Chris Ware’s Last Saturday over at the Guardian. Three years new.
Chris Ware’s Last Saturday over at the Guardian. Three years new.
Sometime last year, my Diwali-gifted smartphone kissed an elevator-floor. The glass shattered, sending proper menus and hamburger menus and notification icons and tiny unsubscribe buttons to corners they weren’t supposed to see. Two generous pieces of cellotape and some craftiness with the surgical blade held it together for a few days.
I am not comfortable in my new interaction-designer shoes. I admire the printed page from the years spent in the screen-printing lab and under the A4 sheet studded wall in the Gurgaon studio and in quiet bookshops and in front of surprisingly good ‘PGs for Boys’ posters[^1] pinned to trees. Something from those years have put this ‘us-versus-them’ notion in place where I think about ‘experience designers’ the way I think about the sixth Hitchiker’s book. I don’t think it (the thinking) is entirely healthy or appropriate.
I have lost the urge to stay up-to-date. How a swipe up is different from a half-hearted swipe up-then-sideways seems trivial, overthought. I didn’t know it was possible to feel any more out of touch when in company of people talking technology. Despite a license, I stay behind on the older version of design software just so I can round corners individually. (No, that is an exaggeration. The X230 sans a battery won’t run like makhkhan anymore with countless updates and a hunger for a decent internet connection.) This is, I tell myself, not a Luddite romancing of older technology; I just find the illusion of control comforting. (There is a physical switch on the laptop that turns on the Vimanam mode. There is a battery I can pull out to make sure the phone is absolutely, positively, switched off, or parts I can put back together after a skirmish with the elevator-floor.) The rejection isn’t based on profound ethical questions or plant product induced lucidity; sometimes I just want to fiddle in the pant-pockets to change an inappropriate track. (This, while holding onto chromed pillars in an overcrowded bus home. The resemblance this exercise has to pole-dancing violates copyright laws. The bus twists and turns and wallops and sings a Metallica song as it comes to a halt, throwing you into a confused dance of limbs and polythene covers and the occasional umbrella. This is what I imagine mosh pits to be.)
Our devices have shrunk-in size and in number-to one portable, all-knowing object we sleep with and wake up to. Mine have, since the elevator incident, grown in number and demand room of their own. Shortly after switching to the Nokia 105, I found a 4th Generation iPod Classic on OLX, a used Fujifilm X-20 in Velacherry and fell back in love with the Kindle. I switch these[^2] the way people switch applications. Mine just involves more hand-chrome-pole-coordination.
[^1]: There was one in front of the sandwich shop along the road next to Ramaiah Institute in Bangalore, where I would stop on my way to (and later, from) the IISc and polish off a black-tea and sandwitch, watching the traffic pause and change colours. The poster was basic, made in MS Word (or so it seemed). That is one thing I respect in those posters-you can’t tell which program they’ve been through. All our 3D rendered, bezier-nudged, pixel-pushed pieces carry that unmistakeable stamp of the program through to the end. To my biased eyes, they are somehow not ‘fully there,’ not honest enough, certainly not ‘loved’ the way someone who uses a tool along and outside its strict margins and bleed-marks loves her work.
[^2]: The Price I Paid: A counter-argument to the many-devices proposition is the amount of money it takes to acquire and maintain these. Here is a cost breakdown for anyone interested. Nokia: Rs. 950 from a shop in Mavoor Road (cheaper than buying it online); iPod 4th Gen: Rs. 2300 off OLX (did not bargain); battery from iFixit: Rs. 860; Fujifilm X-20: Rs. 20,000, from OLX.
Update: KL11 Blog has an article on setting up a frugal design practice.
Here is a live feed of the Supreme Court judgement declaring privacy a fundamental right. (Use adblocker of choice.) Here is a relevant(?) thread on r/india. Hoping reasonable restrictions mean the biometric thing is optional.
Living out in the village has its advantages; it’s already taken me more than a week to get to the final chapter of Rushdie’s delicious take on storytelling in Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty‑Eight Nights, with all the weeding-during-monsoons, rushed coconut-felling, felled-coconut-gathering, sorting, husking, marriage-attending, milk-buying, curry-leaf picking and slow wireless internet. Often, the story is too self-aware, balancing overt references to present-day dystopias and the author’s life, with crafty language gymnastics. Some sentences might even work well as triggers to long and interesting and weird tales. I was reminded of Neil Gaiman more than once (and then briefly leafed through Neverwhere again). Ashamed I never read Rushdie before. Worried this is going to be another spiral down Murakami lane.
Rushdie calls one of the characters Dunia, the world. One may think that is a slow descent to corniness but, so beautifully, it isn’t. (The rest of you can have your refunds at the Peristan gates.)
