The Xerox Shop of J.P.Nagar

I do a lot of stupid things. And more often than not, they end up with acceptable, pleasant and sometimes even desirable results*. The most recent one was today, in getting a 600 page textbook printed** online but, forgetfully, not spiral bound as intended. So when the courier arrived with a cover enclosing a sheaf of 600 sheets, unbound and loose (but thankfully in order), I was puzzled and indignant, initially at the printers and then upon realization, at myself. The next 20 or so minutes were spent in wondering how best to collate the sheets.

Many experiments were done – Stapling chapter 1 separately was attempted. I had overestimated the common stapler. Then I segregated each chapter and arranged the 12 chapters in a neat row and congratulated myself on how good the arrangement looked. I briefly considered reading the book page by page. This idea was quickly dismissed. I also considered tagging them but maintaining a tagged set of 100-120 pages at a time is quite a chore as evidenced by past experiences. Finally I decided I’d undo my initial mistake and get the book spiral bound from a shop nearby. It would come at a price perhaps greater than I would have got it at if I’d remembered to do it the first time but oh well. It was the only way, I reasoned.

As I got ready to assemble the neat set of sheets, I wondered if I really wanted a bulky spiral bound book to carry around everytime I was reading a chapter or worse, a couple of pages. No. God had wanted me to make this mistake so I would have a choice, after looking at the number of sheets, of a combination of chapters to spiral bind per my liking. And when the Divine interfere in man-made plans, who are we to disagree? I decided I’d get the book spiral bound , two chapters per mini-book – 6 mini-books in total.

This new arrangement with intermediate separators for chapter-markers in place, I went to the Xerox shop. Now, bear in mind that I’m already hoping to reduce my overall cost to minimize my initial errors, so I’d decided to get the best deal for this additional-cost-incurring spiral binding. I approached the man at the counter and assumed a tone of what I hoped was familiarity – “Hello!! Isn’t your owner around?”, I asked placing my Queen’s pawn two steps forward (1.e5), the opening move of every chess player around the globe. My opponent showed no sense of expected affability, an individual obviously very used to dealing with potential bargainers. “Gone out. Tell me”, he parried (1.d5 ). My chance at an early advantage lost, I decided the only way forward was friendly aggression. “Heh, I’d like these pages spiral bound.”, and without leaving a gap for a dialogue, I continued – “I come here all the time. How much will you charge for these?”. The man scratched his forehead – “If you come here all the time, don’t you know how much a spiral bind costs?”, he sniggered, as if to say – “Dei, if you are bad, I am your dad“. He had me stumped, I admit. But not one to give up, fueled by skills gained over years of cheapness, I said, “Hehe, I meant, I used to come here all the time. Studied right here”, I thumbed at the school behind me. Never mind the fact that this shop hadn’t existed at the time I studied there, but he wouldn’t know. He seemed satisfied. His tone turned genial – “Saar 30 rupees per copy. 180 kodi“. I recognized the shift in tone but I still felt entitled for an enhanced discount. Not my best moment. “150 madkoli“. There was some friendly heheh-ing, a promise of future sales and referrals on my part, some head shaking and eventual hesitant nodding on his and he began the task at hand. “Mission: Bargaining – Accomplished”, I rejoiced.

And I waited. And watched.

The man separated the sheets I’d placed in order of chapters (thanks to my markers) and deftly took out a few sheets at a time and ran them through a punching machine before setting them aside. He repeated this task over and over untiring and with an air of someone who’d done this hundreds of times. A master at work. As I saw him run the punch through the sheets, I noticed the work it took. Even though he seemed to do it effortlessly, there was obviously some energy being expended with every downward motion. When someone skillful is at work, the sight of it is beautiful. Like a potter with his hands shaping a pot out of what was just minutes ago, mud. Like a carpenter slicing through wood as if it were butter. Like a man at a Xerox shop spiralling a coil of plastic through a vertical array of newly created holes as if it were just a nut around a bolt.

In less than twenty minutes, he placed the 6 mini-books in front of me and said – “Done saar.”. I gave him 200 rupees, waved to say I didn’t want the change and mouthed “Thank you”. He smiled and said “Thank you” in return.

I walked away, with 6 spiral bound books and a glum feeling of shame which was now being enveloped by a blanket of satisfaction.

*We will not talk about the times they resulted in disasters here.

**The textbook’s name will remain unnamed because while I’ve contributed to the brimming coffers of textbook sellers everywhere for a long time, sometimes the textbooks in the Indian subcontinent are overly heavy on the pockets as this one was.

The Impermanence of the Internet..?

Let’s assume I die tomorrow.

Alright, let’s not be quite so morbid to start off.

