Category Archives: cribs

The Technoramus Chronicles – An Invitation to Torture

This is not a sad story unless you are me or one of the hapless nokia customer service executives that falls into my clutches.
I decided to enter the smart phone market on the 10th of June. This landmark day was also the choice of the Slavonia in 1909 when it ran into trouble off Azores and used the SOS was for the first time as an emergency signal. Fitting therefore that I chose this day to acquire an instrument with which to solve every emergency of entertainment.
SOS: What’s the latest on #iranelection.
SOS: I don’t know what’s for dinner. Why don’t YOU ask the cook.
SOS: Where in heaven’s name is JD Somani Road ? You mean its not the same as BD Somani  road?! 
SOS: Need to let the world know the monsoon has still not arrived in bombay.
You get the picture. (In case you didn’t photo of phone below)

The Instrument of Torture...

The Instrument of Torture...

I spent the 10th feeling rather chuffed at having purchased such a smart phone and the 11th and 12th feeling extremely dumb in comparison to it. Can’t set up email. The apps for twitter and chat don’t work like they are supposed to. Latitude hangs and while I can’t find current location on GPS, my colleague picks up phone and figures it out in 30 seconds.


Idiot me.
 By the 14th though, I was feeling happier, working my way through the menus and looking up to display my coolest new discovery to whichever unfortunate happened by. The evening of the 14th saw the family party. Full of the best kind of victims – technologically backward aunts and uncles who would be impressed even by my abilities on phone and young male cousins who would be impressed by my phone if not by me. All went well until I decided to impress folks with the camera. There is a perfectly good camera at home, but my NEW COOL phone, can take better photographs, can ‘t it?!

It can’t.

