Thursday, July 04, 2013

Why I Love My Kindle

So, coming in hot on the heels of my last post, the title of this one might make some of you think that I, Chitra Appasamy, now fancy myself a writer of Technology Reviews.

Calm yourselves. It is not so.

I've had occasion to discuss the Kindle and its virtues several times over the last month, with suspicious book-lovers who view (as I did) buying a Kindle as some form of 'selling out' to the Electronic Age, and proof that one does not, in fact, really love books, but is merely a 'casual' reader (the horror!) You know the sort. Someone who picks something off the bestseller shelf to read on a flight or on the toilet. Is that who you are, Chitra, huh? How can we have misjudged you so?!

How can a person who's grown up devouring books, who visits secondhand bookstores and libraries more to savour that gorgeous old-book smell than to actually buy or borrow anything, who loiters in the Landmark aisles for hours just window-shopping, who has to dodge a book-avalanche every time she opens a cupboard, whose Amazon wishlist of 262 items comprises largely of future additions to her library - and in my case, someone who loves and designs book jackets - how can such a person, such an obvious kindred spirit, possibly enjoy reading crisp electronically-generated letters on a cold, hard piece of soulless plastic?

People find this very upsetting. When a long-time book lover buys herself a Kindle, it is like Proof that the Book is Dying (as various articles on The Internets keep trying to convince us). Doesn't anyone care about that lovely book-smell anymore? Are we the only ones left? What is happening to the world?!

I understand your feelings, because they mirror mine from about a year and a half ago. So you can imagine my shock when a friend I really admire, who loves books even more than I do and has read about ten times the number I have (for the record, this is a formidable figure) whipped out a Kindle in my presence. This was the first time I had actually seen this supposed Destroyer of Worlds, and I was simultaneously fascinated and outraged. How can YOU possibly have one of these, I asked plaintively. A few months later, I had one too.

I admit that I opened the package with mingled joy and trepidation, and that it took me a few days to get used to reading on said piece of soulless plastic. But get used to it I did, and I am so glad. Here's why.

Book in Bag: Let me paint you a woefully familiar picture. You buy an awesome book you've been waiting to read. You stuff it in your bag and carry it absolutely everywhere, not wanting to miss a single chance to spend time with it (in a free class, at the bus stop, in the doctor's waiting room). By the time you finish the book, it looks about five years old. You spot that a corner of the cover is bent, and your skin crawls. Also, depending upon size and weight, you are pretty restricted in your choice of bags (this can be a pain if you are a member of the race of Girl) and you simply don't have a bag that fits the book and matches everything. I have solved this problem in the past by going out and buying a new bag, but let's not talk about that now.

Whereas a Kindle, even in a protective case, is small, incredibly light and durable, and lets you leave your paper book at home unscuffed. It fits in almost any handbag and I know guys who've carried it in large pants or jacket pockets.

Travelling Library: Five weeks in the US! Hooray! I'm all packed in compliance with the inadequate Laws of Baggage but oh my gosh, what on Earth am I going to read there? Five weeks, two massive air commutes...let me pack five books. Who needs shoes and underwear anyway!

During the course of the five weeks, I invariably discover that books do, in fact, inhabit the place that I am visiting, and guess what, there's a sale! MOAR BOOKS. Now, how do I get them back to India? Crap, I'll just have to stuff them in my deceptively tiny handbaggage and yay, they don't weigh ladies handbags! By the time I arrive home, I have strained my back and need to recover in bed - but at least I have the five books I carried there and back and didn't read for company.

Yeah. You see where I'm going with this. A Kindle can hold three thousand books. If you travel a lot, and you read a lot, it just stands to reason that you should get one.

I think those two reasons alone should be sufficient to bring anyone around. There's more. But before I go there, I should probably reassure you that e-Readers are not going to kill the paper book, at least not for a good few generations - if ever.

Amazon may have announced that e-books beat hardcover books in sales, recently. But they didn't mention that hardcover books usually cost at least twice as much as Kindle books, and also, most importantly, that paperbacks outstripped both hardcover and Kindle books by a mile. Who buys hardcovers nowadays, anyway? But of course, all we saw was KINDLE > BOOK! PANIC IN THE STREETS!

I, and everyone I know who owns a Kindle, still obsessively buy paper books. If I read an awesome book on the Kindle, I am totally going to go out and buy the printed version with the pretty cover. I am also rather selective of which books I buy on the Kindle and which I buy for my bookshelf - and I think that's the smart way to do it. Books I am experimenting with, want to take on holiday, or that are just too massive and also part of a long series - these go in the Kindle Library.

