tabs). Otherwise, people would open two accounts at the same time and use them simultaneously. Though it doesn't stop the problem, it atleast reduces it a lot. Ok, getting back to the topic, what is it that makes people check for mail every few minutes? If you are a hot shot executive or team leader or editor or anyone on earth who gets mail every few minutes, it makes sense to keep checking. But, strangely, it is these people who check their mails at set times of the day and don't give in to compulsive mail checking. They rather check their mails once, work on them and try to finish them off as soon as possible. One of the executives whom I've worked with in the past says that it channelizes his time and energy and lets him concentrate on his work thereby increasing his efficiency (ok! I might have a 'paper' effect in this post (aka) writing a sentence of ten words in twenty words so that the high brow conferences and professors accept it. I've been writing papers (sadly all for my courses) all through the week and here I am, with traces of that effect still in me). I've felt it too.... the days (or rather, hours) when I'm not on gtalk (I love Google for this idea... introducing gtalk within gmail. Its awesome for a person like me. I can do both at the same time... and it was a savior when we were in college and all the chat applications were blocked. But the lab admins could do nothing about gtalk and we had a whale of a time! But, adhu oru kanaakaalam!), I work more and I'm more efficient... but with gmail or gtalk on, I tend to check mail as soon as I see Gmail - Inbox(1) on the title bar. One of my friends is even worser. He keeps doing his work and keeps checking every five minutes for mail. So, we all do know that efficiency suffers big time with this email addiction. Then what is it that still makes people do it and worse yet, make it a habit?

I can guess only two reasons. First, people want to connect with others all the time. Even if they say that they are introverts and don't connect easily, man is a social animal (did I learn this in fourth standard? Good job, Alpine! You still remember fourth standard lessons ;)) and email doesn't require you to actually talk to a person real time on the face(though IMs also help in this regard, nothing is more convenient than email where you can think for hours to give back a reply which when said to in public, you won't have enough time to do so... even IMs require that you reply within seconds or minutes). It's the need to connect that drives people to do crazy things, even checking email on the beach!

Second reason is a bit wacky (based on how you take it). People want to share their time with more people. They feel that they share the same time(say an hour) with more people(friends, coworkers, spouse, etc) when they check mail along with something else that they are doing (otherwise, why would a guy want to check mails while he is having TV time with his family? He gets to spend time with his kids, share a joke with his wife and also check up with his coworker! Disclaimer: though I've used male gender here, both genders are becoming equally bad at this as the age group reduces. God save our kids!! When our generation women become mothers, we would be singing lullaby in one hand and checking mails in the other! LOL!!).

Finally(this is not a reason but still a tentative thought), people want to know more all the time in everything. That is why you watch a movie or do some work and still keep checking mails on the side so that you just CANNOT stop hearing the office gossip or the friends' gang gossip that comes in through email. I can come up with a bunch of more reasons ranging from getting a mail inflates your ego because someone thinks you are important enough to send a mail (nammalayum mathichu oruthan mail anuppi irukaanyaa!! (read in Solomon Paapaiyaa's style :D)) to you being plain bored and are either tired of networking sites/games or don't know about them. But, readers, what is your opinion about it? Also do share your experiences about it (I'm sure the tech people would have loads to tell about it). And, any ways you've seen/heard/done to break this addiction!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Serial Syndrome