In fact, the screen blanks out after exactly a couple of shots of just half the khaandaan. I wonder what would have happened if it had been a full family gathering.
There I was, egg (or dahi, if you are a real purist vegetarian type) on face, and folks had already started on horror stories of what would happen when I tried to get it repaired, instead of consoling me.
The First Instinct
My first instinct was to call The Mobile Store – where I bought the phone. Answer to my ‘Will you give me a proper phone’ question
“Please take the phone to a Nokia service center. We will give you a replacement phone if Nokia gives us a ‘DOA’ …
I interrupt, “DOA?”
“Dead on Arrival, madam. “
I look in horror at my shining, beautiful new phone and imagine it in death throes, leaking engine grease or whatever passes for blood in its species.
“Dead? But only my camera does not work”
“Yes madam. Which is why we will not give you a proper phone or your money back. Go speak to Nokia”
Lessons in the Language
While working my way through  the nokia website I discovered that the guys at Shivaji Park were the only ones who picked up the phone. I was completely relieved to actually hear human voice say Nokia Care instead of automated MTNL voice claiming ‘Aaple dial kiyela number vyasta aahe. Krupa karoon nantar dial etc. etc.’ or the fake cheerful Vodafone voice saying “You seem to have dialed a wrong number”
Me.  ‘Til what time are you open?”
Lady: 10 madam.
Me: Really? I need to give my phone for repair. Where exactly is your shop.
Lady: On LJ Road near shiv sena bhavan. Aap na, petrol pump se left leke seedha aao. Dukaan vahin pe hai”
Armed with these directions (and not to mention the still functioning GPS on my phone) I catch a taxi to Shivaji Park. Arrive at 7:10. Heart lighter at thought of restoring phone to full health as I catch sight of a blue and white Nokia board with lots of shiny phones by the window. No. that is a retail store. Two doors down, a rather smaller, less shiny, Nokia Care board is visible. I walk towards it only to find a grimy shutter drawn all the way down and all is locked and barred. Maybe they shifted to the new shiny place. Go back, and ask man: Nokia Care?
Haan madam. Band hai.
Lekin mujhe das baje…
Haan madam. Das Baje KHULTA hai. Saat baje band. Aap thoda late aaye.
Note to self. Do not speak ever for such info in English. The ‘till’ at beginning of sentence was clearly not heard or understood.
Lessons in Patience:
All that followed has been, and still is, an exercise in patience.. Care center located nearer home. Arrive punctually at 10:00 only to find that the center is not open.
At 10:20 I call the Nokia call center. ‘Your center is not open’
‘Sorry madam. Which center?’
‘Your center in saki naka.’
Nokia wait music… 5 minutes later… still on Nokia wait music.
Finally human voice. ‘Madam. He is in traffic jam just a few minutes away. You know saki naka”
In disbelief. “I just came here via saki naka to get here at 10. There is no traffic jam”
Oh. “On hold again”
“Madam, here is cell phone number of sanjay. You can call him and confirm”
Call cell phone. No answer.
5 minutes later
Call cell phone: ‘Madam just parking and coming’
Finally at about 10:45 I’m sitting down in front of babe to tell her my raam kahani.
‘Madam you leave phone. And pick it up at end of day’ .
‘I don’t have another instrument. So why don’t you do it now and I’ll wait’
An hour later I’ve
a)      surveyed the entire shop. Thought that Nokia’s standards of props required in a care center just do not suit the kind of retail space available in Bombay. In trying to fit all the POP’s, chairs for visitors, tables, fundu machines to spit out appointment receipts and tokens and loudspeakers there is no space left over for the customers for whom all this is meant!
b)      Filled in feedback form. As with every pre-folded thing the folds defeat me and I’ve stuffed the badly folded form into their feedback box.
c)       Gone shopping and bought myself a couple of shirts. And felt fat because none of the skirts fit like they are supposed to.
d)      Sat and stared at all my fellow sufferers including the chap that made me feel like an excessively polite model customer. Atleast I don’t say ‘ladki. Apne sir ko bulao. Kab se mujhe chutiya bana rahi hai’
The original late latif strolls back, gives me a horrible replacement phone (that he says is new… probably because the model is so bad no one bought it!) and says, he will let me know the verdict end of day.
End of day. No call. So I call back.
“sorry. This software problem cannot be solved here the phone will have to go back to the center in gurgaon. That repair will take 10 -12 days madam. I will call and tell you.”
Further call to nokia asking if they will just give me another phone or my money back.
Answer from very polite call center lady whom I admire for her equanimity in the face of my outrage. : No. Sorry madam. But no.
So I possess myself in patience and smilingly tell anyone who asks me where the cool new phone is, that it has gone to the Nokia hospital.
June 23, 2009 – Calling Up
I can no longer wait to find out what is going on. I call the Saki Naka place and following conversation ensues.
Me: I had given my phone for repair on16th. Can you tell me the status.
Voice: Job sheet number.
(I read it out … silence… )
Madam ek minute.
More conversation.
Madam physical check karna padega.
Me: Mobile phone shaayad dilli gaya hai. Aapke sanjay sir ne bola ki wahin bhejna padega.
Voice: madam aapka e75 hai? Yahin hai. Hamara engineer pehle dekhega …
By this point my blood begins to boil. I thought I was six days closer to having the phone back and now they tell me it has been lying anaath at their center and no one cares?!
Lose it.  Editing the irrational parts of conversation… here is what I am told.
Sanjay Sir has gone on emergency to gaon. The engineer will look at phone. And the voice will call me personally by end of day to tell me what is going on. But can make no commitments on date.
June 23, 2009 – Getting hung up on
Blood still boiling, I call the Nokia Call Center to vent on the treatment meted out to me only to have the following happen (again irrational parts of conversation edited out)
Me: Can I meet someone at Nokia so I can throw the phone in their face and get my money back?
Agent: No.
Me: lets see what else we can do. Then repeat of sad story so far…
Agent (somewhere through sad story): You need a target date from service center.
Me: The jobsheet has 16th wriiten and they have not given me a new one.
Agent: Then you need to go to the center and speak to the technician.
Me: I just spoke to them. They have not given me a target date.
Agent: That is what I am telling you, you need to go back to the center and speak to technician.
Me: I just did. (this back and forth happens for a bit until…
Can I meet someone at Nokia So I can throw phone in their face and get my money back?
Agent: No.
Me: Okay. Can you atleast accept a complaint about your call center…
Agent has hung up on me and fake cheerful Oz accented woman asking me if I want to give a customer satisfaction survey.
Further calls to prise a target date out of the nokia care center which saw the miraculous recovery of the sanjay who had gone to gaon on emergency amongst other things followed. The net result… I still have no phone and am currently entertaining myself with fantasies of ‘me American – you Iraqi prisoner’ involving me (as american) and the product manager of the Nokia E75 as Iraqi prisoner.