Now that I've reassured you somewhat, let me point out a few other reasons why the Kindle is worth a book-lovers hard-earned dollars (it's not all that many dollars either).

Instant Downloads: Your favourite author's book is releasing at midnight. Pre-order it. At midnight, it will automatically download, in seconds, to your Kindle, and you are free to squander your sleep perusing a book that literally released minutes ago.

Affordability: If you're trying out a book you haven't read before, and you don't feel like risking 600 Indian bucks on it, Kindle books are almost always significantly cheaper.

Free Books: Any book that's out of copyright, is free on the Kindle. Seriously. Free. And there's a ton of really excellent ones. Go and see.

Deals: There are awesome deals that happen on a very regular basis. These are to support new authors, promote reading, or just for fun. And if you have the cheaper Kindle that allows advertising, it's actually really cool, because it doesn't interfere with your reading or uglify your screen and you find out about this stuff without having to go looking. There are also some excellent bundle deals around the interwebz, like the Humble eBook Bundle or Amazon's own 'box-set' type deals.

3G: You can choose to buy a Kindle with a 3G connection that allows you to access the Kindle Store and buy books from absolutely anywhere, even if you're in a tent in the wilderness reading by torchlight. And you don't have to pay for this connection at all beyond simply buying a Kindle 3G. (The 3G version is optional, all Kindles come with regular Wi-Fi connectivity.)


So, this is why I think the Kindle is awesome. And to reiterate, it doesn't make you stop buying (or loving!) paper books. It just gives you options and makes everything that much more streamlined and convenient. I view the Kindle as a supplement to paper books, not a substitute for them. And it is working out really well for me.

(I'm not going to go into all the hardware details like how the e-ink is as easy on the eyes as paper, and the charger plug is interchangeable with most smartphones, and you can spill your drink on it without too much happening (I haven't done this yet). If this blog post gets you interested enough, you can go find all that out for yourself.)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Keyboard Love

(I love my new keyboard so much that I'm writing a blog post about it, just for the joy of typing.)

Oddly enough, in all of the 13 years I've been actively using computers, I've never had the occasion to choose and buy a keyboard myself. The Early Years (mostly involving my 'cookiemonster123' email address and numerous Napster chats with strangers who liked The Beatles) were spent carefully picking out characters on one of those old, yellowing, clickety-clackety keyboards of yore.

A couple of years later, after absorbing several glasses of sticky beverages, old clickety-clackety gave up the ghost and along came a strange new contraption. I had finally 'mastered' (or so I thought - Future Me kicks 14-year-old Me's ASS at typing) the art of using a keyboard, and I viewed the annoyingly soft and soundless intruder into my PC world as some strange new beast to be vanquished. I was so tied in to that loud 'clack' that I'd be convinced my keystroke hadn't registered, which resulted in tyyypingg liiike tthhisss and some serious keyboard abuse (and bruised fingertips).

Over time, I got used to membrane keyboards, but that's about it. No great love blossomed. I never thought 'Wow, this keyboard is epic!' or really gave much thought to them at all. Computers of my own, when they came, wound up being laptops, so keyboard-buying was a moot point. (I have to interject, though, that the Macbook Pro's post-2008 chiclet keyboard design is absolutely lovely to use).

Then one fine day, a friend of mine is super excited because his new 'mechanical' keyboard has just arrived. What is this mechanical keyboard? I ask. Aren't all keyboards by nature mechanical? He looks at me like I've just crawled out of the woodwork and says, didn't you ever use a computer when you were a kid?!


So they DID still make clickety-clackety keyboards. And, since keyboards are one of the things I'd never bothered to research, I had nooo idea. When my friends helped me build my PC a few months later, I decided to borrow a keyboard and save up some money to buy one of these fancy mechanical fellows later, as they seemed to cost a minimum of Rs.5000 (yes, yes, I was broke).

I normally spend a minimum of a month researching products I'm going to buy, unless specific tech-savvy friends of mine are involved. And a couple of them recently (conveniently) embarked on a quest to find the best mechanical keyboard. This resulted in me walking into a conversation involving an open Amazon product page, someone saying "Wow, that is a REALLY good keyboard for the price, you should buy that!" and someone else saying "I can just add it to the order for you and my cousin will bring it down". To which I replied, in my usual eloquent and well-thought-out fashion, "Ummm, okay!"

