My list of mobile handsets (updated)

I’ll go back in time now and make a list of all the mobile handsets I have owned till date. You may notice that the list is quite long.

The iPhone X holds the record of the longest used mobile handset by me (almost 3 years)

  1. Reliance LG RD2030 (CDMA) – My first phone.
  2. Nokia 3530 – My first color phone
  3. Samsung C100
  4. Samsung X100
  5. Nokia 1100 (Had a torch)
  6. Some Nokia Reliance Phone I don’t remember
  7. Nokia N-Gage QD
  8. Nokia 3510i
  9. O2 Xphone II
  10. Motorola C350
  11. Nokia 6100
  12. O2 X2
  13. O2 Xphone II
  14. Nokia E50
  15. Nokia E50
  16. Sony Ericsson J1ooi
  17. Nokia N73 ME
  18. Nokia E51
  19. LG KS-20
  20. Nokia E51
  21. Nokia E52
  22. Nokia E63
  23. Nokia E7-00
  24. Nokia Lumia 900
  25. Nokia Lumia 720
  26. Nokia Lumia 925
  27. Nokia Lumia 920
  28. Nokia Lumia 830
  29. Microsoft Lumia 950XL
  30. Apple iPhone 7 Plus
  31. Apple iPhone X
  32. Apple iPhone Xs
  33. Apple iPhone X
  34. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

I hate haircuts

For as long as I remember, I have hated haircuts. People who know me would think that I like letting my hair grow out, but that’s not true. I just hate the process of getting a haircut. If there was a device that would cut my hair exactly the same every few weeks, I would buy it in an instant and never go to a barber again.

Not me

I hate haircuts so much, I would rather look like a shaggy hobo than go to a barber.

I hate haircuts so much, I have actually shaved my head at home at least 10 times in as many years to avoid going to a barber for the next few months.

Why? Simply because

  1. I cannot stand the small talk. I have been to many-many different barbers over the years and they all seem to by infected by the same disease of yapping. They just can’t stop making small talk while they do the deed.
  2. Every single barber will try to push extra services on you. Some comment that your face looks dry and you can use a deep face something. Some comment that you have dandruff and your scalp needs steam treatment. However, the most common push in India is for a head/face massage. Why I would want my barber to rub his hands all over my head and face is beyond me. I am sure some people enjoy such things, however, I don’t. When you refuse these services, they look at you, judging you for being a horrible human being.

I would rather pay them extra just to shut up and leave me alone and do what they are told. The only barbers who don’t bother you with this crap are in high end salons, which is where I prefer to go (infrequently) now.

FASTag is a failure

A few years ago, the government introduced an ambitious project called FASTag-Electronic toll collection. On paper, this was a great initiative & long overdue – a simple RFID sticker affixed to your car windshield that sensors at toll collection centers on highways will automatically scan. The appropriate toll would then be deducted from your linked prepaid wallet. To make things even better, this prepaid wallet wouldn’t be maintained by FASTag, but by a few partner companies (Like ICICI Bank, PayTM, Airtel, HDFC Bank among many others). You can order your FASTag from any of the partners, stick it on your windshield by yourself and maintain appropriate balance in your wallet before passing a toll plaza.

Not Easy at all. PC: FASTag.org

This would ease congestion at toll collection centers because people wouldn’t need to fish for change, wait for balance, interact with a human etc. They only need to slow down at the toll center and the boom barrier opens automatically to let you through. Why would anyone not want to use this method as opposed to fishing for cash? A perfect arrangement, right?

Wrong. Indians being Indians made sure not to let a positive thing succeed.

I have been using FASTag for many months, but it was on a recent trip to Agra that I realised that this initiative has been a complete failure.

  1. Most highways still don’t accept FASTag. 7 out of 8 toll plazas on my trip to Agra didn’t accept FASTag. These were all on Western Peripheral Expressway & Yamuna Expressway.
  2. People have sworn not to use it. Typical Indian mentality is doing the opposite of what you are told to do, and in this case, the people did exactly that. People have sworn not to use FASTag and they have kept their promise.
  3. The government has been too lenient in enforcing its use.

The one toll plaza on my trip which did accept FASTag was backed up for at least 1km, and that too in the FASTag exclusive lane. It was evident that people were not using FASTag. I decided to note what the 10 cars ahead of me did while passings the toll (There’re electronic displays showing toll status).

  • Only 1/10 cars ahead of mine used FASTag.
  • 7/10 cars ahead of mine had FASTags, but insufficient balance. They all paid cash. I believe this is because by law all new cars are mandated to be delivered with a FASTag and these cars had one but the drivers never bothered to add balance to their accounts.
  • 2/10 cars ahead of mine didn’t have any FASTag.

