Category Archives: Rant

My Worst Purchases-Airtel Internet TV

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is Airtel Internet TV DTH set top box.

Airtel Internet TV Set Top Box
Airtel Internet TV Set Top Box

I used to have a regular Airtel DTH connection at my place; the non-smart ones where the Set Top Box connects to an external satellite dish antenna and you watch TV. One day the set top box straight up and died so I contacted Airtel for a replacement. They told me that they have an offer where if I pay a years’ worth of subscription fee at once, they will upgrade me to the new Airtel Internet TV set top box. The set top box was supposed to combine the best of DTH TV viewing and App based streaming along with:

  • 1G Ethernet and WiFi connectivity
  • 4K output with 4K Netflix capability (Along with Prime, Hotstar etc.)
  • Voice activated remote with touch sensitive surface
  • Internet enabled programme guide
  • DVR capabilities with storage on external USB devices

I bought it mostly for 4K Netflix capabilities. I was sceptical about getting it because it ran Android TV (Fagdroid), but decided to keep an open mind and give it a try.

It would be safe to say that this was the worst product (across all categories) I ever bought in my life & realised it the same day. Android TV (Fagdroid) is the worst OS ever to power any gadget in the world, period. Some of the complaints that I faced (On day 1) were:

  • Slow as fuck interface (Even with things like quad-core Qualcomm processor etc.). I blame this part entirely on the Android TV (Fagdroid) OS. Even changing channels took 2-3 seconds.
  • Apps crashing all the time. Even the TV app which showed content from satellite crashed regularly with no apparent triggers.
  • The smart Bluetooth remote control froze from time-to-time. The only way to recover it was to remove the batteries and insert them back again.
  • Doing a factory reset was not a straight forward job. After the reset, half of the channels would disappear and would require going into settings and entering some satellite related parameters manually.
  • Advertisements showing up randomly on the UI & also a perpetual, huge Airtel Logo on the corner of the screen
  • Software updates would fix some issues and introduce others.

After tolerating this for a few months, I had had enough & even with 8/9 months of subscription remaining, I threw it in the trash. When I asked Airtel to move me back to the old (non-smart) set top box, they told me that was no longer possible. Eventually, this brought to an end the era of DTH in my house forever & I moved to streaming services permanently; also cementing my resolve to never buy anything Android (Fagdroid) powered ever again.

Signs you live in a Bengali Household

The Bengali household is a unique thing, unlike any other household in the world (That I know of). The following symptoms indicate that you live in, or are a part of a typical Bengali Household. (Observed from cousins and extended family). People from Kolkata may be able to relate.

Bengali Household
Typical Bengali Family, PC: SBS AU
Signs that you live in a Bengali Household
  1. As far as your parents are concerned, you stopped growing when you were 6 & they still treat you like you are 6 years old.
  2. Your mother still tries to feed you forcibly with her own hands if you’re taking too much time finishing your meal.
  3. You have a unique, hard-to-spell name and you know very few other people with the same name
  4. Your parents have a photo of Rabindranath Tagore and/or topless photos Ramkrishna (and his wife) on their walls.
  5. You have a silly nickname that you can never divulge to your non-Bengali friends.
  6. Your parents have any/all of the below at their home
    • Boroline (Thick layer applied on the lips)
    • Digene/Gelusil (For acidity after eating fried food)
    • Cremaffin (Or any laxative, because Bengali diet is poor in dietary fibre)
    • Misri
    • Silbatta
    • Boti (A chopping knife doesn’t belong in a Bengali kitchen)
    • Kasundi
  7. You call and inform your parents every time you leave home to go somewhere and every time you reach back home safely.
  8. You keep your parents informed about every meal you had everyday.
  9. If you live outside Kolkata (or West Bengal), your mother constantly worries about whether you’re getting good quality fish to eat. (Without good river fish, a Bengali loses most, if not all his powers)
  10. You complain to your parents about every minor ailment that befalls you, including headaches, scratches etc. and you mother asks you to apply Boroline on your wound.
  11. Your parents call anyone who is not a Bengali “non-Bengali” or “Hindustani”.
  12. A football match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal stirs up feverish arguments in your household.

My Worst Purchases-Microsoft Lumia 950XL

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is the Microsoft Lumia 950XL, which was my 29th phone.