This keyboard happened to be the Azio Levetron Mech 5, of which I knew nothing. The reasons I said yes, on merely viewing the product page from a distance, went thusly. a) Volume-control knob. b) Removable numpad. c) Arjun and Vijay gave it a thumbs-up!

After my order was placed, my friends found a really awesome Indian-brand mech keyboard at half the price, the TVS Gold. You can read my friend Vijay's review of it here.

Because they are awesome friends, they offered to give me a TVS Gold instead (since they'd found it after I placed my order). But I hung onto my suddenly-expensive Rs.3800 Azio, because I think I have finally found true keyboard love.

I am not trying to say "This is the most perfect keyboard ever built. All the people should buy it!" I'm saying that this is the perfect keyboard for me. Here's why...

1) There is a button to disable/enable that damn Windows key. I think it's for gamers, to ensure they don't accidentally minimise games (which I've done before) but my main reason for loving it is because I no longer find myself staring at the Windows 8 Start Screen while using Illustrator or InDesign. Not having to glance down every time I use kb shortcuts is a BIG bonus.

2) Volume control dial. Satisfyingly big one, top right corner. Means I don't have to lean forward and reach behind my speaker for volume control (I know I can do it on the system, but that doesn't always cut it if the volume is set to max and I want to increase it, etc.)

3) REMOVABLE NUMPAD. No, scratch that. The numpad comes separately. Now, I have a rather large CPU that sits on my desktop to my right. Next to it is my mouse. An average keyboard with the built-in numpad, due to its length, sits off-centre to my monitor and, for that matter, myself, and makes typing uncomfortable. And I don't think I've ever used a numpad in my life. This keyboard sits perfectly in the centre and typing is now AWESOME.

4) Obviously, the mech keys are the main reason typing is now AWESOME. They sit on Cherry Black mechanical switches, which my friends assured me (and I later read) are the best for typing+durability (you get something like 50 million keystrokes out of them). I can pop out the keys and replace them when I'm cleaning, as with any mech keyboard, and a bunch of spare switches are provided - which is awesome in case I drop/break one, or if the cats steal it.

5) Water. Freaking. Resistant. Well, to a point, anyway. If I spill my drink into the keyboard, and control myself from flipping out and overturning or shaking it, the keyboard will just properly drain itself. After which I can open it up and clean up any stickiness. For me, this is a massive relief - I haven't dropped a drink into a keyboard for over 6 years but who's to say I won't do it tomorrow.

6) Fully programmable keys. This is a gaming keyboard, and it's really awesome for games, but what it's also really awesome for is graphic design. I haven't experimented with programming the keys yet but I suspect I'm going to get some serious use out of that feature.

7) It's symmetrical, and heavy (it was described as 'ultra-durable'). This means that I can lean back, put it on my lap and lean it against the edge of the desk, and type away, without it wobbling or moving a millimeter. I don't have the most ergonomic desk (it's a big desk, but doesn't seem to account for computers at all) so this is a major relief comfort and posture-wise. It's also really solid and well-made despite having additional/removable parts.

There are some other cool features as well, but I've just listed the ones that make it my One True Keyboard. If this has got you interested you should definitely check it out for yourself.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Open Letter, wait.

It occurs to me that personal growth can be sparked by the strangest of catalysts. It's funny how sometimes one person's bitterness and hate can ultimately lead to inner peace and acceptance on the part of another.

I've recently managed to let go of a lot of resentment, oddly enough thanks to a random post that has been making its controversial rounds around the Indian blogosphere.

I was born in Bombay and grew up in Chennai, with a Tamilian father and a Kashmiri/Goan mother. I've always been proud of this 'mixed' sort of heritage, and as someone who gets intensely aggravated by unnecessary internal division, I've always been happy to call myself an Indian rather than a Tamilian or a Kashmiri, and a Christian rather than a Catholic or a Protestant. My family are multicultural book-lovers, we always spoke English at home and I had English-speaking friends through the entire course of my schooling (going to an English-medium school which had students from all over India, the common language was of course English). So I speak auto-driver Tamil and can only read and write Hindi (thanks to learning it upto 7th standard). I never felt or was made to feel that any of this made me any less an Indian. My family is filled with eccentric and brilliant 'achievers' on both sides (I always feel in danger of becoming the 'black sheep' in my own mind) and I had plenty of friends who were technically North Indian, spoke Hindi at home, English to friends and Tamil to get by. We had Hyderabadi gol-gappe-wallas, Punjabi Dhabas, Andhra messes and I knew kitchen spices by 3 different languages, although not what was which. I thought northie-southie discrimination was a thing of the past, and we were all One India, and everything was bright and shiny, and I was a 'Citizen of the World' as described by Oscar Wilde. Oh, I was so naive.