Let’s assume I die the day before this website is to be renewed. They will probably give me a warning of a deferred payment for 30 days. Perhaps 60. Then the website is deactivated. And after another 60 days, this website will have been deleted. I haven’t put this on an auto-renewal plan. There will be no one paying for the website if I don’t do it.

In such a situation, this website will cease to exist. More importantly, (as if anything we do has importance; let’s humor ourselves that it does) everything I’ve written so far will evaporate as if it never existed. As if it were never written. Some of it might linger on in some people’s memories, those of who have read some of it. But eventually it’ll all be gone. If there is a future generation that could have tripped over some sign of my existence by way of my thoughts, this medium of storage, the Internet, the blogosphere, doesn’t offer for that possibility at all. Then again, why does it matter for anyone in a future where new memories will be created to ever read the ramblings of mine from 2021? I think even in my most cynical of states, I know the answer to this question is that it does matter. Because as meaningless as someone’s (yours, mine) day today is for a future that might be unrecognizable from today, it might just open up someone’s imagination to wonder about a time they never knew. A time they were never told about. After all, it’s only because of scientists of generations past noting down all their findings that science and technology has made the progress it has today.

There are definitely many points of failure that need to fail before the aforementioned apocalypse sets in. My payment to WordPress has to stop. Failing which, my website will probably be demoted to a domain with the characteristic branding of a freeloader by way of the website hosting this page – which is not so bad. Then at some point, WordPress itself has to stop existing, which is not all that farfetched a scenario. Businesses are sunset all the time. The point is, there can be a situation in which the passing-down of thoughts to the next generations can fail if continued in this medium.

Then what medium is foolproof? Or rather, deathproof? Is there such a way? Is the actual practice of writing on paper better? I’m inclined to say – Yes. I’ve seen written notes from 3 generations prior to mine, which, while in Tamil, are still present. But as I “write” this, I realize I’m at a cusp-ish-generation that will be the first to leave behind thoughts in a digital format i.e. in a cloud-based form. So I have no real yardstick by which to brand this form of journaling an inferior one.

I guess time will tell.

But I won’t be around to find out.

Social Media Sucks – Part 1 of ∞

This article about Facebook’s history of weighing reactions differently overly time culminating in uniformity for all reactions except for the “like” and the “care” reaction was published in October this year, 2021 –

I’ve hated the concept of social media while being a grudging yet more-than-active participant in it for years now. And what gnaws on me day in and day out is the fact that this is all very dystopian and unnatural – the concept of assigning points to every little thing we say. every thought we have that we choose to put out there. This is not normal and definitely can’t be healthy. We weigh things in real life in relative terms already. Now for years, we’ve started getting conditioned to weigh every statement we make as well, wanting each to perform better than the last.

If Facebook was being shitty assigning multiple points to Emojis vs 1 for likes etc, Twitter is no better – the only difference is here we’re in a pre-reactions world letting everyone else’s judgement measure if Each thought of ours was “Good” or not, if it resonated with them enough to “Retweet” or not. And for some inexplicable reason, Retweets (that are not endorsements) have become extremely appealing to us, perhaps giving us reason to revel privately that somehow we are not alone in having this thought. This is obviously not leaving Instagram out by any means. Each photo we put out receives meaningless “likes” from friends and families who, for all we know, are double tapping out of nothing more than habit. And we know this. And YET, there’s a hit of dopamine that we crave and go back for to check the number of likes we’ve recieved on the egotistic photos we posted.

While all this is disgusting, it probably shouldn’t surprise us. The concept of attention-seeking isn’t new. As Humans, it’s almost primal that most of us seek attention for the things we do. It’s how a baby starts off, receiving attention for the absolutely most mundane things he/she does – standing, walking, reading for the first time – all of which are praised heavily by the doting family, if we were lucky to have one. And we should count ourselves lucky for having it. Cut to school when we participate in events that make us “stand out” – extempores, debates, quizzes, races. Followed by events at work that “award” you for outperforming everyone else in your salaried role in that quarter or the year – the entire society is designed to make you want to stand out, simply because you already are, one among many. So so many.

Then it would seem that really, all the technological giants have done really is exploit this desire we have for attention and make it work For them. And make no mistake, it really is for Them.

I cannot offer a solution here. Being a part of the problem and being afflicted by it still, I cannot proffer one.

All I can do it write pieces about it with my thoughts on the topic over and over till I hammer it home for myself and never visit my “profiles” again.

And hopefully, just…live.

Needless to say, none of the posts in this series will ever be posted on any form of social media – Not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and not even Whatsapp.

I just want to blog/write on the Internet. What platform should I use?

A friend recently asked me what he should use if his usecase is that he just wants to pen down some thoughts on the Internet. I thought I’d list all the different ways I host my different websites that I have for different usecases. Maybe one of these will help someone else stumbling across this page as well –

I initially started off with Static Site Generators and later adopted Medium, WordPress and Substack over time. I’ve abandoned Medium now.