Good Morning!

I walked into the room at the wrong time but I couldn’t leave without picking up what I needed.

There was no pause in the harangue. On one side, all the office boys and security gaurds and on the other, the VP of HR, the office admin and the receptionist.

Admin says: “Aap ko jhukna hee padega. Hum bhi jhukte hain na. Saab ko bhi good morning nahin bolte ho. Unka kaam nahin karte ho. Thoda naram hona seekho.”.

Followed by the HR “Agar kisiko ko yahaan kaam nahin karna hai to bolo…”

Goosebumps from the embarassment. I’d just been wished a cheerful ‘Good Morning’ on my way in. I didn’t have what I needed but scuttled out anyway. Don’t have the stomach for such ugliness.

Now I’m thinking was I really being wished a ‘Good’ Morning? Would I rather not hear the ‘I’m having a horrible day because … answer’ to my ‘Hello. Kaise hain aap’

To put the honesty thing in perspective there was MTNL in the morning. They practice it. The call center agent feels perfectly free to be rude, say ‘madam. hum sirf general manager ka call handle karte hain’ and hang up on you.



A couple of weeks of being like this… sick and sorry for self. The sum of the two added up to a constant sick of work quotient though.


Making up these graphs instead of neat little ones about home loan probabilties of default. Evil Me.

And an evil me, clearly needs music to suit.

Sweating the Small Stuff

Sometime in the past 4 weeks, somewhere between three cities, I seem to have misplaced my driving license. Sigh. Under other circs this would not be so bad. However have just acquired car, it is EXTREMELY inconvenient to not be able to drive. Most errands right now involve getting vehicle from point a to b to c.   I’m ready to brain everyone (self included) for having to wait and plan my life around ‘who-has-a-valid-license-and-is-free’ 

There is nothing more irritating than dependence.

Consolation is in Divisadero. Storyline so far is pretty close to an M&B – young love comes to an end when father of girl discovers couple together, beats boy almost to death, takes screaming girl away from her one true love.  Girl grown up translating things in France. Boy practicing card sharp. So far so nice and if it were M&B they would find their way back to each other and happy endings would happen.

But this is Ondaatje. While every page reads like rough, uncut verse sending shivers through my brain, a happy ending is unlikely. Fat Consolation this is going to be.

Incomplete Crisis

Imaginary conversation in schizophrenic brain (SB). A symptom of reading diet consisting of McCarthy and Palahnuik with an India-Pakistan in nuclear holocaust essay thrown in for the light stuff between the two.

Cover of Book by Chuck Palahnuik
Cover of Book by Chuck Palahnuik

SB1: When I was 18 I had all my existential crises in my head. Didn’t act them out. Actually even the ones I had weren’t violent.

SB2: Yeah. That is because you were having them to the tune of Milan Kundera and Emily Dickinson. You can only have sensible epiphanies on the nature of life. It leads you to virtuous, old-fashionedly optimistic choices. If you had been more with it, reading Palahnuik or even the damn newspaper often enough you would have managed a more modern angst. It would have been edgy. You would have acquired and acted out a nice doped out violent streak.

SB1: But it would have been more expensive. I mean, there wasn’t a single character in this Palahnuik that wasn’t a walking pharmacy. I couldn’t have afforded those things. And even if I had managed to scrape together the resources, it would have ended up like ‘The Joke’. Downing laxatives when you meant to commit suicide with some sleeping pill thing. I wouldn’t have known which pills to swallow for a headache, let alone to get a high.

SB2: Haven’t you heard of google?

SB1: Oh Yeah. The good student way to becoming druggie. Google your way through a lit survey. Shortlist drugs of choice. Stock. Then snort, swallow or syringe as appropriate.