The first...the FIRST...time I came across North/South discrimination was, oddly enough, in England, when I wandered over there to study Visual Communication in 2008 and came face to face with international students from every Indian state and, of course, the second-generation BBCD. I had never had people walk up and speak to me in Hindi, automatically assuming I knew it, before. While I did understand some of what they were saying, I couldn't reply in kind, so I would smile and say "I'm sorry, mujhko Hindi nahi aati hain, I'm from Chennai." To this, I would get a variety of responses, mostly upsetting...from the bug-eyed double-take to the "Arrey, you don't speak Hindi? Are you sure you're from India?!" (usually from Delhi or Mumbai-wallas) to "Oh, you South Indians are too proud to learn our national language, I forgot." Oh and the typical BBCD response - "But...but I thought everyone in India spoke Hindi? *confused stare* How many languages are there?"

Never having been subjected to this kind of stuff, despite having approximately the same number of North and South Indian friends and family, my first response to this was spluttering, speechless outrage. For a couple of months, I lived with Indian housemates who would continuously speak to me in Hindi despite me repeatedly telling them I didn't understand them (they spoke perfectly good English) and then made themselves into a little family with me on the outside. I felt miserable, lonely and ostracized. Fortunately, I soon moved into another house where I had great housemates for the next three years - they seemed wonderfully 'normal' people to me, due to perspective gained growing up in different parts of India and the world. They also all spoke Hindi, but they were willing to translate for me so that I could participate in conversations, and they all spoke English as well. And I had a wonderful friend from Bangalore to speak my 'galeej Tamil' to :D

BUT, outside home, I ran into plenty of "You're too fair to be South Indian, must be because your mother is Kashmiri" (my mom and dad are exactly the same colour, thank you very much) and "Hindi is our National Language, all you South Indians should be made to learn it" (No it isn't. I'm sick of hearing this 'national language' bullshit. India has something like 800 national languages and two official languages for interstate communication, which are Hindi and English. All communications are carried out in both those languages. Get your facts right and get off your self-righteous high horses, people.) "You South Indians won't learn any language other than your stupid South Indian language, it sounds like *insert insulting term here*" (We 'South Indians' do learn Hindi or any other regional language if we happen to have to live/work in that area. In Chennai, you will find very few Hindi-speaking people simply because we don't need to speak it. When I moved to Chennai at 2, I spoke fluent, adult-level Hindi. I forgot it all simply because I had no one to speak it to.) I've also heard people say "Why are your parents looking for a South Indian guy, he'll be black and ugly" (to someone else) and "...some stupid South Indian came in today and tried to talk to me in his stupid South Indian language."


All this sometimes lead to some heated verbal battles. I never thought I would be part of any sort of North-South argument, or use the phrase 'you North Indians', and it was upsetting and disturbing. In my head, the whole 'I am just an Indian' thing was, for a while, shot full of holes by other people's stereotyping of the place I love and grew up in. It made me furious with the whole Hindi-speaking 'North Indian' community, or at least those who insist that someone should speak a language just because they can. Now, when I told someone I couldn't speak Hindi, it was with an undercurrent of 'wanna make something of it?!" And I really, really resented any careless 'South-Indian bashing' I heard. I couldn't keep myself from caring. I couldn't tell myself it didn't matter. Because it did matter. And it does. How we treat each other, how we think of each other and relate to each other as Indians does matter. And it pissed me off that people could seem so utterly oblivious and insensitive to this fact.

Either ways, I've been carrying around a lot of latent resentment and anger after those three years. I didn't realise it until I read this blog post, "Open Letter to a Delhi Boy" by some pissed-off girl called Shahana. The first time I skimmed through it, I have to confess that sentences here and there filled me with unholy glee. Like the mockery of the line, "Aunty you don't look like a South Indian, you are so fair." I thought of Fb-sharing it for a laugh, but then I read it a couple of times more. And I realised that it directly and unashamedly and sometimes cruelly vilified an entire group of people I'm very fond of - Punjabis. My favourite tutor and group leader at university is Punjabi. So are most of the BBCD friends I made in England. My opthalmologist who I have adored from childhood is a Chennai-settled Punjabi. Punjabis were among the majority of soldiers who defended our country. They gave us butter chicken. They personify 'hakuna matata.' They have their faults, like every other group of people. And I am all for pleasant mockery…it’s what we as an insanely multicultural country do, isn’t it? – after all, where would we be without Mallu jokes, Tam Brahm jokes, Punjabi jokes, etc? But no one deserves to be publicly attacked in that manner, especially not with below-the-belt, mostly inaccurate comments like those made in that post. Come on, that article was supposed to be attacking specifically Delhi boys – and let’s be honest, no one would have minded that. :P