Regarding the ease of usage, I find WordPress ( to be the most dependable – from a long-life perspective because Automattic (the company behind WP) has been around for a looong time and I feel like I can rely on it. Add to that, the convenience factor is unbeatable. Even the latest post, I just typed it up on my phone and posted. I pay around 3200 INR for the domain name and hosting per year.

The second most convenient is the Substack website. But I’m wary of it (Like I was with Medium) because it’s new and I don’t know if they might pivot to something else at some point. I’m using them cautiously but they’re also ridiculously easy to post on. The block structure of usage and what formatting you can do on Substack is limited as compared to WordPress but it works. It is fully free as of now because I haven’t paid for a custom domain. I haven’t even looked into what a paid plan offers.

The third most convenient is my Hugo website for BBB. Go gets easily installed and deploying the site once you’ve put in the initial work of choosing a theme is minimal. I like that there’s flexibility there in terms of how I want my structure to be etc. Being a programmer, there’s some lee-way there. But the limitation there for me is I am not very good with UI. So if you check the website, the roughness will show. The plus point though is that I only pay for the domain name on Bigrock and hosting is on Github pages . Approx 1.6k per year for the domain name , security etc.

The last and most tedious is my Jekyll website. While it’s posh-er than the BBB website, Ruby is a pain to work with on some machines. So I don’t like it much. I will migrate this eventually.

I used to use Medium and some of my friends still do. There is a lot of discovery that’s possible for your articles because of related “Medium publishers” picking up your writing based on the content, tags etc, but the reason I stopped using it is because I started seeing articles being put under a Premium paywall even when the content was sub-par. An elitist’s garden that doesn’t let most people smell the flowers. That didn’t sit well with me and I’ve since migrated all my content to one of the above mentioned sites. But if you want to use it, that’s up to you. It is convenient to publish on Medium akin to Substack.

tl;dr –
If all you want is to pick up a place to write on and just …write, WordPress/Substack are your best options.
If you feel like you’d like to take up the technical challenges of setting up your Static Page Generator, Hugo or Jekyll or Ghost are good alternatives!

The end goal however shouldn’t be lost in all this hungama Writing.

S is for Silence

When was the last time you were silent?

Not in the sense that you were listening to someone and for that interval you said nothing, but truly silent. That feeling of calm emptiness both because there’s nothing on your agenda that demands your urgent attention and because you’re completely actively unengaged – no phones, no conversations, no thoughts.

Just …silence.

I can’t remember the last time I was silent. Perhaps it was in an age before Uninterrupted Power Supply and smartphones. On evenings when mum wasn’t back from work but the power had gone out. I’d carefully make my way to the kitchen and feel around for one of the candles, guided sometimes by the moonlight streaming in through the meshed window, sometimes merely by touch and a mental memory of the kitchen layout. And once it was lit, I’d sit and look at it. The flame was always beautiful to look at. Sometimes I’d poke my finger into it rapidly and sometimes just place my palm a little over the tip of the flame – foolhardy actions of a young boy and yet, some of the most fun I remember having. And after I’d had my fun, I’d just sit in front of the candle and slip into a daze of conscious nothingness. I’d look at the wax dripping, not really paying attention to it. And for that remaining period of 20 minutes to an hour – while waiting for the candle to die out or the power to return, all that was there would be peaceful silence.

This thought bubble about silence isn’t going to end with a plan to simulate that state of being. Because I think I’m far too down the road of continuous stream of random thoughts to try and muster silence in my brain.

I’ll settle for a state of perpetual satisfaction.

We’re not “in control”

We like to think we know what we’re doing. For the most part, we have ourselves convinced that we are “masters of our domain”, not quite in the Seinfeld-ian way, but in terms of how we spend our time everyday, what we work on, who we talk to, what we eat – basically everything we do on a daily basis.

A few months ago, I had myself convinced that I was conducting a qualitative experiment on Twitter. I was gauging responses to a post I’d made and subsequently to a couple of polls I conducted. Here my assumption was that I am the experimenter and the people who were participating were, as they were going about their day, unwitting participants of said social experiment. At the end of it, as I mused the responses, it struck me that I had “conducted” this experiment on a platform where I myself, am a subject of an production-ready experiment. A social experiment where I am one of, as of 2020, 186 Million test subjects.

This is merely a microcosm when we consider every other aspects of our lives.

When we travel on the road on a vehicle, we’re not in control simply because we’re steering the vehicle. We’re dependent on its condition, on the condition of the roads we travel on, on the behaviors displayed by actors alongside who we travel, some of who might …lose even their perceived sense of control thereby affecting ours.

