A quiet chat

Do you remember ICQ and MSN and Yahoo messenger and GTalk?

I used to use several of these, because different friends had different addresses and preferred the look-and-feel of a particular one. And then people started shifting to Orkut and FB and Twitter and Whatsapp and Viber and Snapchat.

It slowly got lonelier and lonelier.  After all, in this always-connected world, who needs those old IM platforms when the smartphone apps are so much better? (Well, people who don't use smartphones, for one!) 

I still use one of the old ones, mostly for work.  Till not so very long ago, there used to be a regular flow of friends on it.  But slowly slowly, the logged-in list has been growing shorter and shorter, till now it's only populated by those who know it's the best way to reach me for conversations (when they can't talk, of course).

I guess the reasoning is not without logic - why bother to log in on multiple platforms when nearly everybody is on the two-three big ones? And for those who aren't, well, tough. In a world where we have too many friends in too many places and too little time, a few are bound to slip through the crack, right? And if they do, and you don't really miss them, then obviously they didn't matter to you that much, yes?

Whatever. All I know is that I have to continually log on to bloody FB to keep tabs on my friends. 

And let's not even get started about emails. 


Happiness Index

Everywhere I turn, there seems to be a new Index to measure how happy you are. None of them seem quite right, though.  So, after much thought (this afternoon), I came up with the Chai-Toast-Book Happiness index.

The index is mapped using the quality of three variables - a cup of chai, a butter-cheese toast, and the book being read. Bas. One was so happy at having invented this.

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Of course, as you may have surmised already, I then realised the value of each factor itself depends upon several variables.  To wit:

the blend of tea being used and the proportion of leaf to dust;
the kind of milk available (skimmed, semi-skimmed, full-fat, extra-creamy, dairy-free);
whether the milk was environmentally packed (pouch or bottle or carton);
how confident I am that the milk has not been adulterated or contaminated;
whether the sugar is sulphur-free;
is there was enough lemongrass and ginger and mint to hand;

is the bread is healthy-grain;
is the flour is organic;
what sort of cheese is being used;
has it had a proper cold-storage history;

what genre of book was it;
was it an easily-holdable paperback or a big, heavy, slipping-from-finger hardback;
was it a comforting re-read or a gripping new one or just something to do TP with;
was it bought new (thus paying royalties to the author and indirectly encouraging them to write more) or secondhand (thus helping the recycling movement and some poor vendor);

what time of the day was this activity being undertaken in;
was the weather all monsoon-y and wistful or was it spring-y and sprightly or was it cold and snuggle-inducing;
were all three being ingested sprawled on a couch or lounging in bed or out in a park;
what was the likelihood that somebody would call or ring the bell in the middle of this activity.

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I stopped making the list about then.  So much complexity for something so seemingly simple.  Not so happy now, I can tell you.


The tales of Jeroo: Chai and philosophy

Jeroo Dalal willingly admitted that if there was one weakness she had, it was for strong chai. 

(Well, that and fresh pao.  Preferably with butter.  And some cheese. Oh okay, gossip too.  And yes, the smell of frangipani after a light drizzle.  Alright, alright, and Georgette Heyer novels. But mostly chai).

And she had a particular weakness for the first cup of the day.  Because the first cup was special.

The first cup of chai, as she often remarked, was the true alarm clock of the city.  Oh, people would awaken with the sound of cars being slapped by wet cloths, or the too-loud greetings of security guards as they took over for the day shift, or the unloading of the paper and milk vans.  But they only really came to their senses as their noses involuntarily dilated with the waft of boiled mint-and-ginger, as their scalded tongue sent admonishments to the brain, as their empty stomachs protested at the sudden influx of so much tannin, as their brains sparked into consciousness with the jolt of sugar and pure bliss. 

(Of course, there were some people who blathered on about not being able to face the world unless they had their coffee, but they were heathens really. Coffee was for hill stations, and late nights, and for winter trips.  Mornings were meant for chai, and really, that was the end of the discussion).

But what she never revealed to anyone was that the preparation of that first cup was more special, and which is why she insisted on readying it herself. 