At first glance, it was pretty funny. I’d have shared it for lolz if it hadn’t had all those vicious personal references. But reading through the couple of hundred comments (now more than two thousand) gave me a lot of perspective. Of course there were the usual lol-trolls and ‘OMG gurl u ttly rawk!’ comments, but there were a lot of people from different parts of India who posted their views on the racism that goes on between the two halves of our country, and shared their own experiences thereof. It was an interesting (if angry) dialogue, or series of monologues even. Of course, from nowhere, the ‘Hindi is the national language’ crap popped up, was silenced, popped up again, was silenced again…for once it wasn’t even the point.

What really made me think was that this girl who (in another post) claimed to be an army officer’s child, raised mostly by Sardars and Parsis, and having lived in several states across the country, could say things like that. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. If she, talking (misguidedly, might I add) on behalf of South Indians, could spout all that stuff, then can I hate people who’ve grown up exclusively under the umbrella of one city, under one part of one culture, knowing people who only speak one language (theirs) for spouting ignorant crap because they haven't been taught any better? Ignorant douchebags spring up from everywhere. Awesome, intelligent, amicable people do, too. Some of them are my family, my friends, or people I stalk on Twitter. And, as this lady has very neatly managed, you can really alienate those people, the people who you would want to be around if you knew them, simply by generalizing and tarring everyone with the same disgusting brush. And, since that post has gone viral in a big, big way, there is going to be a huge section of people who judges South Indians by the things she has said, especially since she very generously decided to speak for us as a group. Thanks, Shahana. *glower* Oh, and also for insulting us numerous times in there. I've heard of self-deprecating, but kindly do not deprecate other people along with you. Kthxbai.

Whatever the reason, I’m not resentful about my past experiences anymore. There are plenty of closed-minded, racist, caste-ist people where I come from and everywhere else. Let my war be against idiots in general, North and South Indian, and henceforth I shall not be angry. I shall be amused, and feel sorry for them. For they will never have more than one type of friend. They’ll never have the fun of experiencing and enjoying someone else’s culture or food. Or even of having someone intelligent and open-minded give them the time of day. Poor, poor souls. Sigh. I feel a flood of gratitude for my global/Indian upbringing and background. And I am proud to have amazing friends from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, Goa, Andhra, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Bengal, Manipur, and a bunch of other places in India. Some of them still think I should know Hindi. To them, I smile sweetly and say ‘but you know English’. Either way, I am at peace, and I suppose I have the bitter blogger to thank for that.

So, thank you, Shahana.

The End.

P.S. Her post has sparked some brilliant responses. Here’s a good-natured and witty one by a self-proclaimed ‘Delhi boy’. And a thoughtful and insightful one, by a Madrasi lady settled in Delhi.

P.P.S. I was actually very entertained by this whole cross-blog dialogue before I started really thinking about it and its repercussions and introspecting about why it made me feel chilled-out. Life was much simpler when I was an angry teenager :D

Sunday, February 20, 2011

*looks sheepish*

Okay, I officially suck as a blogger.

That being said, I'm not quite ready to give up on it just yet. (*listens for applause and encouragement*) Is anybody left out there, by the way?

Anyways, my main excuse is that life became difficult, kind of killing my desire to write about it for the world to see, and then it got busy when I went into final year. Pity, because many interesting and amusing things have happened, and in typical 'me' style I can't remember a thing. Major downside to living in the moment. Now that things are all sunshine and roses again (literally, actually :P) here I am again...whether I will stay here remains to be seen, due to a regrettably short attention span, but I shall do my best...maybe it can be my one single solitary New Year's Resolution.