Microsoft Lumia 950XL, Dead on Arrival
Microsoft Lumia 950XL, Dead on Arrival

I was super-excited to buy this phone since the day it was announced by Microsoft. In the months leading up to the actual launch, I used to send my family members to the Microsoft Store at Ambience mall every Sunday (one-by-one) to ask about the phone’s launch date. I even had a Google search alert setup which sent me emails as soon as any news article were published about this phone. Although this phone was great on paper (Great hardware, huge display, excellent camera), this phone was my 7th Windows Phone overall and by the time this phone launched, Windows 10 Mobile was all but dead.

I remember the day this phone launched; I had just started a new job that week. I immediately dropped everything I was doing and went to Ambience mall to buy it (For ₹55,000; of course, I had pre-booked the phone months ago). The store employees told I was the first person in North India to get my hands on this phone. At that time I thought I was special. In hindsight, it is clear now, I was one of the few fools in North India to buy a Windows Mobile (at the tail end of 2015).

Within months, Microsoft announced the death of Windows 10 for mobiles. Within weeks after that, app developers abandoned the platform. There was still a small community online of loyal fans but we were more and more reliant on 3rd party apps for basic services. Uber, specifically, was a huge pain point. There was no easy way to search for destinations, you had to zoom out on the map, zoom in to where you thought you wanted to go and mark the location manually.

I also remember claiming some of the phone’s cost from my company (There was a company BYOD policy) and my manager laughing at me that I spent such a huge amount for such a phone.

Slowly and painfully, over the next year, the number of useable 1st party apps dwindled to almost zero and I eventually made the jump to Apple’s (Walled) Garden putting an end to my Lumia misery. If I could do things over, I should have bought an iPhone for the same amount and prevented myself from a year of misery.

My Worst Purchases-Bose QC 35 II

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is the Bose QC 35 II headphones, which I regretted buying.

Bose QC 35 II
The Bose QC 35 II, stellar headphones

Don’t get me wrong, the Bose QC 35 II are great headphones, with stellar sound quality and impressive noise cancellation. I just realised after buying them that I am not a “wearing huge headphones in public” kind of guy.

A bit of history, my earphones of choice used to be the Bose Soundsport Wireless, which I happily used for a few years, but lost during my last trip to Xiamen, China. I was quite devastated and for some time, considered buying the same earphones again, but couldn’t find them anywhere in Xiamen. I almost bought Apple Airpods from the Xiamen Apple store, but somehow controlled myself because of the poor audio quality.

After returning to India, I saw the Bose QC 35 II on sale at half price and I had wanted to dip my toes into Noise cancellation, so bought it.

The sound quality & the noise cancellation blew me away (Sony MX3 performs even better they say, but I was a Bose purist then). However, after the first few days of use, the novelty began to wear off. I would feel awkward walking in public with them around my ears, sitting at my desk in office. Having phone calls on them looked even more awkward so I started regretting my decision very soon.

On top of that, Apple soon launched the Airpods Pro, which had everything I wanted in the original Airpods and I was done with the QC 35 IIs.

I eventually sold them to a couple of illiterate Gym Bros via OLX at almost the same price I bought them for, so the regret didn’t last for long.

Crazy Sofa at Bang Saen

During my last trip to Bangkok, I had a yearning to go visit a beach. Me and my Indian friend decided to head to Bang Saen, which is a beach in Chonburi province, a little more than an hour’s drive from Bangkok. He also brought along his Indian roommate. His name, translated to English literally means Snake 🐍, so that’s how we’ll refer to him for the rest of the story. 

Bang Saen Beach

The Snake is your typical Indian tourist who doesn’t want to part with any of his money & is always on his guard thinking that everyone is out to cheat him. He cribbed about paying 10 Baht to use the changing rooms (why can’t we just change behind that tree?), paying 50 Baht to use the beach chairs (we should have brought our own chairs). He cribbed about paying for food (so overpriced). When we decided to ride the crazy sofa, he immediately began to haggle with the operator. Note that, he paid for none of the above things; he is just a habitual haggler.

Unlike a Banana boat, which is streamlined and cuts through the water gracefully, a crazy sofa is inherently unstable and would bounce and flop around even in the most stable waters. So when the snake haggled with the operator and the operator agreed to reduce his rate, but with a nefarious smile slowly spreading across his face, I knew something was wrong.

So started our crazy sofa ride, with me and my friend on each edge and the snake in the middle. It soon became clear that the operator’s main agenda was to punish us for haggling like every other Indian that had crossed his path in the past. The ride was simultaneously the most thrilling and the scariest experience of my life. The operator was going much faster than usual, the sofa was bouncing like crazy and we were holding on to the plastic handles for dear life and screaming for the guy to stop (he conveniently forgot how to understand even the most basic English words).