When we say something to someone with the best of intentions, unless the sentence is neutral or objectively flattering, there is, however minuscule, a chance that said sentence can be perceived in a negative way. We thought we were in control of the conversation, but clearly we weren’t and everything was just a matter of circumstance.

You think you’ve made all the arrangements to catch that train. But if the train schedule has been advanced and they sent you an intimation but you didn’t receive it or simply didn’t see it, you’ve missed it.

We’re not in control as long as we’re on someone else’s platform.

And we’re almost always on someone else’s platform.

Even as I sit typing this out, I’m not in control of whether this post will see the light of day as a meteor might come hurtling through space and wipe out my very existence halting my words mid-senten..

Much ado about nothing -1

Anyone can tell a story if a day’s been interesting. Now, if the day’s been boring, ah, now That, is a challenge. But what is a boring day? Can days even be boring anymore with all the technology and virtual worlds we hold at our fingertips? I remember a time when there would be powercuts for hours together at night and I would, after our initial scampering and hunting for a candle that would be lit, sit for hours together around the flame, occasionally brushing a finger or two across the flame, as if to tempt it to burn me. I would stare at the candle for the duration of the powercut, letting my mind wander to lands where people could do things with fire that in reality would not and ideally, should not happen in a controlled environment. But, in the confines of your mind, you are the creator and the destroyer and if the mind concocted a man who could summon flames from his fingertips and walked around helping and harming as he so fit, with his arsonic abilities, so be it.

Today however, there were no powercuts and the telling of this entry puts me in the middle of the day, in the middle of a meeting that I definitely was in control of , in terms of what was going on. But what I was not in control of were the sounds outside, one of whom was a very motivated, regular (oh, So regular) vendor of “Kachoris” and “Samoses“. He would arrive with his chants around the hours of 2 and 3 in the afternoon without fail everyday and announce his arrival in a vocal tone that is both unmistakeable and unforgettable after you’ve heard it twice.

There is more to this story that involves
– me taking a breather after the meeting and stepping outside to give in, finally, to the in-person advertisement’s lure of “Samosas” but resisting it ultimately,
– a very determined spider that I, unfortunately for it, prevented from meeting its family today ..and forever 😦
– a leaky bucket.

But I will, if the mood strikes me, continue this entry at an hour when I’m more in possession of my mental and physical faculties.

Time to slee………Zzz

K is for Kitten

The person on the bike in front of me didn’t move even after all the vehicles in front of him had moved and I thought, “Oof, a stall so early in the morning. Poor guy.”. I made a move to go around him, but he stuck his hand out and I halted. I looked at him and followed his line of sight onto the road where there was a tiny kitten looking very agitated and confused, at everything around it. It all happened within a fraction of seconds – I braked hard and like a daisychain of hands stuck my hand to stop the vehicle on my right, but the person who stopped hadn’t seen the cause yet and the car on his right moved on, in the interval of which the kitten had darted across the road right in the path of this car. I yelled inconsequentially. The car, incredibly luckily moved right over the kitten and it stood there unscathed. Two men on the bike I’d stopped yelled at me for all of 3 seconds before grasping the situation themselves. I yelled back, asking them to help me catch the kitten and release it to safety. One of them jumped to action and stopped the goods vehicle behind him and the other guy and I ran behind the kitten, our vehicles abandoned on the middle of the road. The next minute was a blur, in which the kitten had managed to find himself stuck right on top of the wheel of the goods vehicle Boy ‘A’ had just stopped. With Boy ‘B”s help, we carefully extricated the kitten from under the vehicle and amidst its frantic, clueless struggles to get free, picked it up and dropped it off at a building by the side of the pavement. By now, a longer line of vehicles had assembled, blocked by our vehicles in the way. Relieved and satisfied about the kitten’s safety, we hastily got back onto our vehicles and thanked each other awkwardly.

It was a small thing, but I shudder to think what would have happened if the first biker had been just as carefree and careless as the rest of us. What if he’d been as apathetic as the biker on his left who in fact, scolded this guy callously and moved on even after assessing the scene? What if he hadn’t noticed the struggling kitten in his path and stopped sensibly?

But he did.

And as long as there are people who will stop for a kitten, the world will never be a bleak place.

C’est La Vie

Recently at the theater, I accidentally stood up in attention for the Vicco Vajradanti ad expecting the National Anthem in the sequence.
To my surprise there was another dude who’d also stood up. He was looking around the theater in embarrassment. Our eyes met. I instinctively and hastily waved at him, breaking my fixed posture. In that split second, he also understood and waved back and even grinned for good measure. I gestured wildly to mock-indicate that I’d catch up with him later. He understood and gestured appropriately.
As I resumed my seat, I wondered how wonderfully and smoothly that whole episode had gone. I shook out of my reverie to see a bunch of people glaring at me for remaining in my seat.

The Anthem had actually started.