Installed Linux Mint (Cinnamon) on the other hard-drive (that came with the X230). Trying to go the free and open-source software route. Does anyone have any experience similar to these people? I am told (even G says) it is hard to switch to an all-free-software workflow if you have a graphic/interaction design practice. Has anyone tried ElementaryOS? I have dealt with Scribus before and it wasn't pretty. Will see what can be. To share your INR 0.63, my email is email@example.com
With great powerlessness of resisting the cozy surveillance benefits of the Aadhaar card, comes great financial freedom. I can finally take that INR 201 paid every two-three months to the cellphone tower people and go buy an island off the Lakshadweeps. (They have already got my mug in various poses, my teeth count, my hair samples, dreams of my unborn children and blank pages in my soon-to-stop-being passport, which apparently don’t prove the whole snowflake nature of things. They say pigeons are making a comeback in certain circles. Can’t. Wait.
Come morning, we draw our drinking water from the well next to the old kitchen. Most mallu concrete homes have an extended, appended second kitchen since the one inside, in a bit of cement-tinted fate, starts—right after the paalukaachal—leaving the entire house smelling like roasted chillies after half an hour of frantic cooking. Some say that is a good thing. Our entire extended family disagreed and built the second kitchen in an act of misguided conformity anyway.
It is not that the water pump refuses to run off an absence of electricity. Mallu kids are trained to not trust tap water from a very young age. (Some of our bedtime stories were actually tales of horror from Bolivia. In terror, we would hold tight to our party membership cards pinned to our diapers.) But we would drink off the copper taps at the school or from the heavy, galvanised iron ones that poke a hole through their milestone bases on the road, along the paddy fields we appropriated as playgrounds during the two-three dull months after harvest. At home, we draw water in used rubber-tube-buckets tied to ropes, looped around well oiled wooden rollers, hung from hooks above the wells in various states of disarray. The ropes, yellow plastic ones peppered in ambiguous red markers, twisted and untwisted as our mothers and fathers and feisty grandmothers drew bucket after bucket, craning their necks to see if the clothesline is in any danger of getting soaked in the impending rain.
Drawing from the well is easy during the monsoon months; the water comes up to meet the bucket less than halfway down its usual plight. The rope is tied short and the extra length coiled into a heap on the net that covers the well. Re-purposed mosquito net stocking-s the well, put in place after both of us boys graduated from our hostels with our mosquito nets intact. The water is crystal clear too. On days when all the nocturnal typing leaves me waking up past everybody else and missing the water-drawing deadline, I try hiding my shame commenting on this clarity, obsessively chopping tender elephant-leaf leaves into some semblance of order, for lunch. The misdirection never works; my mother’s notion of the ‘irresponsible elder child’ is too insurmountable a summit that early in the morning. Underslept and out of topics of diversion, I drown her complaints instead in the only radio station that makes sense that side of seven.
As I peer down the well, I am reminded of Lakshadweep-getaway photos behind postcards other people bring home from vacations in other places far from the Dweeps. In the well, the water is a bluish green. The level has climbed up, and is about to breach that one step where snakes shed their skin come summer. The last two summers, we had to remove at least four of those. The year before my grandfather was bedridden, he used freshly upturned soil around our piece of land for one of his tapioca plantation adventures. The oversized rats that year took care of the crop, and laid the underground tunnel system these snakes so readily borrow on their way to the well. We were very calm about the whole plantation business though, since the last one had turned sour, after the local drinking fraternity uprooted fresh stems-along the main road-and stuck them back in, upside down. Tapioca refuses to grow well that way. The alcoholically inclined were protesting his objection to drunken brawls near the bus-stop across the road, refusing to let go of their party membership cards and the diapers. (There is no easy way of telling when the tapioca stems are inverted. During planting, they are marked, or aligned a specific way to make sure they go into the earth the way they came out.) Grandfather was very nice and forgave them their subversion with a smile. He never went back to criticising their ways in public. The snakes were happier last summer.
The commute to KL11 is spent in a Tarzeny haze on dull days, hanging onto the stainless steel rods crisscrossing the bus that takes in everything, from seat-expecting mothers and that uncannily well-dressed elderly gentleman on his early morning booze run to the state-owned-and-operated IMFL store halfway to town and the backpacker who refuses to part with his violently swinging bundle of pain and entanglement and the disgruntled ticket checker (conductor of the symphony). The elderly drunkards drown the rainy days in quarters as if all that water hasn’t enough mojo. On busy days, suspended in a sea of bodies—warm except for the half-shut umbrellas fresh off a surprise shower—the kindle becomes extra padding to my sketchbook, warmed by the packed lunch and water-bottle, leaving me listening to interviews pilfered off the internets or to Kodaline on loop. Today, half way into the yatra, Pamuk’s long and often unexciting bit on “Strangeness in My Mind” gave way to Arundhati Roy reading from the “Ministry,” and it was three different kinds of odd and beautiful. The burqa-clad girl seated next door sent strange glances my way as I giggled inappropriately and looked at the Hindi numerals on the HMT when I noticed she noticed I noticed. Ms. Roy broke into ‘Kozhikkattam Chammandi’ and went on to spice up the translation with guts. I have had the hardcover on the table for almost three weeks now, and haven’t gotten past the first few pages.