Skip to content

Running from the Digital World

August 16, 2016

Did you know that your eyes can constantly see the tip of your nose (or more!)? They just learn to ignore it.

We all are aware that our activities are being monitored online. We can see samples of it everyday – the ads that we online, the “add friend” that pops up on Facebook… but like our eyes ignore the nose, we ignore these little things. Sometimes, we install ad blockers, we click on the ‘do not send my data’ or ‘delete my data’ and believe that we are secure.

Recently, while cleaning up my computer, I installed a few tools that analysed the amount of data that was going out from my computer.

Google Chrome showed massive activity. It was sending several packets of information to sites, which on a quick search turned out to be a ‘security’ company. The interesting part about this was I had no sites open at that point. Just Chrome and an empty tab. I shut down Chrome and there were some sporadic things still being sent.

Then, there was the infamous Windows 10. Windows takes a few years to perfect their products, which is strange considering their bandwidth. Windows 10 tells you that to ensure your security there are certain things they want you to use. I could probably delve into what exactly is being sent out, but hell! knowing the way things work, I know they are tracking quite a few key things.

I decided to veer away from the popular tools – Chrome etc and switch to something that was good but not as popular. Strangely, though the browser has been around for decades, several sites do not support it. I’ve to install different components for this. The one good thing though was I was not automatically signed into every Google product I did – and Google pushed hard. Some sites threw me out, even though I tried to login. Some sites put up a pop up every few minutes tell me to sign in via Facebook or Google+ ‘For a better experience’.


We are conditioned to tap on ‘Sign in with Facebook / Google’ for any site. It makes life less irritable and it is one less password to remember. But all of these things add up to your user behaviour. The sites and Facebook show you news that they think you prefer.. so if you’ve clicked on two links about Shah Rukh Khan being detained at the airport, they show you similar links about celebrities. They do not show you more links about racial profiling and the terrorist watch programs at the airports. Nope, you are very subtly directed to read more about the celebs and leave things like violation of privacy behind.

You read about Leonardo DiCaprio making a statement about the environment. The next they show you is a link about his girlfriend or him sunbathing somewhere. They don’t show you links about global warming and what our industries are doing.

The ‘curated’ content or ‘personalized’ experience these sites are touting, including the social media platform will keep you in a cage. Is this intentional? Conspiracy Theorists and some others believe so. Or it could just be the ‘algorithm’. The result, however, remains the same. You remain in a cage that you are not even aware about. You are the protagonist of your own Truman Show.

Most people, including me, do not realise how easy it is to shape their influences. You read what your friends share. You read what your newsfeed says. You read what is ‘suggested’ and rarely venture beyond that. So some issues come to the forefront – the death of a Dalit student, the rape of a 12-year old, cow slaughter. Important topics, no doubt. But what about the other stories that you are not reading about? That barely surface from this nonsense and are buried because they did not get enough likes… simply because it was not written about well enough or simply did not contain enough gore to make it interesting.

And what if, and we go into the conspiracy theory mode here, one day the government decides that there’s too much trouble being caused by a particular topic and they want to trend something else to take away the attention? Do you think this hasn’t happened? Do you think this won’t happen? After all, we are all sheep and we follow the herd. So you are happy reading about SRK’s detention, random arguments about local languages and arguments about pellet guns, while elsewhere, something more serious is happening. And we’ll never know about it… because the only person who wrote about it on a blog has gone quiet and the blog disappeared.


June 29, 2016

Once you are past the age of 30, your Facebook feed invariably consists of baby posts and mommies posting about their adorable munchkins or how tough it is to be a mommy. There are those one-off posts from women who do not want to have babies, and are feeling pressurised by society to have kids.

Strangely, most of the women are sharing posts about how tough it is to have it all and how they don’t want their child to grow up being a ‘latchkey’ child.

The term ‘latchkey child’ apparently originated in 1942, but in India, I first heard it at the age of 18 when someone called me a ‘latchkey child’. And here I was thinking it was pretty cool to come home, open the door myself and decompress after school, and that my mother thought I was responsible enough not to burn the house down in the few hours I was at home by myself.

I loved coming back to an empty home, with the knowledge that others will be home soon. The house is quiet, nobody is asking you annoying questions about how your day went and you can just sit and stare at a blank wall and let all the stress of the day go away before the others come home.