SB2: Uh. Yeah. You have to start somewhere. If you want something done right, have to do it yourself in nice organised fashion. And its not like the peer group is overflowing with people that can help.

SB1: But what about guns? Not possible to do good rampage without accessories.

SB2: Kitchen Knife?

(Some sane corner of brain) : Shut up. Its time to read Thirukkural


Be Careful What You Wish For

Yup. My not so truth scenario ended up being the truth scenario. And how. P couldn’t stop laughing when I reported 102 Fahrenheit and how displeased I was with it. Chortled in most evil fashion and said I had got what I deserved. So much for sympathy from friends. Family though is another matter. Suitable quantities of Kashaayam and Molagu Rasam and Paavam  happening to make me happy. Or I would be happy if I could stop feeling so (s)ick!

Silent Raga - Book Cover

I’m not sure if ‘The Silent Raga’ was the right book for a sick me to read this weekend. For one, blurb starts with ‘Where do middle-class, Tamil Brahmin girls go when they turn eighteen?’ and purports to tell the tale of Janaki who ran away to escape her dad’s plans for an arranged marriage and ends up with her ‘Cinderella’ like happily ever after as the successful, respected, veena-maestro second wife of a Muslim film actor. (I’m past 18, but should I?!). The Cinderella comparisons should not stop there. The Janaki of this story is taken out of school and made the ‘unpaid domestic’ at the tender age of thirteen upon her mother’s death, because ‘someone-has-to-take-care-of-the-house’. The tales of her life of drudgery in the agraharam with only music and a couple of equally ill-fated friends for company is told in flashback as she swans about South Bombay giving interviews to top women’s magazines, and doing mannats at Haji Ali. All this flashback brought on by her plan to go back home after ten years to meet her sister, Mallika.

The Mallika in the meanwhile, does flashback of her own story, remembering the gently domineering but  life-saving Akka, who abandoned her suddenly one day and left her to deal with a father who was going increasingly insane and the aunt with whom he had been having an adulterous affair for years. Mallika is now a USIS librarian / counselor in Madras, supervising many into the upper-middle class Tamilian dream of ‘MS in US’ and ‘Green Card’.

I can’t help but be critical of the author and the way he documents the Tam-Bram girl experience. I read the book straight through (despite the sniffles and the fever) which is the good part. But I kept nit-picking. Good Tam-bram girls do not boast of their garlic selection skills. The description of ‘menses’ and all that goes with it was awfully off. A certain flatness in the description of Janaki’s latter life in Bombay.  For all that though, he did manage to pick up the way that the households work. The power of the unsaid rules that every insider knows but can’t quite explain. The little hypocrisies. Well done Mr. Aseem Merchant. More particularly since you are Mr. Aseem Merchant.


Tales from the Crib

With the previous break a fast fading memory, the next one too far away and my mind too blunted and sensible to come up with good escapist fantasy, I am BORED. Yes. I could work. But I don’t want to. I have caught up on all the blogs, the cartoons, the webzines and now that I have descended to reading reviews of Jap restaurants in New York (consider the uselessness of this.. I’m unlikely to visit East Village in the near future AND I am vegetarian) it is perhaps time I gave in and left. All those books from the Oxford Bookstore are calling out to me. Sigh. But going back to the aerie not possible. If I return I shall be questioned. Imaginary dialogue would go, so:

X: “Wow! You are back early!”

knitted brow as realisation of how early happens.

X: “Is everything okay? Are you not well? Have you got your period?

Me: (in truth scenario) “No. I just wanted to read the books I bought”

X: “Oh. Then you can come with me to buy the shoe rack. And the cupboard. Or why don’t you clean your clothes shelf out and sort the things you are not going to use. And … ”

Me: (in not so truth scenario) “Yeah. Feeling a little off. I’m just going to lie down and relax (code for read a book)

X: “I told you not to wash your hair and go out without drying it. I will make some kashayam for you. And sleep! Your eyes will fall out one day from reading so much. Just like your patti. Tchah. This vamsham… ”

Oh well. I better find a decent semi-dry park / footpath and hope Salman Khan is not going to drive over it. Its the only place that Mohsin Hamid and I can be alone.