A Crazy Sofa ride, not our Crazy Sofa Ride

Now would be a good time to mention that the snake easily weighed >100kg and was bobbing around both sides and hitting me and my friend (who were already bouncing hard) and only sheer terror made us hold on and prevented us from being thrown off the sofa. Multiple times, the sofa was airborne for more than 5 seconds at a time and more than a couple times, it almost overturned.

When the operator finally stopped the Jet ski and let us off, we literally toppled into the water from sheer exhaustion and took a long time to wade back to the beach.

Next day, woke up with soreness in unusual parts of the body, like the joints of fingers etc. This was one adventure, though, that I am unlikely to forget soon.

Sitabuldi

Recently, I had a dream about Sitabuldi. For those who are not fortunate enough to have ever lived in Nagpur, Sitabuldi, also called Buldi (But pronounced “Birdie”) is a densely populated commercial neighbourhood of Nagpur.

Sitabuldi
Sitabuldi, PC: Wikipedia

The area is divided into “Modis”, which means “Lane” (loosely translated to English). I have a lot of memories of this place during my (extensive) stay at Nagpur. Some of the highlights are

  1. The second hand mobile phone market, where I was a regular, both to sell and buy cellphones.
  2. Hotel President, in Modi No. 3, where my parents often stayed, when they came to visit me in Nagpur.
  3. Pape Juice Corner, which squeezed the freshest and best fruit & vegetable juices and was open till the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, the last 2 times I visited Nagpur, I found it closed.
  4. Haldiram’s Thaat Baat restaurant, where we ate sometimes, when we had some money, but only enough to be able to afford vegetarian food.
  5. Some rooftop bar, whose name I cannot remember.
  6. Janki Talkies, a small cosy theatre, where we went only once to watch some movie at night. Our group was the only group to buy tickets that night, so the theatre operator had to begrudgingly turn on the projector & start the movie just for us.
  7. Sitabuldi Fort, which we passed many times, but never bothered to go inside, because engineering students don’t go see forts.
  8. Shukrawari lake, also called Gandhisagar lake, which we passed many times, but never bothered to go inside, because single engineering students don’t go boating on lakes.
  9. The street vendors whom we visited to buy cheap garments from.
  10. Some dhaba where we once ate cheap food and the utensils were coated with sand.
Sitabuldi Interchange Station, PC: The Metro Rail Guy

The place has recently changed somewhat, with a futuristic looking metro station now constructed as part of Nagpur Metro. I did make plans for a Nostalgic trip to Nagpur this year, but the Covid situation made it impossible.

Obsession & Burnout-2

Obsession & Burnout are back to haunt me. I have blogged about it before, but this time, things are a bit worse.

So, the background is, that after months of doing very light-level work, I have been handed a challenging project. Not an impossible project, not an easy one, moderately challenging. Others would be excited for this opportunity (actually were). However, I have already started obsessing about it all the time. My free time everyday, weekends and sleep time has been taken over by obsessively thinking about this project.

Some of this thinking is productive; that is I do accomplish some positive outcome, but most of it is irrational fear. Haven’t slept much last few nights.

I believe the reasons for this are

  1. Lack of useful distractions away from work because of the lockdown (more apparent during the weekend). Examples of this includes going out to spend time with family, friends & family friends. I have not much to look forward to, all week.
  2. Lack of physical boundaries between work and leisure. Earlier, work happened in the office (mostly) and leisure happened elsewhere. Now there’s only one place for both (home), so it has become difficult to switch off from work mode when the day or week is over.
  3. My usual hang ups about obsession, that were always a part of me.
  4. Uncertainty about future events, some of which are beyond my control.
  5. Fear of failure, which is more or less irrational.
  6. Hectic schedule with both parents working and trying to handle a kid.
  7. Guilt of not spending enough time with family, forcing that to happen and being absent emotionally even then and not doing work either.
  8. Thinking about all the above amplifies the condition.

I plan to follow the steps below to deal with this situation

  1. Practice mindfulness everyday, and make it a part of daily life and log mood daily.
  2. Use organisation hacks like making lists for everything, tracking all To Dos etc.
  3. Writing down things that cross my mind at the end of the work day and when not working and can be done later.
  4. Establish chronological boundaries when it comes to work.
  5. Establish physical boundaries within the house when it comes to work (This might prove a bit difficult)
  6. Finding an engaging hobby (TV generally doesn’t help) to take my mind off such thoughts during leisure time.
  7. Wait for this to blow over, as such phases don’t last more than a few weeks.

For now, I just want one night of good sleep, to recharge my health and sanity, for which I will use a friend’s help.

Recurring Nightmare

I have been having this one recurring nightmare for years. There are different variations, but the basic theme is the same.

Theme – I have not managed to graduate from college, because I haven’t passed anywhere between 6-14 exams after my last semester. Now, I am at a stage that I have to clear all my remaining subjects in the next exams, or I have to do my graduation all over again. Also, I lose my job if I don’t produce a valid degree.

Variations – In some of these nightmares, I am determined to study hard and pass this time around, but when I open my books, all the pages are blank, so I cannot study. In some variations, I do manage to study, but end up sleeping through the exam day, waking up in panic in the evening. In some cases, I am not even aware of the exams till the last moment and I end up rushing to the exam centre with no preparations.

In real life, I did manage to graduate almost 14 years ago, but by the skin of my teeth. I passed some subjects (EMF) by some fluke (I studied only a few topics and those are the ones which appeared on the exam) or after multiple attempts (Mathematics-1 took 5 attempts).

However, when I I truly lucked out was during the 8th semester exams. I had appeared for both 7th (failed subjects) and 8th semester exams during my last attempt and had only attempted the bare minimum questions in some of them. I was more surprised than relieved when the results were announced and I realised I had passed in all of these exams and graduated successfully. Later, when the mark sheets were released, I realised it was another fluke.

Nightmare
Fluke!

You see, I had actually failed in Subject 5 above, but, our university had a provision of grace marks. However, the rules were very specific and I had never received grace marks ever, before this. Some rules

  • You would get up to a total of 10 grace marks per semester only.
  • You would only get grace marks if it enables you to pass in all subjects in that semester
  • You would get grace marks only in certain specific denominations
    • Exactly 10 marks in one subject (I would get grace marks only if I score exactly 30 in that subject. 31 would also not do)
    • Exactly 5 marks each in 2 subjects (Need to score exactly 35 in 2 subjects)
    • Exactly 2 marks in 1 subject (which is what I got)

Even though I failed in Subject 5, I was awarded 2 grace marks and I passed that subject and graduated. If I had 1 mark more or less in that subject, I wouldn’t have graduated when I did. Maybe the fact that I graduated because of such a fluke is what triggers these nightmares. Strangely, when I wake up and realise it was all a nightmare, it still doesn’t make me feel better. What a nightmare!

The kicker? The subject that I couldn’t even get passing marks in was related to Computer Networking and I am now a network engineer.

Weirdest Birthday Ever

This year, I had the weirdest birthday ever. Normally, my birthday is spent with a close family lunch and a wider family dinner. This year, however, I had to travel to Bangkok for work & since this was my last week in this particular company, I didn’t say no.

I went on the company trip and planned my family to visit me on the weekend before my birthday and stay till the day after my birthday, but because of the Covid-19 situation, their trip had to be cancelled. On top of that, my birthday was a Thai holiday, so I was staring at spending my birthday alone.

I started the day waking up late and having a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.

I saw a couple of movies, and then was surprised by the Hotel staff with a birthday cake. The cake was delicious and heavy, so I skipped lunch.

Weirdest Birthday
Cake!

In the evening, I took a long walk to Benjakiti Park, took the Skytrain From Asok to Phrom Phong station and spent some time at the Emquartier mall. After roaming round the Glass Quartier, the Waterfall Quartier, I headed for dinner at the Helix Quartier.

The Helix Quartier is a beautifully designed section of the mall. As the name says, it has a gently sloping walkway in the shape of a Helix without a clear distinction between different floors, with restaurants lining both sides of the walkway. I found a nice Korean Organic Chicken and Rice place and had a hearty meal.

Organic Korean Chicken and Rice

After dinner, I went back to the hotel, alone, watched some TV and fell asleep, thus bringing to end, the weirdest birthday ever.

Lockdown Day 54 – Freedom!

Last week, the lockdown rules were slightly relaxed in Gurgaon and it is now allowed to go out and do some things. Freedom at last!

I had been waiting to see my ENT, so I used this chance to step out of my apartment for the first time in almost 2 months.

It was a surreal experience driving after so many days; I had a continuous feeling of guilt, as if I was doing something wrong.

I returned back home soon enough, but at least it gave me a chance to stock on some beverages. There were very limited brands available, but I wasn’t complaining.