I’d be mostly out of home in half an hour, playing with friends, so my mother had the same privilege of coming home and not having to tend to a child immediately, after a stressful day. She’d sort herself out with her stuff and was probably a lot calmer.

Looking back, I had absolutely no issues being a ‘latchkey child’ and would not want to change that for all the money in the world. It taught me how to be alone and keep myself occupied. I did not burn the house down. I did not even flood the house. I learnt how to sleep alone. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or cockroaches and lizards.

So when I hear about all the fuss and worry about mothers wondering how to let their kids alone, I wonder if it is more guilt on their part than about the child. With the numerous technology tools today, it is easy to monitor the child at home. And thankfully, being in India, you always have neighbours to look out for the child. Massive apartment complexes have enough security that you do not have to worry about your child running out on the street.

Being a working mom can be challenging, no doubt. I can only imagine the guilt you would feel for enjoying yourself when your child is home with the father or other family members. Perhaps you feel guilty about enjoying your work and wanting to go back to work. One of the Sex & The City Episodes is one of the few popular media to cover this logically… about a woman wanting to go back to work after having a baby. Fathers do. Perhaps they don’t have a choice, even if they wanted to spend the whole day with the child.

So why do women question themselves when they have another interest other than the baby?

What Happened to Good Writing?

June 26, 2016

Lazy Sunday Evening. I decided to dig up some of the old blogs I used to follow and see what they were up to in the last five years. Funnily enough, more than half of them do not exist anymore. And the others, they’ve either moved on to being ‘professional’ bloggers or have changed entirely.

The former group of blogs is flooded with sponsored post or obviously sponsored posts but they’ve been paid extra not to mention it. It is all about products – books, phones, baby diapers, make up and clothes – written about because they are paid to.

What happened to good writing? What happened to intelligent content? Who reads this plague of what looks like Sunday newspaper catalogues?

Perhaps professional blogging isn’t the nicest thing that happened to writing.

Funny Short – 2

June 11, 2016

Dinner should be something fun. Everyone talks about how cooking for one person is so lame and boring and all that, but I totally love it! Of course, most days I end up ordering in because I’m out late or working, or you know, at home on a weekend when all you want to do is binge watch That 70s Show or The Walking Dead.


But when you have the time, you should really feed yourself. There was some chicken. Probably from last week, but it was frozen, so that’s good. Perhaps some onions, potatoes.. No, I lent the potatoes to that pretty girl on the second floor. No tomatoes either. Used that to make up some weird drink.


I put out the chicken to thaw and headed to the market. I needed the basics. Tomatoes, maybe some green stuff. Chillies. And then some sauces. Damn, I should have checked a receipe at home. I began scrolling through receipes, standing in the middle of the market. Better than going home and figuring out that I didn’t have something right.


I would have headed straight home, but I was trying to figure out the differences between Apple Cider Vinegar and normal vinegar when I ran into the uncle from the third floor. He was just picking up frozen food, because he was home alone. You gotta pity a guy staying alone, so I had a couple of beers home. He gave me a frozen pizza to take home. I diced up the chicken and grilled it with the pizza. Pretty nice meal, washed down with a beer.


Should do this more often.

Funny Shorts – 1

June 11, 2016

I’ve been going through a bit of a writer’s block. It is a weird thing where I can’t seem to be able to write more than 4-5 paragraphs. So I decided I’ll make the most of it and write some funny, satiricial, stupid, silly stuff. That’s what writing should be about right? Having fun? Here goes the first one… Btw, if someone can think of a better title for this, please suggest!

So I decided to walk up the stairs for my health. It was 4 floors, approximately about 25 steps between each floor. Exercise is good for the body and the soul, they said. When I reached the door, I plugged in my music, put my bag crossways and started walking up. The first floor was good. Gave me a lot of inspiration and confidence about how fit I was. The smoking, the drinking, the junk food, no exercise… imagine, how much better I would be if I actually tried to be a little healthy. Or should I? I mean I am in good condition already.

I ran into the stinky guy on the first floor, so I spent a few minutes chatting with him. I mean, I don’t know much about him other than the fact that he seems to own only a couple of t shirts and always gives out this really stale air about him. But he said hey and I felt compelled to explain to him why I was taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Then he said something about his parrot, and his pipe leaking. When he said he always took the stairs, I figured it was time to move on. You live on the first floor. It would be stupid of you not to take the stairs, I thought. Wasted 10 minutes of my time.