Considering the fact that the main purpose I had turned this blog to was keeping my friends and family informed of my exploits when I wandered over to the UK to study design thingies, I've said remarkably little about said exploits. This is partly because there have been none...or shall we say very few. For some reason, I am boring and antisocial in the UK. This might be partly attributed to the weather, which often dictates that you must stay indoors, and partly to having to get around by public transport in an unfamiliar city, which means it doesn't happen unless I have somewhere very specific to go. Also the fact that there seem to be very few 'kindred spirits' around, to quote Anne of Green Gables... :-/

Anyways, as far as design thingies go, after dabbling in many things I've finally found the niche I want to fit myself into, which = publishing, or editorial design as we say. Typography for publishing gives me joy. This actually fits in quite nicely with my previous education, which is a BA in English (Literature and associated subjects). And considering that I'm also a writer and an editor, it's awesome to be learning about the design aspect of the field. It's easy for me to find things I like, but hard for me to find things I absolutely love and have no doubt about, so I'm really really relieved I managed to find where I fit in right before final year began :D

Oh, this might also be a good time to make a little announcement. As of the end of June/beginning of July, I move back to Madras (for at least six months). Considering the fact that I don't work at Primark anymore (long story unworthy of being blogged about) I would just be hanging about in the UK trying to find some other similar job, since I wouldn't be able to get a design job till December when I would get (or not get) my work visa. I would also in the process miss 3 very important weddings AND Christmas for the fourth time in a row. No. I refuse. It shall not be so. I shall go home, and be productive, and spend time with family and friends, and make a portfolio, and then if God decrees it so, I shall meander across whichever ocean it may be to whatever country he takes me to, and make there for myself a nest, and spend the rest of my life happily weaving books (and possibly hatching eggs :-/)

Speaking of hatching eggs (aka sitting around joblessly) that is the one thing I am trying to avoid this year. Whatever my natural instincts may be, I am loading myself up with little projects and doing my best to be productive. The way I see it, final year is my last chance to make design thingies while guided by my awesome tutor, and time is, as they say, of the essence right now. So no more sitting around in bed watching TV shows until July (except yesterday, yesterday doesn't count) for this Cheeta.

So yes, the above stuff pretty much paraphrases what I am up to right now. Future posts shall be more specific. Provided they occur, which they will. *ahem*

Kthxbai :D

Thursday, June 03, 2010


In my last post, I spoke about emerging, and then disappeared quietly into the undergrowth once again. Having lurked therein for another two months or so, I have once again emerged to update my affectionate (and probably dwindling) readership on why I did so.

You see, I had a submission. The final submission of my second year. And then I was required to give a lot of thought to what I plan to do next year, and as most of you probably know, thinking too far ahead, for me, is an exercise in confusion. All I know for sure about the future is where I will be married (because, like most girls from St. Andrew's Kirk, I refuse to get married anywhere else) and that I will not live in a joint family (because, if I'm going to live with anyone's parents, I'd choose to live with my own rather than abandoning them and going off to someone else's). Also, I know that I will have more than two children, because my mother demands it, and I know that they will be thoroughly spoilt by their grandmother and look upon their mother as some sort of gremlin (because the probability scale is heavily tilted in that direction).

Sorry, what was I saying?

Oh well.

In other news, the weather in the United Kingdom continues to surprise and entertain us. In India, one would talk about the weather when there is literally nothing else to talk about and conversation needs to be made. And the conversation would go like this: "God, it's hot today." ... "Hmmm." ... *silence takes over again*. Whereas in the UK, the weather becomes a seperate entity entirely, or an 'anthropomorphic personification' as Terry Pratchett would say. In other places, people blame things on God and the Devil. In the UK, you can blame things on God, the Devil, or the Weather. And I'm sure people address the Weather far more often than they do the other two. "Please, please oh please don't rain today" ... "Thank you Sun for shining!" ... "Weather, please be good on the 5th of May because I'm planning an outdoor party two months in advance" (yes, people actually do that, in a country where it rains all the time...hope does indeed spring eternal in the human breast, doesn't it?!)

Anyway, the Weather has been unexpectedly benevolent lately, although it still can't resist teasing us with a week of cold rain after a week of gorgeous hot sunshine. We at 42 (my house number, in case I haven't mentioned it) have invested in a barbecue, and spent two lovely days in the backyard with it. At this point it occurs to me that I haven't talked about my housemates on here at all. This is surprising, because they are the most hilarious bunch of people you could ever wish for. I don't like mentioning people by name on here, so I shall call them...hmm...Dodo, Diki, Aanya and Ajit. I'm Cheeta. As you all know already. Although over here, it has become 'Chennai Cheeta'. Or 'Crazy Chennai Cheeta'. Or recently, 'CC'. Which has now evolved into a verb and taken on a life of its own thanks to Diki, who did I mention has two stylish horns and a long tail with a fork on the end of it? (Useful while barbecuing). We also have two regular visitors, one of which is Grumpy (not a dwarf) from the next house, 55, and Chittu Kuruvi, a tiny little thing whose volume settings are disproportionate to her size.

