Volatile spurts

The blog that never was … almost

Archive for June 2010

Glass wall revised

with one comment

(this is a revised version of the original, based on feedback received)

Would I have even noticed her in any other context. I honestly doubt it.  Could have been in her late twenties or early thirties. One could not say by looking at her. I was fixing it by the kid. One does not get it very wrong with a kid.

You could get it wrong with a lady though. This newfangled fitness fetish of the modern woman. And of course the cosmetic industry is probably the only one showing growth in a recession rid economy. It was not that she was made up or anything. Dressed casually in a jean and shirt. Sandals. Hair folded into one of those large clips that give that rough and ready look. If you do know your stuff, the rough and ready look comes in two varieties. The one that takes four hours of hard work in the parlour and the one that really is. This one was the real thing.

That she was here out of choice was quite obvious. The black Scorpio parked outside  said that she could have afforded any of those new places. It also suggested that America figured somewhere in her past. Something about the US. Two months there, and SUVs become the favourite mode of travel for women. The larger the better. Does it make them feel powerful? Is it that they have a point to prove? If there was any such point, it was well proven in this case. The Scorpio was parked on the edge of the road where it fell off into one of those few empty plots that remain on the East Coast Road. Right at the very edge. Between the ONYX garbage bin in front and the pillar behind. With hardly a foot space to spare. It must have been expert hands that had backed the vehicle into that small space. The same hands that held the keys now?

The hands told a story. She had not inherited her wealth. Its the hand that is given the miss when the rest of you is given a makeover. A nagging middle class thrift? She had been middle class once. The money had been earned. Fluency in one of those new languages. Java or C. The names may sound funny but money is still green. By the looks of it she had already graduated beyond those primitive languages. She must be earning those big bucks in plain English. An American accent maybe, but English alright. Project manager or above. No more backbreaking code writing for this lady.

For one crazy moment I visualized her in the ad that stared out of the page I had turned to. “Go further than you ever imagined”, it said. It had this slim and rather goodlooking woman walking purposefully somewhere. Further than she had ever imagined I suppose. This one was not that slim nor that goodlooking.  But then, I doubt if she had trained to be a model. She sure looked the kind who would go further than she imagined though. In fact further than anyone had imagined. The maternal uncle was probably still shaking his head and saying, ” Well, who could have imagined”.

I could. I could imagine her walking into a packed auditorium to make a presentation on the future of telecom and 5G and all that. I could imagine her briefing her team of nerdy looking lieutenants, on the importance of delivering that project on time. I could imagine her in a conference call. Legs crossed, hair efficiently tied back, speaking into a microphone. She was, for sure, someone who could hold her own in whats supposed to be a man’s world. Reinforced steel may have stopped her, but she would not even have noticed the glass or felt it shatter as she zoomed up the corporate ladder. Always cool. Always composed. Always confident.

Which was probably why she was so noticeable now. Distinctly uncomfortable. Well, if not uncomfortable, a little apprehensive. Tentative?  She was seated on the very edge of the seat. The seat itself placed close to the door. One foot in, the other outside. She was looking outside too. Pointedly. But it was quite obvious she was all ears to what transpired inside. It was not something that went unnoticed. There was a palpable tension in the air. The men inside were not comfortable with the idea of this intrusion. But they tried to act normal. In their own way they were laying reinforcements to one of the last bastions of exclusivity, by acting that her presence did not affect them.

And she? She had the look of someone who had seen it before. A “pretending I don’t exist will not make me go away” look. But there was one indisputable fact. She may not have gone away, she may not have been fully stopped, but she had definitely paused at this very last stage.

Did she realize that this was different?  That how many ever miles she may have traveled, that how many ever heights she may have reached, there are some barriers that are not to be broken, some lines too sacred to be crossed.

I would never know. However I did know this much. That there was at least one piece of real estate, albeit tiny, that was going to remain exclusively male for some time to come.

The kid was through. I dropped the Filmfare back on the bench. It was my turn for a haircut.

Written by El Presidente

June 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Fiction

Glass wall

with 4 comments

(find here a revised version of this entry based on based on feedback received)

Would I have even noticed her in any other context. I honestly doubt it.  Could have been in her late twenties or early thirties. One could not say by looking at her. I was fixing it by the kid. One does not get it very wrong with a kid.