I climbed the second floor pretty easily as well. And I would have continued straight to the third, if I didn’t feel compelled to stop at her door and check if gas connection finally came. She had just moved in to the building, and I was just being a nice neighbour. There was no point going up to my place and then coming back down. Or calling her. Or texting her, right? She’d think I was flirting.

Then the third floor. And then the fourth floor. I was a little out of breath by the time I got to my floor. But dude! I just climbed four floors. Anyone would be a little out of breath. This seems like a good idea. I’ll do it every week!

Are we bad at customer service?

June 3, 2016

So the world’s talking about Indian startups and companies. About time too, since we have a few in the top 10 unicorns, and we are the call center of the world. India’s name is definitely on the map.

We’ve tough contenders for Amazon, Paypal, Uber and several other modern-day firms. But when it comes to customer service, Indians seemed to have skipped a page in copying their foreign counterparts.

For instance, Flipkart & Amazon. I’ve been using both for a while. And to be honest, I supported Flipkart a lot stronger than Amazon initially. ‘Apna company’ and all that. But eventually, I got tired of waiting for the company to get their act together and entirely went off the site. There were a few strong reasons, and all of them were related to customer service.

I ordered a TV… and after several days of hemming and hawwing, Flipkart said they cannot deliver the TV. True, this is a vendor issue.. but if Ebay and Amazon can do it, why not Flipkart. I’ve had mostly bad experiences with Snapdeal.

Amazon on the other hand, had a great customer care service who respond to you prompty and ensure that the problem is SOLVED.

Next, Airtel vs Vodafone. Airtel has the worst possible customer service – ever. In any field. Their representatives are rude, nasty and honestly, don’t know what’s happening in the cubicle, let alone the company. I’ve had wrong billings, active connections long after the cancelation requests were placed, arrogant retention service reps telling me to go to Vodafone & refusing to give a decent postpaid plan. The arrogance of the company is horrifying! You’d think they were doing you a favour.

Uber vs Ola: Tried talking to Ola customer care? Or hell! Even a cab driver? The process of reporting is convoluted. The cab driver once charged me extra for toll charges, and when I received the bill (a whopping 650 bucks for 6 kms or so), it included the toll charges. The CC asked me send a mail, with copies of the toll paid and several other details. It was so tedious that I never followed up. Uber drivers on the other hand are some of the most well behaved.

Why do we lack customer service? We are supposed to be among the most hospitable cultures in the world. Then again, we also have a ‘make do’ attitude to do with that hospitality.

One company that I do appreciate is UrbanClap. They’ve got a brilliant customer care team who are tracking queries and more importantly, follow up with you after a few days to ensure that you aren’t facing any issues. More importantly, the person who calls you introduces themselves by name. Each email has a name and a number. Such a level of initiative is unprecedented, particularly in startups! I hope they continue!

Most recently, I’ve had the unfortunate experience to deal with Infibeam. I ordered some toners from Canon (after a loooong search!) and surprisingly, Canon outsourced this openly to Infibeam. The mail I received was cc’d to a rep of Infibeam. Its been more than 20 days and there’s been no sign of the toners, nor any incoming updates from Infibeam. When I reached out, the standard reply has been “give us 48 hours to look into this.”

I wonder why a full fledged company should have so many issues in communicating, when a small manufacturer in Ebay or Alibaba respond to you quicker.

If we truly want to be an international player, we need to up the game – not just in other countries, in India as well. The Indian sentiment will only go so far!

Wage Gap

June 2, 2016

You can’t escape it. No matter where you go. Everyone is talking about this thing called ‘wage gap’. When the topic came up even between a casual conversation, I figured it was time to two put in my two cents worth.

As a woman, I’ve never been aware of a ‘wage gap’. Now, that could be because I was living under a rock (I wish!) or I’m in the industry where women are actually paid higher (reverse wage gap?) or because this doesn’t exist in India.

For all our faults in India and the way we treat our women, there are several positives. In te recent years, there’ve been several schemes that are aimed at giving women an option to save and grow. For instance, the tax slab for women is much higher than men… which means you get to save another few thousands. Interest rates for women savings accounts are higher.

But this doesn’t mean that women are paid on par with men, right? So I checked with a whole bunch of friends and guess what, none of them think there’s a disparity!

There is definitely a disparity when it comes to blue collar labor. Women are paid lesser than men, simply because they are hired to do physically less demanding tasks. Their hours might also be shorter, compared to men.