I suppose you've by now gathered that life is so entertaining that I forget to blog :D Also, there's so much to say that I end up saying nothing at all!

Anyway. Our first barbecue involved a LOT of food (which was consumed at an alarming rate), a punching bag (and a lot of hilarious boxing videos), a lot of impromptu visitors, a random tea party, a game of cricket, and Dodo, Chittu and Grumpy trying to fly away on a broomstick (and the neighbour's rake, which was stolen through the hedge). The second barbecue was in honour of Anu, Aanya's adorable cousin, and involved a LOT of food, some music which Aanya called 'rap with a c', an impromptu visit from our tutor and his son (who had called to invite us to their barbecue while ours was going on), and a bhangra session which took place on one side of the backyard while a serious discussion on design took place on the other. Typical 42 style.

Anyway, that's probably enough updating for now. Off I go for my morning cup of tea.

Monday, March 08, 2010


So (why do I start the majority of my posts with 'so'?), having promised the universe in general, like it cares, and my mother, who does care, that I would update my blog in a somewhat regular manner, I have failed to deliver. This displeases me. :-(

As this is around the time of year I normally make my New Year's resolutions, and since my Professional Practice course advises networking and blogging falls under that category, and because I want my mommy to be happy, I will be updating this blog more regularly. I wonder if there are any readers left?! If so... *waves* Hi. I've been spending my time lately alternating between university, working at Primark, and watching movies and tv shows off the internets. Nothing of particular moment has been happening in my life (how depressing) except that I turned 23 on the 24th of February. There was a surprise lunch for me with all my friends, and a surprise visit from two old and dear friends of mine, and many happy cakes, so all in all it was a lovely and surprising day :) I am however another year older and not (that I can see) particularly wiser, which distresses me somewhat. (If you see any traces of wisdom emerging do let me know).

That is all for now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

London Calling

So, as promised, here I am to write all about my London trip.

The first day pretty much adhered to Murphy's law.

As I may or may not have stated here before, I am pretty broke at the moment, and have a huge electricity bill to pay next week. I know, I know, it is suicide for broke people to visit London, but I had plenty to occupy me that did not involve spending (much) and so decided to take the plunge. I had my 'free' day of pampering (note the quote-unquote) and my book-signing, and my time with friends, and my cheap tickets, and so. Off I went, with a song in my heart and a swing in my step and random bits of rubbish in my wallet.

I started out by missing the coach.

I have never travelled at 8.00 am and therefore, thoroughly forgot to account for the morning rush. I left half an hour to get to the station, as it usually takes about ten minutes by cab. This time, it took ten minutes to get halfway down the main road. I missed the bus by about two minutes. My friend (Kanchi) was there on time, face anxiously glued to her watch. So obviously I paid for both of our tickets, it being my fault, and sadly waved goodbye to about 34 quid before we even started out.

Once there, we found our way to the studio without any trouble, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves drinking juice and getting styled and made-up according to our request. Kanchi made some very good industry contacts (the stylist and photographer) and we dressed up in our favourite clothes and had pictures taken on a variety of different sets. To my complete and utter shock, I was not in the least bit camera shy, and when we got to see the pictures at the end of it, they were absolutely gorgeous. 

So where does Murphy's law come in?

FRIENDLY MANAGER: So, ladies! Do you like your pictures?
FRIENDLY MANAGER: Good! They start out at £70 each.
US: ...
FRIENDLY MANAGER: So these are our different, very expensive, deals. Would you like some time alone to discuss which you'd prefer?

For those of you unfamiliar with the pound and the student budget, let me put it this way...I would not shell out 70 quid for a winter coat, much less a photograph of myself. I could just imagine my housemate's reaction, considering how I'd hyperventilated when confronted with a 4-month electricity bill of £80 each. "OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, DON'T YOU HAVE A MIRROR IN YOUR ROOM?!?!"

Such sentences were going through my mind.

So when the very nice lady came back, we informed her that we could not afford anything very much, which meant, in a nutshell, anything. She was shocked and very sorry for us, because those pictures really were *sob* awesome. So she kept bringing the price down and offering us different, secret deals to suit our wallets. She did not succeed. Finally we ended up getting a few pictures between us, at a price that we will take to our graves (even though it was much much cheaper than the original). I got about four. That was all I could afford. When confronted by the Best Deal Possible, and the reproachful line "So what CAN you afford?" I finally cracked and said "OKAYFINE". Then I hyperventilated for the rest of the day, partly because of my financial condition and partly because of all the pictures I had to leave behind. 