You could get it wrong with a lady though. This newfangled fitness fetish of the modern woman. And of course the cosmetic industry is probably the only one showing growth in a recession rid economy. It was not that she was made up or anything. Dressed casually in a jean and shirt. Sandals. Hair folded into one of those large clips that give that rough and ready look. If you do know your stuff, the rough and ready look comes in two varieties. The one that takes four hours of hard work in the parlour and the one that really is. This one was the real thing.

That she was here out of choice was quite obvious. The black Scorpio parked outside  said that she could have afforded any of those new places. It also suggested that America figured somewhere in her past. Something about the US. Two months there, and SUVs become the favourite mode of travel for women. The larger the better. Does it make them feel powerful? Is it that they have a point to prove? If there was any such point, it was well proven in this case. The Scorpio was parked on the edge of the road where it fell off into one of those few empty plots that remain on the East Coast Road. Right at the very edge. Between the ONYX garbage bin in front and the pillar behind. With hardly a foot space to spare. It must have been expert hands that had backed the vehicle into that small space. The same hands that held the keys now?

The hands told a story. She had not inherited her wealth. Its the hand that is given the miss when the rest of you is given a makeover. A nagging middle class thrift? She had been middle class once. The money had been earned. Fluency in one of those new languages. Java or C. The names may sound funny but money is still green. By the looks of it she had already graduated beyond those primitive languages. She must be earning those big bucks in plain English. An American accent maybe, but English alright. Project manager or above. No more backbreaking code writing for this lady.

For one crazy moment I visualized her in the ad that stared out of the page I had turned to. “Go further than you ever imagined”, it said. It had this slim and rather goodlooking woman walking purposefully somewhere. Further than she had ever imagined I suppose. This one was not that slim nor that goodlooking.  But then, I doubt if she had trained to be a model. She sure looked the kind who would go further than she imagined though. In fact further than anyone had imagined. The maternal uncle was probably still shaking his head and saying, ” Well, who could have imagined”.

I could. I could imagine her walking into a packed auditorium to make a presentation on the future of telecom and 5G and all that. I could imagine her briefing her team of nerdy looking lieutenants, on the importance of delivering that project on time. I could imagine her in a conference call. Legs crossed, hair efficiently tied back, speaking into a microphone. She was, for sure, someone who could hold her own in whats supposed to be a man’s world. Reinforced steel may have stopped her, but she would not even have noticed the glass or felt it shatter as she zoomed up the corporate ladder. Always cool. Always composed. Always confident.

Which was probably why she was so noticeable now. Distinctly uncomfortable. Well, if not uncomfortable, a little apprehensive. Tentative?  One foot in, the other outside. She was looking outside too. Pointedly. But it was quite obvious she was all ears to what transpired inside. Did I notice a hint of excitement? The look of someone who had finally set out on an adventure that she had only dreamed of until then? Choosing to realise some crazy idea that she had long harboured? I was sure she wanted to be here. The kid was just an excuse. This was not the first time for the kid, but it definitely was so here. The kid was making it plainly clear that it was no party to this escapade.

So why would she take all the effort to do this … and pause at the very last minute. She had crossed many barriers before, and this should have been just one more of them. So why? Maybe she realized that this was different.  That how many ever miles she may have traveled, that how many ever heights she may have reached, there are some barriers that are not to be breached, some lines too sacred to be crossed.

I would never know. However I did know this much. That there was at least one piece of real estate, albeit a tiny bit, that was going to remain exclusively male for some time to come.

The kid was through. I dropped the dated Filmfare back on the bench. It was my turn for a haircut.

Written by El Presidente

June 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Fiction

Earthquake

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Third time that am experiencing an earthquake in Chennai. Was watching the England – US first round match when it happened. Discovered a couple of things when I googled to check if there was indeed an earthquake.

A US government website, the USGS provides real time data on earthquakes across the world. Also provides information on what to do when an earthquake strikes.

Today’s earthquake incidentally was centered somewhere in the Nicobar islands and had a magnitute of 7.7 on the richter scale. Its been an hour since the earthquake and no news on any of the leading English news channels. But SUN, Kalaignar and Jaya TV are flashing the news.

Written by El Presidente

June 13, 2010 at 1:58 am

Posted in Others

Browser choice

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Today when users in the EU start their windows PCs, they will have a window open automatically displaying a page that provides users the option of installing a browser of their choice. The result of a long drawn out court battle on the anti-competitive practices of Microsoft, the Browser Choice update comes as part of the normal Microsoft windows updates and is designed to function on all machines that have Internet Explorer as the default browser.The reactions and strategies of various software vendors to this mandatory update are pretty interesting.

Microsoft has tried to play it down by making it look like just another legal requirement that it is trying to meet and has hidden its FAQ among the thousands of pages that are hosted on its site designed to address the needs of IT professionals. The browser update page, itself designed and hosted by Microsoft, seems suspiciously similar to the many POP ups that prompt you to install malicious software onto your computer. Only people who choose to install a different browser or click on the “select later” button will be automatically prompted the next time around. Clicking on the red “x” close button on the top right, which to me seems to be the most likely reaction of a lay man,  would disable the automatic pop of the update too. Microsoft has also provided extensive information on how this update can be disabled by enterprises, using language that treats the update as some kind of a nuisance that is best avoided. “If they choose not to deploy the update, their employees and IT infrastructure will not be affected by the update.”

Mozilla the creator of the popular Firefox browser, has gone ahead and put up a dedicated site to educate users on browsers and the importance of choosing the right one. That, to me  looks like fighting for someone else’s rights and having won that fight, teaching that someone about the right that you won for him. Mozilla of course defends itself by insisting that it did not initiate the court case, but now that the decision has been taken, its simply supporting a right cause.

A cause that does not seem to have made any impact on the supposed beneficiaries. Reeling under deteriorating economic conditions, I am not too sure how many European users would appreciate the importance of being able to choose one’s browser, when there are more immediate and tangible objectives like avoiding salary cuts or saving one’s job. Even if one assumed better economic conditions I honestly doubt the impact that this decision could make on the community of browser users.

And that is probably the most interesting aspect of this episode. Can an ostensibly egalitarian notion of choice be achieved using court orders. Ideas of choice and freedom typically assume the validity of the idea without it being tested. And instead of probing whether the idea has any relevance to the intended beneficiary, it is thrust on people who could well be indifferent to it. The European courts have obviously spent thousands of dollars of tax payers, money on a battle that those very tax payers would not even have been aware had been fought … on their behalf. And if they were made aware, they would probably wonder what the fuss was all about.

Mozilla candidly admits that most Europeans are unaware of the browser choice screen and has started a campaign trying to educate them. The problem, as someone bluntly put it, is that you would have to educate a majority of users on what a browser is in the first place. And as for the ones who do know what a browser is. Well, some of them are paying the price of choice already. System administrators across Europe today got calls from users, citing a weird window that opened on  their computers. On of the more frustrated sys admins, in fact wonders about the rights of people who choose not to have this update on their machine. In doing so he reveals an underlying truth about the real choices people make in their lives.

Here is a system administrator, part of whose job is to check the updates coming from a software vendor and then choose the ones he wants to install. Quite obviously he is blissfully unawares of this choice or has chosen not to exercise it for so long that he even forgot it existed. If this is the apathy shown by  a system administrator, one wonders about the end users who are, well, users. An idealistic may live and even die for freedom and choice. But in a real world choice can be a luxury that few can afford to indulge in, and in some cases it may even be a punishment forced on people who simply do not want it.

On the other hand there are those who would insist that this is an obviously elitist way of underestimating certain sections of society. And they would be right to a large extent too. After all, this was precisely the (elitist) view that Winston Churchill and many in the West held about Indian democracy, which they believed would collapse sooner than later.  Ideas of democracy and freedom were for the haves according to them, not people who were starving. Of course we all know that Indian democracy not only survived, but has become an example for many in the world to follow.

Only time will tell how the less important issue of choice of browser pans out. My own bet is on Microsoft for two reasons. The first one is that I do not personally believe that choice is something the court orders for you. The second of course is in the way Microsoft has managed to chosen to execute the court verdict. Like the Irascible Hermann of the irrepressible Saki says

“There are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with cream, but I’m not sure that it’s not the best way.”

Written by El Presidente

June 11, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Number portability

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Number portability is once again farther away with both BSNL and MTNL insisting that they are not ready with the systems to support it.

TRAI of course has given another “deadline” of September 2010. Hope they meet it this time around. Have been holding my Reliance in anticipation of this for too long now.

Written by El Presidente

June 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Technology

Tagged with ,

And finally the first post

with 2 comments

Days, months, years later … finally the first post. So will it be the blog that finally is ?

Written by El Presidente

June 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Others