Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Screen

I was standing at the grocery store payment line and there was a young mother ahead of me. Her daughter was sitting on the cart watching a video on the smart phone. The daughter was about 2-3 years old, no more. It was the mother’s turn now and the grocery store cashier greeted her. The mother greeted back in turn and the daughter continued to be engrossed on the phone.

While the mother kept all the items from the cart onto the conveyor belt, the daughter kept looking at the video on the phone. While the grocery store cashier billed each item, the daughter kept her eyes fixed on the phone. While the mother placed all the items back onto the cart and paid the cashier, the daughter continued to look at the phone. The cashier greeted the mother to have a good day and the mother greeted him back, and still the daughter continued to stare at the phone. Then the mother started pushing the cart out to the exit and the daughter still had her eyes fixed on the phone. Soon, she was out of the store wheeling away to the car in the parking lot and I could still see daughter looking at the phone.

I was aghast and literally my jaw dropped. Right in front of my eyes, in a matter of couple of minutes, I saw how the daughter was completely robbed off her favorite childhood game of ‘Pretend-play shopping’. I know this because I have seen how my daughter can pretend play grocery shopping for hours. In the house, my daughter acts as if she is shopping for me and my wife;  and sometimes she is the cashier, taking all the items and scanning the bar code, punching imaginary buttons, taking cash and returning change or using visiting cards in place of credit cards, greeting people, etc. Not only is this fun for her, she has also learnt about the real-world human interactions. In a few years, I am confident she can do the same things that anyone is expected to do in a grocery store.

And in this instance, the daughter of this mother completely missed the whole thing. It was as if she was inside a movie theater all through. She was so much into the video that never once she lifted her head. She totally, totally missed the environment - the transactions, the real-life scenario, the greetings that was happening all around her and was so lost in the digital world that she will have a hard time coping up with the true life in a few years if this is what she keeps doing!

Pretend play is one of the most important stages of childhood. It gives children a huge opportunity for imagination and the only way we can fuel the young mind’s imagination is by giving them the experience of real-world happenings. I have been to couple of really good Pretend Play museums such as the ones in Irvine and San Jose and these have miniature grocery stores amongst many things. Children like to play forever at such places – but only if they know what they are in the first place!! 

And here, it was as if a crime was happening right in front of my eyes and I was about to shout out to the mother! The child was robbed a little of an essential part of her childhood and the mother was the culprit! The child had to know what just happened and the parent totally denied this experience just for the sake of keeping the child quiet! Seriously, these children are our future and it is parents’ responsibility to raise the next generation the right way and this definitely was not the right way!

Of course, this is just an iota of an incident. The book ‘The Big Disconnect’ showcases an alarming amount of such experiences and a trend that is threatening the entire next generation due to the digital world. To quote from the book – apparently, youngsters are having challenges in attending interviews because it deals with hours of human interaction and the teenagers are so caught up with screens now that even a 30 minute continuous interaction with another human being itself is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with! I am like….'Wow, really?!!

Sadly, the digital “screen” is actually screening away the real world from the next generation. For all the parents out there – go easy on the “screen” with your kids. It just isn’t worth it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

HVD 2015

A piece of hand-written poem given by me to wifey on 14th Feb 2015...

You have cough.
I have lumbago.

I give you cough syrup.
You massage my back.

I give you kashaya
You apply moov to me.

You have subconjunctival hemorrhage.
I have running nose.

I put eyedrops to you.
You give me tablets.

I apply small ice packs to your eyes.
You give me coffee.

No, we are not old.
We are in our early 30s

Celebrating our 7th Valentine's Day
The way we ought to celebrate our 70th!!

Happy Valentine's Day!!


Sunday, February 01, 2015


About a few years back, I was staying in the city of Irvine, quite close to office. Hence the commute to office was in self car.

One fine day, just as I pulled out my car from the apartment parking lot and started heading towards the apartment exit, I noticed a car right in front of me. I did not bother to memorize it, since there didn’t seem any need to anyways.

However, in the evening, on my way back to apartment from office, just as I turned into the parking lot entrance, I noticed this same exact car right in front of me again, just like in the morning! That seemed like quite a coincidence (but still not blog-worthy…hehehe!)

Then, about a few months back, I was staying in the city of Walnut Creek, not-as-close to office as compared to Irvine. Hence, the commute to office was in public transportation, familiarly known as BART to those who live in the Bay Area.

One fine day, just as I was walking towards the apartment exit towards the BART station on my way to office, I noticed a man walking right in front of me, like hundreds of other office-goers on any work day. I did not bother to memorize his height or apparel or walking style or anything else, since there didn’t seem any need to anyways.

However, in the evening, on my way back from the BART station to the apartment, there was this same exact guy again! Walking right in front of me, just like in the morning!

Boink!! (read ‘blog-worthy’…hehehe!)

I was quite taken aback! Look at the coincidence and the sheer timing of it all. Out of thousands of cars in Irvine, out of thousands of folks living in Walnut Creek, out of thousands of minutes on a given day, I had that same exact car and this same exact man coming right in front of me – both morning and evening! And what are the chances of two such similar instances occurring in a man’s lifetime?! Wow!!

And, to top it all, I am the only one in this whole wide world, aware of this seemingly-ordinary-and-yet-quite-extraordinary moment! Because the person who was driving in front of me in Irvine and the person walking in front of me in Walnut Creek were not aware that I was the same person behind them at those precise moments!

It was like a show put on by Mother Nature only to me! Felt absolutely exhilarated!!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Unethical Vs Smart

Scenario 1: In the 1950s, the Irish Church in the name of cleansing this world, took in unmarried mothers, sold the fatherless children to willing American parents by forcefully making the mothers giving away their loved ones in exchange to hefty donations. The money was good for the Church, and a part of it went to the local Government as a bribe to ensure no law was ever constituted to stop this practice from continuing. So, the Church got the money, the Government got the money, the American parents adopted Irish children and all seemed fine, but the mothers lost their children unwillingly, the children felt abandoned by their own mothers not knowing why leaving them traumatized for the rest of their lives. [I got this by reading Philomena Lee]

Scenario 2: In the 1990s - I had this thought when I was in India - drivers caught speeding in their cars had a very easy way out. If the speeding fine was, say, Rs 200, one can get away by paying Rs 100 as a bribe to the cop. So the driver loses Rs 100 but its better than losing Rs 200. The cop gets richer by Rs 100. For the driver, Rs 100 didn’t matter much, so its ok. For the cop, Rs 100 mattered a lot, so it was a great way of making extra money on top of a meager salary. The only compromise was that the Government wasn’t getting its money due to speeding drivers. And, of course, the rich speeding drivers did not bother about getting caught anymore because they knew how to get around it by greasing their cop-captors and hence continued speeding. The biggest compromise was that speeding, at times, led to accidents.

Scenario 3: A software X made by Vendor A is perfect for the project that I am working on currently in USA. However, Vendor A is not competent enough to deliver a near-zero code quality and on time. Another software Y is being used by Vendor B, which is not actually fit for this project, yet can be tweaked to be used. So, the question was asked to the project technical lead: Which is the right software for this project and who should execute it? It just so happens that the technical lead for the project is from Vendor B. So, although he knows that software Y is not perfect for the project, he gives his recommendation to go with Vendor B due to faster time-to-market and good code quality. But the underlying essence of the recommendation is self propaganda and profit for Vendor B. More revenue and higher profit for Vendor B means better bonus and better paychecks for the technical lead himself. It’s a compromise to the project, yes, but it is a smart way of making own life better.

Foot note: In 1950s in Ireland inside a religious place, in 1990s in India with law-enforcers, in 2015 in US with elite high-grossing software companies. This small pattern shows that this feral human tendency of getting one’s own way at the cost of something (or someone) else has always existed and will always exist. It seems unethical, yet this is what motivational speakers refer to as ‘Being smart’, ‘Survival of the fittest’, etc.

Where to draw the line?