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What is it with Indian serials? Whenever I see an Indian serial, I've always thought that there was something weird. But now, after seeing American and British serials(I even watched a French serial once), the differences are mind blowing. These are some of the differences I found(Readers! You are welcome to add to the list. :)):
1) Why is it that the characters in each serial are fully made up even when its night and all they do in the scene is to retire in the night?
2) Why is the humor so crass or worse still they do abject twisting of lines to get some "so called" humor? (couldn't stop comparing with SouthPark which made up a humor genre of its own)
3) Why is there a main protagonist and all the problems, ever made in the world, affect her/him? (Here, the directors are very feminist. All the protagonists are women. Eg: Abhi from Kolangal, the K serials, etc. Or do they send out a message that women always land in soup however good they are? Or is it done for a higher TRP rating? If so, aren't people interested when a man suffers? What sort of a message are we sending to the future generation?)
4) Why is it that there is always one unnecessary twist at the end of every episode? (Eg. A person gets down from the auto, walks to the gate(mind you, all this is shown in slow motion so as to kill the last five minutes of that episode), opens the gate and knocks on the door. Then, surprise of surprise, he has a surprised look on his face(As if he expected a human being to open the door and an alien did, or worse, the opposite.) and the episode ends. Couldn't stop commenting: Edhukku ivangalukku ivlo scene?)
5) Why is it that all the serials follow the same storyline? (if the protagonist in one serial goes to jail, the protagonist in another serial HAS to go to jail too... even if the storyline doesn't warrant it... Is this called springing surprises on the viewers? I would call it just plain confusing. My maid put it succinctly. She could no longer make much difference between the two serials. Eg: Abhirami from Anandham and Abhi from Kolangal went to jail in less than a week's time. Lol!)
6) Why is it that even in abject poverty(according to the storyline), the characters come dressed in the latest of fashions? (the one thankful grace was Metti Oli, where I could finally saw some characters dressed in the manner of normal people).
7) Why is it that when you think that a serial is different and interesting, it goes back to the normal formulae? (Eg. Kadhalikka Neramillai. I thought that serial was different and was interested to know how it went. But now, its so crap that sometimes I seriously wonder if it is being directed by the same person.)
8) Why is it that I can stop watching a serial for a year and watch it again only to pick up the story in a matter of minutes? Has the story not moved at all in that year?
9) Why is it that even "thriller" serials have black magic(there is no dearth of them in India) of some form? Can't the directors give something that thrills by the story and not by Mantras and Tantras?
10) Why is it that illegal issues are shown as commonplace on serials? (Eg. it is illegal to have two wives by the Indian law. But every serial has a character who has two wives and it is taken for granted. Also, come the scenes where people drink and drive, where hitting women is commonplace(there is a law that whenever a person is hit in a public place, anyone can give a complaint, more severe is the punishment if it is a woman being hit), where lewd comments and double entendre dialogues are rampant when even talking risque in public places can land you in trouble, etc.)
11) Why is it that women are shown to be either too patient or too sassy? In real life, none of the women are like that. (Eg. In MettiOli, there is one character who puts up with all the crap(mind you, its the worst crap possible) just so that her dad would be pleased(Lady, if you suffer, your dad would still be hurt. Its better to not suffer so much and make your dad feel sad than suffering for his sake. Would any dad want that?). Then when her dad dies, she walks away from it all. Does it mean she was waiting for her dad to die so that she can escape from the tortuous prison? Come on!!) Too much exaggeration seems to have become the norm nowadays. And that is not good, considering how far reaching the effects of TV are.
12) Why is it that violence of ridiculous levels be shown on TV? Why is it that scenes like murder, rape, etc are shown in graphic detail? And mothers happily let kids watch them. What sort of life is it coming to? I fondly remember the K.Balachandar serials like "adutha veetu jannal", "Premi", "Kadhal Pagadai", etc that were kid-safe(meaning, my parents can let us watch it without their supervision). Where did such serials go? There were also others like "Ragasiyathukul Ragasiyam", "Marma Desam", etc. when my mom was always nearby keeping an eye on what we saw. When we were kids, we had to get up and walk to our rooms(my mother would find 'instant' errands for us to do) when overage stuff was shown on TV. Now, we protect our parents like that :D We watch something first(movies, especially), then deem it parent-safe or not and then let our parents watch it. Else, they'll watch it and crib about it for days as to how the society has turned out. My parents are happy with this arrangement and my sister and I get to watch latest stuff too. A win-win situation :)

Nowadays, lots of Indian families say that they spend time with their kids in front of the television, their definition of "family time" or "quality time with kids". Accepted, we can't dictate as to how every parent should spend time with their kids. But what is disheartening is that kids get exposed to the adult world too fast, too soon. They lose their innocence and ask over-age questions. It might sound funny at that time, but its not so. Is robbing kids of their innocence our goal? Let the kids grow over time. The home is supposed to be the safest haven in the world. And, if the TV serials can intrude that haven and cause havoc watched by helpless parents, it becomes an issue of concern. I'm only reminded of a tamil proverb "Pinjilae pazhuthathu rusikaathu" (that which ripens when too young, will not be tasty). This applies not only to fruits and vegetables but also to people. The beauty of growing up is in knowing things at the right time, not in knowing things before hand. The kids have work cut out for them, in protecting their innocence from the attacks of the big, bad, mean world. Or as my roommate says, "there is no innocence in the world, only ignorance". If you take that approach, sure, let your kids know all that is there to know. But make sure the information comes from authentic sources and not cheap books, movies, etc. And certainly not TV serials.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A black day

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There are some things that are experienced by you and some that you have no relation to. And then there are some things where you feel the pain even when you have not been directly affected. One of them is the memorial service in my university held today where 32 innocent people paid with their lives for one person's foolishness and mental illness.