The fact that even when cars come preinstalled with FASTag people don’t bother to use it shows me what a failure this has been. On top of it, the government seems to have backtracked on its claims that people who enter FASTag lanes without one will be penalised or charged double. The toll collector sitting in the FASTag lane booth didn’t even expect anyone to use a FASTag, he was quite casually taking cash from people and returning them change.

Why anyone would chose to use cash when there’s a much simpler and convenient alternative boggles my mind. It is a testament to how stubborn we Indians are and refuse to do something new even at the cost of convenience.

Beer, my friend

I have a long relationship with beer and our relationship has evolved over all these years.

A mug of “Child” beer

I clearly remember my first beer (or any alcoholic beverage for that matter) which was at Orchid Lake resort next to the pristine Umiam Lake in Meghalaya. I was around 12 years old at that time & was going to Shillong with my uncle and his friend for the day from Guwahati & had stopped at that resort for lunch. My uncle and his friend ordered beer for themselves and offered me some. My first reaction was that it was bitter. I obviously kept that information to myself & commented that it was very tasty so as to not embarrass myself as less of a “man” in the presence of 2 adults.

I had beer a few more times with that uncle over the next few years but didn’t enjoy any of it.

When I went off to college at Nagpur, I was suddenly exposed to a whole plethora of alcoholic beverages. Beer was reserved for those hot summer days when we didn’t have electricity or had an exam the following day & didn’t want to get too drunk.

I remember one evening when Sood Sahib was feeling a bit low. I suggested that we drink some beer & his spirits lifted immediately. We bought beers from a store and some policemen tried stopping us on the way, but we somehow escaped, got soaked in the rain, reached home, dried up and enjoyed our beers.

Sood Sahib Enjoying and Appreciating Beer

I also remembering going to Urvashi with Neeraj after our gym sessions to drink beer with Tandoori chicken to aid our workout recovery. Beer also accompanied our jam sessions on numerous occasions.

My first major incident with beer was when I bought what I thought was “Haywards 5000” from a seedy store in Nagpur, went home and drank it alone. My roommate came home from college later to find me passed out with my head shaved. Later, when I regained consciousness, he also reported some strange behaviour from me but I would refrain from going too deep into those details. Later everything explained itself when we saw that the beer I had was actually a “Haryana 5000”.

When I moved to Gurgaon, I was exposed to a new world of freshly brewed beer also known as “artisanal beer” or “craft beer”. We used to go to Rockman’s Beer Island at Ambience Mall very frequently to drink fresh brewed beer poured out for us from taps.

We used to order barrels of this stuff and get hopelessly drunk. I remember one incident when we went to Beer Island with Soniel’s German colleagues, everyone got sloshed on beer and they ran away without paying for anything and we were stuck with the bill.

Beer plus Laser

Another incident with beer I remember is when I had something called “Beer Buster” at an office party. It was beer mixed with Tabasco sauce and I had litres of it. When I came back home, I couldn’t sleep because the Tabasco was burning in my chest and stomach all night.

Neeraj at Beer island

One of my best beer experiences was during my Beer trip to Bengaluru. We went to a place called Biergarten which was a huge open air pub surrounded by beautiful palm trees. The weather and the colour of the sky were unlike anything in Gurgaon. Even the washrooms had a killer view.

Biergarten, Bengaluru

Not until the lockdown, when I was forced to stay without any beer for months did I learn the true value of beer (among other things). When the lockdown did open and I rushed to the nearest beer shop to buy some, I decided that I would start treating beer with more respect from then on. Yes, I would savour my beer more and learn to enjoy it.

I started drinking beer slowly, appreciating the textures and flavours and enjoying the taste rather than aiming to get hopelessly drunk.

First Craft Beer after Unlock

When I drink alone at home, I never drink more than 1 or 2 cans at a time and I make sure I enjoy every sip. When drinking out with friends (rare), all these rules go out of the window, though.

3 cheers to beer and here’s to many more years of friendship.

The Lockdown finally got me running

The first few weeks of the lockdown felt awesome. No need to go to work & lot of time freed up from the daily commute. I spent most of this time drinking and lying around. However, eventually the lying around became quite tiring physically.

Things were so bad, I went through most days with less than 200 steps. The less I moved, the more tired I felt. Eventually, I was always tired and even getting out of the bed seemed a huge challenge. I knew I needed some exercise. I tried Darebee’s daily workout for a few days, but I didn’t find it motivating and couldn’t sustain it long enough. What I needed was to go out and run, but with the lockdown, that was out of the question.

By the end of the lockdown, I was so eager to go out and run that when we were allowed to go out, I started running immediately and fortunately, was able to maintain the habit over many months.

My energy levels came back up, I felt much better after the workouts, I could focus more at work and I slept better. I also started watching my diet and limiting what I eat on weekdays.

Some other quantifiable gains over these 3 months of daily running

  • Weight came down from 70.4kgs to 64.5kgs
  • Body fat % came down from 14.5 to 11.7
  • VO2 Max went up from 39.3 to 46.8
  • Resting heart rate went down from 65 to 55

It’s not that I am fanatic about running. Since I can spare only 15-20 minutes daily between meetings, I run only 2km each time. But I do this with consistent pace and do it regularly without skipping days. Whenever I feel like skipping a day, I think about how lucky I am to be able to go out at all.

Schedule

I hope I am able to keep up the cadence, at least till the air quality here goes to shit, like it does each year and going out becomes impossible.

I miss my PSP

And I hate the fact that there’s no true sequel. No, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t count, because the type of games that were available on a PSP and the types of games available on a switch have no comparison.

Sony Playstation Portable. PC: Wikipedia
Sony PSP. PC: Wikipedia

I bought the PSP in 2008 as a gift for my 23rd birthday from Palika Bazaar, during a trip to Delhi. It was the second gaming device that I owned, after the Nintendo Gameboy Advance. It was the PSP-3000 with homebrew OS, capable of running pirated games from ISO files stored on the Memory Stick Pro II Duo. It could output the display to a TV at 720p, too.

Unlike the Gameboy Advance (& currently the Switch), the PSP had serious games, directly ported from the PS2 and PS3 versions. It could play multiple versions of Need for Speed, there were a few flight simulator games and it also had most Grand Theft Auto games.

I remember playing PS exclusives like Patapon & Flow. I also remember returning home from my night shift job at Aricent and playing Resistance: Retribution for 30 minutes everyday, before going to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. My friend KK used it to play God of War on my PSP at work.

Eventually my wife lost it.

The games on the Switch (which is portrayed as the successor to the PSP) belong to a different category. Insanely fun to play, but not serious console games like PSP. Especially, without a single GTA title, I refuse to accept the Switch as a PSP successor and buy it.

I think the demise of PSP type of devices stems from the shift of portable gaming towards cellphones. Why invest in a portable gaming console when you have a powerful processor and chipset right in your phone? Somehow, I can’t bring myself to gaming on my phone.

I hope Sony one day releases a successor to the PSP, or at least a cloud gaming service which has Sony exclusive titles.

The Unintended Chinese Racism

In my last job, I had to travel a lot, and very frequently to China. All in all, I travelled to China 8 times, multiple times each year.

Although my Chinese hosts and colleagues have been the most hospitable people I have met, I couldn’t help but notice the unnatural (to me) behaviour of many Chinese people on the streets whom I didn’t know.

A bit of background – most Chinese do not have much facial or body hair. This is not racist, just a fact. Chinese men with proper beards are very uncommon, mostly because they genetically can’t grow beards. I not only have a full beard, I also have a shock of (mostly) unkempt hair, which makes my appearance definitely non-Chinese.

Chinese men playing Mahjong. PC Uncycloedia

The first time I landed at China was at Xiamen., which is a cosmopolitan city with a lot of travellers and foreigners. Not till my second trip to China, when I left Shanghai Pudong airport to go to the railway station at Hongqiao, did I notice something odd: 2 old men openly pointing at me, smiling and discussing my appearance. I gave them a polite nod, smiled and went on my way.

Fast forward a few more trips later and I am leaving my hotel at Changzhou to take a walk around my favourite Xintiandi park. I hope there aren’t too many people there because I know what will happen.

  • The old men will openly point at me and comment at my appearance (among themselves)
  • The young kids will stare. Some will burst into tears, while others would keep staring without blinking till I am no longer in their line of sight. Their parents will hurriedly tell them not to stare.

The only people who don’t exhibit this kind of behaviour is young people between 18-40.

First timers to China will classify this is blatant racism. I, however, feel that this “racism” is borne more from ignorance and curiosity rather than bad intent, like in the west. I have had an old government official in Australia tell me openly that he didn’t like my face. I have had people ignore me openly at Vienna when I asked them for directions. This kind of racism is borne from ill will and hate.

I wouldn’t classify the Chinese behaviour in the same category. I believe most of them don’t know any better. Most of these people have never seen a full bearded man and it is genuine shock that they are experiencing.

The Chinese are a self contained people who don’t have as much exposure to western media (partly by choice, partly by force) as people from other countries. Also, these incidents are more frequent in the smaller (by Chinese standards) cities than bigger and more cosmopolitan cities. It is understandable that many will find my appearance odd and unnatural.

Overall, I can say that these incidents have not dampened my love for China and my desire to travel there again, in the near future.

Our first home

For the first 17 years of my life, I lived with my parents. When I went off to college, for the first time to a different city (Nagpur), things changed a bit. I started living with some seniors at a rented apartment. I was living without parents, but I was still living at someone else’s home. When these seniors passed out, I lived for a few months at the college hostel, which was, again, a different experience.

When the toilets at the hostel turned into shit-geysers, I knew I had to leave. I started looking for a new place to stay at and a roommate to stay with. The excitement was palpable; this was the first time in my life I would stay at a place of my own choosing with people I chose to stay with.

Eventually, I found a roommate in the form of a creature known as Whoreko and a nice, independent place to stay at Verma Layout.

The time spent in this new place were one of the most blissful years of my life. We had our own place, we could come and go as we pleased, we setup our stuff the way we wanted and we both had our own rooms. In short, we had our own place and we were masters of this little area. We even had our own terrace, where we perched in the evenings and threw water on Halud when he came to visit us.

We both had a computer of our own and we connected them using a LAN cable for multiplayer gaming and file sharing. We listened to our own choice of music (Which, thankfully, matched) in the mornings when getting ready for college and in the evenings, well into the night.

Our First Home
My Room

Once, we even setup a fireplace in our kitchen sink by burning old clothes, books etc. Flames were leaking out of the kitchen ventilator and the neighbours gathered around to watch. Everyone dispersed when we threw a pressurised deodorant can into the fire and it exploded, rattling doors and windows nearby.

Kitchen, forever charred by the fire

The place was at an awesome location. T-Point hostel and Shankar Nagar chowk were nearby, so was a Cafe Coffee Day and Ambazari lake.

After Whoreko, roommates came & went, but I will forever remember and cherish the time I spent staying at this house, our first home.

Below are some of my earlier posts about this place

Improbable things

I couldn’t sleep last night and my mind kept drifting between various improbable things that have happened in my life over the years.

Cardano, making the improbable, improbable
Cardano, making the improbable, improbable

Things that shouldn’t have happened (because, probability), but did. Some examples of these improbable things are:

  1. Once, when I was very young, I hadn’t completed my homework. While going to sleep, I kept wishing for fever or some other illness to befall me, so that I don’t have to go to school the next day. Sure enough, next day, I had fever in the morning and didn’t have to go to school, possibly avoiding a solid beating.
  2. The time I was returning home (in Nagpur) while drunk, riding my bike. I couldn’t spot the high tension electricity cable hanging in the middle of the road and my bike (along with me) was lifted 10 feet into the air. I fell on the road and my bike fell on top of me, all while electric sparks were shooting from the pole, the cable and my bike. That scene immediately sobered up my friends and me and we are all still in awe how I survived that incident.
  3. The time when I passed my engineering final exams because of a fluke. I have already blogged about it once, so won’t add details here.
  4. The time when I was hired at Aricent (now Altran). I lived at Kolkata with my parents. Aricent was holding a hiring drive in Kolkata and I went there just because I had nothing else to do. Somehow, I was selected in the interview and hired a few weeks later. The fact that
    • Aricent staff came to Kolkata for the hiring drive (Never happened before, never happened again)
    • I turned up and was selected
    • Got the right job (at that point of my career)
    • At the right location (I was already aspiring to move to Gurgaon) still boggles my mind.
  5. When I stayed at Kolkata, I used to watch a TV show called “Indian Rendezvous”. There was a part in the episode about Delhi which shows a balloon competition with a balloon sponsored by BT and I dreamed of moving to Delhi one day and working for BT. Years later, this would come true.
  6. How I was lucky enough to have the perfect child exactly like the one I wanted (I might be biased for this one).
  7. I had a friend “J” in college who introduced me to the song “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens. We used to listen to this song at his room very often. Years later, I was listening to this song on my own, when “J” called me and told me his father has died earlier that day.

Makes you wonder how probability isn’t always perfect and such things slip through its laws from time to time.

Home Garden – Slash Pine

The Slash Pine, also called Longleaf Pitch Pine is a fast-growing evergreen conifer which is found in swamps. Here’s a good website with more information about this plant.

Slash Pine
My Slash Pine

This plant consists of drooping branches and thin hair-like leaves, which turn brown after winters and then fall off.

I keep this plant in partial sunlight all the time.

The Slash Pine requires no maintenance at all.

I water it between once a week during peak winters and thrice a week during peak summers.

I fertilise it every 2 months or when it shows signs of growth.

Here’re some good tools which will help you with your gardening.

Earth bound misfit, I