Every morning, as she rinsed out the dented four-cup aluminium kettle that Behramsha had gifted ohsomany years ago and set about her routine, she took a moment to ready herself for the world.  The simple movements, honed to a fine efficiency by years of practice, helped warm up her body while her mind slowly yawned itself into focus.  And almost inevitably, she mused about how human society was so much like a cup of chai.

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Take a little bit of several completely disparate ingredients, fiddle constantly with their proportions (sometimes even adding and removing things) to achieve just the right balance, and throw them together in fiery circumstances.

Every small thing mattered.  The material of the kettle, the type of water, the kind of milk, the amount of leaf in the tea, whether you used mint or peppermint, lemongrass leaves or stalk, sliced or grated ginger, cardamom shelled or not. When you added them and in what sequence and for how long.  Whether you used a comforting old chipped mug or a little glass or a steel tumbler.  Whether you gulped it down or sipped it daintily or slurped it from a saucer.

And all this swirled and bubbled and eventually blended together to form something … remarkable.  Something that in the light of cold logic should be a total disaster of mismatched constituencies, but somehow was full of sustenance and promise and comfort.  Something that changed slightly each time and each day, but intrinsically remained the same.  Just like humans.  Millennia of the same emotions and routines, the same conflicts and triumphs, and yet, each event was uniquely different. Something that seemed harmless enough when left to simmer, but which would inevitably boil over and mess the surroundings if oversight was withdrawn for even a moment. A unique restorative that offered comfort, but one that would slowly stain every receptacle it came in touch with.

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Of course, Jeroo thought, there were those who insisted there were aliens amongst us.  That would account for those would put saunf in their chai.  Saunf! Brrrr.


Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

Sometimes, at random occasions (always when I'm alone), I find myself wistfully going om nom nom

Just because the interwebz discarded you for other fancies doesn't mean you aren't still fun, little poppet. Who's a little wunnerful meme? Who's a perfectly lovely mouthful? Who? Thaaaat's right. Om nom nom nom nom.


Hidden deaths

There's a dead wasp on the path. Ants swarming round, calling in reinforcements till they successfully begin to lift-drag it away.  I wonder if it died, fell and was then discovered, or if it was got injured and fluttering on the ground, got pounced upon by this army.

I realise I don't know how long wasps live, or how they die if fortunate to live their entire lifetime. Do they just stop breathing (how do they breathe)? Do they just stop and settle down somewhere, waiting as their vitality drains away? Or do they submit to the hive-mind, surrendering their bodies for the little nutritional value; one last task for the good of all? 

I look around, and I see butterflies and birds and little flies brought by the heat.  I see them everyday, and when they flit off, I dismiss them.  Show's over, see you again tomorrow.

But where do they go? Do you butterflies group together in a bush at night? Do flies have hives or nests? Are these the same ones I saw yesterday, or are those all just so much fodder by now?  And if they are mulch, did they topple over, or did they just stop and fall mid-air?

I keep thinking I've read all of this somewhere before, but I realise that I don't really know, and am merely trying to convince myself. And I realise that where once I would have rushed off to learn about such new things, today I insist that if I just spent enough time reflecting, all this information would be dredged up from whatever deep recess it had been stored in. 

I try not to even think about the fact that I haven't even thought about these things. Or why.

The thought of my curiousity dying scares me more thoroughly than the prospect of my own death.

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All the dead wasps I've ever seen have been curled up, like a newborn baby.  One position, two diametrically opposite stages of existence.

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So much to know. So much to known about what to know, what there is to know. 



I have taken to hiding every single pop-up recommend, trend, suggested reading, additional reading, feedback request, and quick survey that happens across my browser. 

Without offering any reason why*.

I do it in the faint hope that somewhere, a data-sucking, ad-misselling, clickbait-creating algorithm writer will end up screaming in frustration because at the lack of information.

And if they do factor such null value in as well, I keep hoping it will result in fewer such messages cluttering up my view.

Either way, win-win.

* No, not even 'Other'.