The university, faculty and students, the alumni and the families, all of us are mourning deeply for this act. No need to know the victims in person, it is enough that the lives were sacrificed when there was no need. There was so much passion, so much love, so much enthusiasm associated with each of the persons that you can feel it permeating through to you. The Norris Hall would forever be haunted and they would be forever remembered by one and all here. All of us have emerged, stronger and more ready to face the realities of life and to appreciate life and all its varied flavors better.

Though I was not at this campus when this sad incident happened, I can very easily relate to it as I see dear friends, faculty, lab mates, classmates and sundry who were here on that fateful day and could very well have been one of the victims. It sends a shudder through me when I think of it and what could have happened. How lives could have got changed in a moment's notice. This goes on to show how little time we all have(does anyone know when exactly they will die?) and how much time out of it we spend bickering and quarreling over silly issues. I'm sure all the loved ones of the victims would gladly give anything to be with them one more time, feel their arms around them one more time, feel those lips say their names one more time, have the opportunity to say how much they love them and how much they mean to them, have the opportunity to say how their lives brightened because of them, how many dreams each of the victims were a part of and how much more life can be.

I stay in a different place from my family and now I make it a point to talk to my parents and sister and family everyday. I especially take every possible opportunity to tell my mom how much I love her. For all that is possible, who knows if I would ever get a chance to tell her that again? I certainly don't want to leave this world with the regret that I haven't told her how special she is in my life. It doesn't reduce the potency of those words how many ever times you say it. In the Indian society, somehow, expressing one's feelings for another even if they were close relatives or friends, is considered a taboo or at the least an awkward thing. I, for one, would have told my parents that I loved them a dozen times in all my years of existence in India. Even though they know it and I know that they know it, we never said it out. But after coming here and knowing how life could change forever, I feel there is no time like the present to let your loved ones know how special they are in your life.

Even with friends, its better to tell things before you wait forever for the right moment. One of my friends is a friend of one of the victims. He is laden with grief and is guilty that he never told his friend how much love was there, untold, between them. Well, that has made me call long distance to a few of my close friends and speak to them about this and that for hours. Mind you, had I been in India and not had such an experience, I would've limited it to the times when both of us are free and when I see them online and calling them on special occasions. But now, I've called them time and again, sometimes even when they were sleeping at 2 am(R, I know I disturbed your sweet dreams with Ty that night... But I simply had to call!) And I've made some impromptu calls to my friends here. Just to tell them that I appreciate them being in my life and that I'm concerned for them. I used to be a person who was very controlled about her emotions and let it out only when she felt it was appropriate. Even now, I still have shades of that but I have realized that sometimes life is too short and its the present moment that matters the most. So if you get a call from me 'just like that', accept that it is my way of appreciating your presence in my life and be happy for the beautiful friendship that we share.

I heard one of my friends(a mom of two Hokies and a Hokie herself) say her experiences during that fateful day. She was at office and suddenly her son called saying that he was in lockdown and didn't know what was happening in the campus. She immediately saw the news and called him back to stay where he was. Her other son was also locked down in the dorm. She was thanking God that day because her son was supposed to be in the Norris Hall one hour later for one of his classes and had, on a whim, gone to the library to pick up a book and was locked down. She shudders to think of what otherwise could've happened. That is like making a trip to the gates of hell and back and then having heaven restored to you. And the saddest of it all was that when the paramedics were taking the victims out of the Hall, their cellphones were ringing and each of them had "Mom" or "Dad" on it calling to confirm they were safe. Some parents broke down saying that they had plans of coming for the graduation ceremony to see their daughter or son "walk the walk" and instead made the trip to get their lifeless bodies. It was a revelation and shows how much we all take for granted some of the things in our lives. Lets make sure that we spend more time with our loved ones, tell them how much we love them, hug them once more, hear them say our names once more, do everything with them once more. For time spent like this is never a waste and you will not regret it for lifetimes to come!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Vazhkaye porkalam!

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This is a poem from a friend's status message(thanks, varsh!) It was succinct yet conveyed the message! All kudos for the original author

vazhkaye porkalam,
vazhndudaan parkanum,
porkalam maaralam,
porgal daan marumo

[English translation:
Life is a battlefield
We have to live and see the end
The battlefield can change
But do the battles ever change?]