But when it comes to white collar labour, I wonder if there is truly a “wage gap” or is the discrepancy an indicator of deeper problems.

Employing a man is simpler than employing a woman. I say this as a woman and an employer. Because a woman comes with baggage. And quite often, a woman is not entirely in control of her fate.

Let’s take a hypothetical case of Latha. Let’s assume Latha is a brilliant 23-year old, who has just graduated from one of the top schools in the country.

Latha gets a job in company ABC, and because they are so impressed, they give her a salary that’s more than average for a fresher. Let’s just say around 30 grand. And corporates, being lovers of red tape, also insert a clause that she cannot quit before a year or she pays a ton of money to the company. It makes sense in a way, because they are going to be spending a good 6 months training her.

Latha does really well, and gets an increment when the year ends. Now, a month after she got the increment, she tells her boss that she needs a month off because she’s getting married. She’s got the leave time, so all’s well.

6 months later, she tells the company that her husband got a job in Siberia so she gotta move with him. What you gonna do. So the company wishes her well and tells her that she can come back at any point

But essentially, the company has just spent 30,000x 19 months = 5,70,000 on her salaries alone. Plus the other costs of maintaining an employee. She’s quit way too early, just as they were able to extract some meaningful work from her.

A year later, Latha is back and she gets another great job, this time at 40 grand. She works for a year and then suddenly, she’s pregnant and being a first-time mommy, she wants to take all the maternity leave she can get. She’s a great employee, so the company flexes the rules a bit and gives her nearly 8 months of leave, of which 6 are paid. So that’s another 2,40,000 the company is investing.

After working two more months, Latha decides that she doesn’t want to work anymore and she quits. That means the company shelled more nearly 2 and a half lakh, plus costs for her replacement.

Latha joined another firm once the kid starts school. The company’s great. It even offers day care services and all those fun things. The company does incur the cost for that, but as long as their employees are happy. Then, her husband moves again. Or she needs to take more leave to take care of her family.

As a woman, yes, it is great to have the option to stay at home. But from a company’s perspective, you end up shelling out a lot of money banking on a whole bunch of uncertainties.

In India, we still pay the same to men and women (from what I hear). Yes, there is a major loss of women personnel at a particular level. But there are also women who’ve gone back to work and done great things.

I’ve no real statistics to depend on about how many go back to work or how many quit. But perhaps an employer chooses to pay less to a woman because the company incurs other costs on their behalf.

Or maybe I’m just a frog commenting from my well.

In my limited experience, as an employee and employer, women have often asked for leeway. It isn’t because of physical limitations. Some of the reasons:

  • Cannot work beyond 7.00 PM because their family will not be okay with it (when they want to be a reporter covering breaking news!!!).
  • Having periods and want a sick day – because they are entitled to time off during this time, regardless of if they are in pain or not
  • Need half a day off because they wanted to go home and dress up for a concert.
  • Want a ‘work from home, paid internship’ offers because it is too far to travel to the heart of the city to work
  • Cannot attend a meeting because it might get late and they are scared to take a cab alone

Okay, the last one can be a valid concern. But as a woman who has traveled around the world alone, I’ve learned that you cannot hide at home because some people make the world an unsafe place. You cannot let your gender dictate your ambitions.

I’ve waded through crazy photoshoots when I was having period cramps. I’ve taken autos back home at midnight (and had a philosophical discussion with the stoned autodriver about women’s right to work and travel late at night). I’ve traveled in cabs, driven alone across states. And yes, a part of me knows that it might not be safe. I know that I’m taking a risk. But if that is what the job demands, if that is what I want to do to get to my goal, then how long are you going to depend on others to protect you? What if there is no one to protect you?

Our issue with wage up goes much deeper. It isn’t about the money. It is about how much time you are willing to invest to earn that money. If you are not going to be investing the same amount as the person next to you, then you will get paid less.

The reasons why you cannot invest the same time might be zillion. Perhaps it is your family. Perhaps it is your own fears. And yes, sometimes, the bad boss who overlooks all your good work because you are a woman. Sort those problems out and maybe the wage gap will resolve itself.

Some of the best workers I’ve seen have also been women. Creativity and work doesn’t have a gender. There might be physical and mental limitations, again nothing to do with gender. Some people are better at some things. And wages are and should be set according to that.

%d bloggers like this: