Beginning: The BlogLand Chronicles - 1

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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There I was sitting in BlogLand, sipping on the last dregs of an Ice Mocha Moka (I wonder where they come up with these names), waiting for Anil. He was supposed to have met me there two hours before, which explained the three empty glasses of Moka next to my laptop.

I was in the middle of a debate with myself about whether I should order a fourth Moka or not, when Anil walked in.

"Sorry, man! Totally forgot about you. I got busy chatting."

Now Anil was the perfect example of the kind of guy who shouldn't have any luck with women on the internet. The scary thing was, he managed to befriend a new girl every week, and would spend hours chatting with them online.

"Why do you do it, Anil?" I asked.

"Do what?" he replied, as if he didn't know what I was referring to. We'd had a number of conversations about my disapproval of his trying to meet women in chat rooms.

"This obsession of yours, of course."

"I really don't understand why you have this problem with my attempts to get a girlfriend."

"A girlfriend? In a chat room? A girlfriend out of a conversation that begins with A/S/L? Anil, these women you're meeting could be 53-year-old male truck drivers, for all you know!"

"Man, you could be a 53-year-old truck driver, for all I know." After a pause, he added, "Well, in a quarter of a century or so."

I glared at him.

"Anyway, I'm meeting her for coffee tomorrow."

"What?!" I was stunned. "You're meeting this one?"

"Yep. Right here."

"Here? What if she's a he? And what if she's a serial killer! Anil, BlogLand is a coffeehouse for bloggers. I won't let you desecrate this place by bringing your chat room flings here."

"Serial killer? Desecrate? I think you've lost your marbles for sure this time. And anyway, BlogLand is a coffeehouse that also provides special services for bloggers. It's not a temple. And I really don't think BJ has any intention of driving away paying customers."

I looked at BJ - the proprietor of BlogLand - for support as he sat behind the counter. BJ just looked at me and shrugged.

BJ was a retired blogger. No one knew what his screen name had been, though he'd mentioned that he had been very popular when he blogged, and that the pressure to blog everyday had just become too much.

He'd started BlogLand a year before, with the intention of making blogging tools more accessible. The place was essentially a coffeehouse/internet-center that provided the added service of helping customers with their blogging needs. You could hire a laptop for an hour that came with wireless internet access and pre-installed blogging tools. If you had a laptop, you could hook on to BlogLand's wireless network for a fee. If you ordered something to eat or drink, the internet access was free. BJ also helped customers make changes to their blog designs, and if the need arose, he'd help them fix a broken blog. If you didn't have a blog, BJ would encourage you to start one and show you how. If you were interested in reading blogs instead of writing them, there was always BJ's daily recommended-reading list.

BJ wouldn't turn away non-believers (that was the term he used for people who didn't write or read blogs). He'd just try to convert them. And if that didn't work, there was always coffee.

"What's your problem with chat rooms anyway?" continued Anil. "I've never seen you complain about Bloggers' Meets. How come meeting strangers through a blog is okay, but meeting people in chat rooms is considered an act of desperation? It's just hypocrisy, I think."

"Oh, come on! When you meet someone through a blog, you've read the stuff they write. They've read stuff you write. There's a bit of background. Bloggers' meets are not about desperate single men and women!"

"Internet chat rooms aren't all about desperate men or women either. But how can you be so sure that what you say, is true for every single person out there meeting someone through a blog?"

He had me there. And he knew it. He also knew that I hated losing an argument. So by way of changing the topic, he looked at my three glasses of Ice Mocha Moka and said, "I'm going to order an Espresso. One more for you?"

I nodded.

As he brought the drinks back to the table, Anil looked at my glass and said, "Why do you insist on having this horrid concoction all the time? And four of them in a row?"

"It's not horrid," I said, taking my glass from him. "It's quite nice, in fact. Also, it's one of the few things BJ has with no coffee in it. You know I hate coffee."

"Yes. You hate the smell. You're weird. I mean, who in this world, hates the smell of coffee?!"

"I do. And," I continued, "do you need me to remind you that I've been waiting here for you, for the past two hours?"

Anil laughed. "Man, I thought you'd have forgotten about that by now!"

"Hey Mikeo!" he called at the T-shirt clad, spectacle-wearing man at the next table. Mike, as usual, was reading a book while sipping on a large cappuccino. He had a blog in which he mostly wrote book reviews. He read two or three books in a week, and a few times he'd hit as many as seven books in seven days.

"Yeah?" Mike growled. He didn't like being disturbed when he was reading, and Anil loved to do exactly that.

"What book are you reading?" he asked.

"Dickens's The Pickwick Papers."

"Well, how is it?"

"I've been reading it for over a week now," he replied sullenly.

"A week?!" said Anil, genuinely shocked. "How thick is it anyway? You've been reading that for more than seven days?" Mike had finished Lord of the Rings in six days.

"It's seven hundred and fifty pages of tiny text, and has English from 1836. I'm almost done, though. Do you know what a portmanteau is?"

"Port man toe?" repeated Anil. "The toe of a man who works at a port, maybe?"

"It's a sort of suitcase."

"Then why don't they call it that in the first place?"

Mike rolled his eyes.

"So is it any good?"

"Yes, actually it is really good. The humour is sometimes subtle and at other times extremely loud. The characterization is simply amazing. And of course reading something from two centuries ago also gives you a wonderful insight into the culture of that time."

"Right," said Anil blankly. Mike shrugged and returned to his book.

Anil turned back to me and said, "If you gave me a book that was seven hundred and fifty pages long with words like Port-Man-Toe, I'd take a month to read it."

"Anil, you'd take a month to read a Famous Five book. I think you'd find The Pickwick Papers a little heavy for your consumption."

"I didn't understand that last word you used," he said.

We both laughed.

Next: Going South: The BlogLand Chronicles - 2

Of All The...

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
There's a concierge service in the office. Which means that you can book movie tickets, train tickets, bus tickets, and pay your bills, all without leaving the office.

Yes. The management is really smart.

Well, I approached the concierge desk today, as I was planning to spend new year's eve with friends in Bangalore.

"Hi," I said. "I want to book tickets for Bangalore this weekend. To Bangalore Friday night, and back Sunday morning."

"Are tickets available?"

For a second, I wondered why my voice sounded different. And then I realized that the guy at the desk was asking me.

I looked around a little to ensure that I wasn't talking to the wrong person.

Nope. The board on his desk said "Concierge Desk". Right Desk at least.

"You work for the concierge service, right?" I asked, wanting to be sure.

"Yes, of course," he said, pointing to the board.

"So," I tried again. "About those tickets..."

"Are they available?" he repeated.

"Umm... err.."

"If you can find out if tickets are available, that would be helpful," he continued. "How much do the tickets cost?"

I didn't know what to say. I still don't.


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
I'm not very good with remembering faces. In fact, I'm not very good with names either. And to be frank, I'm even less good at putting names and faces together.

It's not that I have a memory problem, as such. Not at all. I still remember climbing up and down the staircase in my uncle's house in London when I was two. I also remember befriending a priest on the flight back home. I remember things I did in the US when I was nine. I even remember conversations I've had when I was ten.

But when it comes to faces and names, I think the associated part of my brain is probably missing some nervous tissue. (Yes, I know. The whole of my brain is probably missing some nervous tissue. But can we not get into that now?)

To give you an example, every time I return to Chennai after a trip to the US, I bump into people who I'm supposed to know, but I just cannot place. I may be casually walking towards the cafeteria, when someone vaguely familiar will come up and say "Hi!"

Now, I may not be a master of tact, but I do try my best (yes, I know it isn't good enough, but that's another story) not to be rude. So instead of saying "Who are you?" I say "Hi", ask some random questions like "So which project are you working for now?" and "How are you doing?" and move on, wondering where I know this person from. Attempts at looking at their ID card to get their name, are not always successful. After all I don't want it to be obvious.

There are some people who I know quite well, and remember exactly how I know them, but their names will always elude me. Then there are people whose names I remember very clearly, but I would have trouble recognizing exactly which of the four people sitting in that room is, say, "Mahesh".

A friend once introduced me to his girlfriend, who seemed to know me, though I didn't recognize her at all. "We played carrom together earlier this year," she said. "Oh yes!" was my reply. I still don't know what she was talking about.

A couple of weeks ago, I was passing someone in the corridor who looked familiar, and immediately said "Hi!" Now it would have been fine, except that she seemed a little taken aback at this, even though she did respond. In the sixty seconds that I spent talking to her, I realized she was probably just someone I'd seen around the office and had never actually spoken to, and that she was just too polite to point that out. I still don't know what her name is.

And yesterday, I ran into someone who (1) did not look familiar and (2) whose name I did not recognize either. That, of course, didn't stop us from having a conversation that lasted at least two minutes. I even answered his question of "So how long has it been since we met last?", correctly. I was pretty proud of myself at that. I have this sneaky suspicion though, that I really don't know him and that he actually mistook me for someone else.

But the most interesting example of this fault of mine is from a while back.

(Note: Names have been altered)

I'd joined a new project at work, and was told I'd be working with Bhavna, though we wouldn't be sitting together initially. Bhavna was someone I'd seen around the office and whose name I definitely recognized, though I may have only spoken to her once.

She'd come over to my seat, we'd discussed something, and I'd then proceeded to work in it. At some point, I decided I wasn't clear about something and that I needed to discuss it further. I'd forgotten to take her extension, so I decided I'd just go over to her seat and talk to her. She only sat a couple of cubicles away anyway.
[For the benefit of the non-technically inclined out there, and also due to non-disclosure agreements with our clients, I'm going to replace all the technical words in the following conversation with completely irrelevant non-technical ones. It won't make any sense either way.]

Me: Hey Bhavna, I have a question about the {evolutionary tendencies of tadpoles}...

She: [turning to me, and realizing that I'm speaking to her] Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't listening. Can you please start again?

Me: Oh. Okay. Well, it's about the {tadpoles} see? I mean I know we're supposed to {get them to give birth to monkeys} but don't you think that {was exactly what my mother warned me about} ? See, on the one hand you have {tadpoles} and on the other hand you have {orangutans} and somehow I think they just don't seem to go together. I mean even if we could get that to happen, {who would feed the little apes}? There'll always be the risk of {the babies swallowing their moms}...

[She'd looked quite blank when I'd started speaking, and she continued to look just as blank as I rambled on. And then I realized that that wasn't Bhavna. I knew her, and had spoken to her before - spoken to her more than I'd spoken to Bhavna at least - but she definitely was not Bhavna. And she'd probably not heard me call her that either.]

Me: Well, anyway, so I was a little confused about that. By the way, do you know where Bhavna sits?

She: [probably thinking I was a little nuts (okay, extremely nuts)] Oh, I think over in that cubicle.

Me: Thanks.

[At this point, I sort of slinked away.]

Imagine talking to two different people over a period of time - people who don't even look alike - and believing they are the same person. At least Jaggu had an excuse in Chaalbaaz (1989).

So, now that you know my little secret, the next time you run into me, and go "Hi! Where have you been?!", if I look a little blank, please don't mind, okay?


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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One more short short.


"How long before they reach the castle?"

"Our army will probably be able to hold them off for an hour at the most."

"And the secret passageway out of the city?"

"It was never finished, your highness."

"Well then," said the king. "I'm off to sleep."


"I always wanted to die in my sleep."

The End