Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Blackberry Warriors

I have bought myself a Blackberry recently.

It is a sleek, elegant model, quite unlike the earlier Blackberrys which were thick, square and rather boring. This one is slim, light and nicely contoured: the Katrina Kaif of Blackberrys, you could say!

Actually, it was peer pressure that drove me to this purchase. In the new company I have joined, all the directors sport one. Recently, on a week-long association with one of them, I was intimidated to find that he was constantly on his Blackberry, making and receiving calls, reading or composing e-mails, surfing the web and doing a host of other things that left me light-headed.

As all you techno-freaks out there know already, the biggest USP of the Blackberry is its “push” mail application. You can set up multiple mailboxes in your device for your official and personal mails and the e-mails will land in your Blackberry more or less simultaneously with their landing on your mail server. There is no waiting around—your net-enabled mobile doesn’t need to login periodically to check if you have received new messages. It is a wonderful feature, works very well, and can be an invaluable facility for a corporate user, as it frees him to a great extent from the tyranny of the laptop.

But I do have a quarrel to pick with the Blackberry warriors.

Some people call it “The Curse of the Red Flashing Light”. Every time a new e-mail arrives on your Blackberry, a red light starts to flash persistently and in so ominous a fashion, it’s impossible to ignore. Never mind most of the time the messages are mindless forwards from friends bored out of their wits, pathetic scams from exiled Nigerian monarchs who need your help to reclaim their inheritance, or Facebook alerts from distant acquaintances you would rather have nothing to do with, but very soon you find yourself constantly checking the device for that the red flashing light. In no time it starts controlling your life and it has become an obsession.

I have been having the device for over three weeks now and I know I am not obsessed with that flashing red light. Maybe I am not normal. Most of the Blackberry users I know stop a conversation in mid-sentence and reach for their devices the moment the red light starts flashing.

That brings me to another issue, which is the quality of replies that you compose on your Blackberry. Just like most people find an imperative urge to open and read a mail the moment it arrives in their device, they feel equally compelled to reply to that mail that very minute itself. Most of the time there is no reflection and analysis, no search for alternative solutions in case a problem has presented itself, no delay between thought and action. This often results in an impulsive response, not well thought out, leading, at least in my opinion, to sub-optimum results.

While researching for this post, I came across this nice article in The Telegraph, UK by their columnist Bryony Gordon. Please do read it. Meanwhile, you have to excuse me now. There is that red light flashing in my Blackberry...

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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Greene and the Chennai Summer

I know it is not fashionable to talk about Graham Greene these days when bibliophiles wax eloquent about Stieg Larsson and Haruki Murakami, to name just two. But with Chennai wilting under the pitiless heat of a particularly malevolent summer, I am transported back to the hot, tropical climate of Sierra Leone that Greene so effortlessly invoked with his characteristic sense of place in The Heart of the Matter. Replace Sierra Leone with Tamil Nadu, replace Freetown with Chennai, and you will get a fair indication of what we are going through right now.

My blog posts have also slowed down to a trickle now and I conveniently blame it on the weather. In our house the dining table is used not only for the ostensible purpose for which it is intended, but also doubles up as a study table for my daughter, an activities and hobby centre for the wife, a makeshift bar when I invite friends over, a repository for odds and ends which we do not know what to do with, and as a browsing station for the whole family. This is where I normally plonk my laptop to compose my blog posts. But these days, it is too sticky and uncomfortable an area to inhabit—we even take our meals sometimes in front of the TV in the drawing room, which has better climate control.

To come back to Greene.

I had read The Power and the Glory while in college. The book was recommended to me by my father and probably he had his own reasons for suggesting the book, mired as I was at that time in considerable angst and confusion regarding my future. To my surprise, I liked the book immensely and followed up by reading the only other novel of Greene my father had in his collection, which was The Quiet American.

Then followed a long hiatus when I read no Greene whatsoever. More than a decade later, when my wife got a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) for her PhD programme, I suggested she do something on Greene. By a strange coincidence, her guide liked the idea and finally she ended up doing a comparative study on Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. The icing on the cake was JRF allowed her a handsome annual grant to buy books and we ended up having almost the complete works of Greene (and Waugh, even though I have not read him) which I devoured, a book at a time, during the course of the next few months.

My apologies for this pointless ramble.

I think the weather has something to do with it.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.