Damn you, Murphy! Bright side: at least I got four gorgeous pictures, plus a few good ones of the both of us thrown in free.

The above narcissistic line is a testament to just how good the saleslady was. I mean, I'm a Visual Communications student and I have friends in the photography department. If I really wanted pictures of myself I could get them for free in our free studio that VisComm students get to use for free. Did I mention free?

Of course it took a long while trying to decide which pictures to take with us (Good God, what has happened to me?) The next event on the charts was my book signing, the main reason I had come to London in the first place. All I had in my hand was an address. Using the studio's computer, we discovered that it was very close to where we were. However, it required two buses, a long walk, and a certain amount of intuition to get there.

We took the first bus. It was packed. The driver had no mercy. I was almost cut in half by the door. I was lucky, and got away with merely being violently flung into the opposite wall. Kanchi was very nice and sympathetic and supportive.

I was finally forced to admit that I would never reach my destination in time. So I consumed a £1 burger of sorrow (it was delicious) and then set out to meet two of my good friends from back home,  Anisha and Prashant. I would be staying the night with Anisha, and had promised to cook them my special chicken. I hadn't seen them in ages, and was really looking forward to it, so of course my first reaction on seeing them again was "OMG GUYS I AM SO STUPID AAAAH YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST DID!!!! *passout*"

They were very comforting. I did not receive a lecture on the value of currency. I was calmed down and comforted without being sedated, which I had not thought possible. And then we all made dinner together, and Anisha's Spanish housemate told me how to make a Spanish omelette, which I intend to try out asap now that I'm back home. I sniffled and sneezed throughout, since - did I mention? - it had been raining the entire time, but I had an awesome time being with them again.

The next day, I had my eye out for Murphy, and was all ready to dodge him whenever he tried edging into the picture. I sneezed and sniffled my way to Earl's Court, where the awesome Kanchi was waiting for me, and then we spent the morning and afternoon at the Graduate Fashion Week courtesy of our good friend Aj who had a (very awesome) stand over there. I was absolutely thrilled to be there and get to see it, as he is my housemate and very good friend and I've been watching his project develop all year. We also got to see all sorts of brilliance by this year's UK Fashion Graduates, plus a real live fashion show which was all kinds of awesome. And we got a goody-bag with useful things in it, which is a rarity. And as many free Skinny Cow ice-creams as we wanted. There were many brilliant graphic design things for me to go "oooh" at, and as Kanchi's in the fashion industry, she made even more useful contacts, and all in all we had a great time.

Afterwards, we made our way to Saravana Bhavan.

Now, Kanchi and I are two lonely South Indians in a sea of North Indians. In the UK, naans and rotis and butter chicken are easily available, but dosais and vadais are few and far between. Saravana Bhavan is the most delectable of South Indian havens, and there is one branch of it in one corner of London. We decided to make the excursion, 1) because we are dosai-deprived and 2) because we were studiously avoiding Camden Market due to lack of funding, and figured this would be an inexpensive and productive way to spend our time. We were later joined by Aj, which meant we spent about two blissful hours there, consuming between us sambar vadais, medhu vadais, masala dosai, onion rava masala dosai (my staple) and...wait for it...TAMIL NADU FILTER COFFEE.

MUM *on phone*: Hi! It's been a while, what are you up to and how are you?
ME: Mum, I'm busy concentrating on my onion rava masala dosai, can I call you back?

Kanchi and I had to catch a coach at nine, and a tube strike was due to begin at seven. We evaded Murphy by getting to our station well before the time, and passing our time with Kanchi's friend in the free seating area at the food court. We were full after stuffing ourselves with dosais and the like, and so could wait until we were back in Birmingham to have dinner (at 12.30 am). I stayed over with Kanchi to avoid cab fare, and reached home the next afternoon. Since when I have been curled up under my duvet with books, movies and cold medicine, which is actually quite fun. Naturally, it is bright and sunny now that I'm spending my time indoors again.

So, all-in-all, it was a great trip. I got to spend quality time with my friends, especially Kanchi who will be leaving me soon *sob*, I have some great pictures and some greater memories, I got to look around at the GFW and its accompanying awesomeness, I ate authentic South Indian food which I had been CRAVING for, and Murphy's barbs were totally worth all that.

For those who don't know, Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will.

And for those interested (read: parents) I have since managed to sort out my financial troubles.

Also, tomorrow is my first day at work. Wish me luck, everyone :)