Blackberry Rant

I’ve thoroughly criticized Blackberry for several years. I dislike several things about the product and the company.

I don’t like the way it looks, I don’t like the tacky-looking keys, I don’t like the fact that Blackberry has been inextricably linked to corporate work. It’s like a uniform in that context.

I didn’t like the widespread notion that several young MBA kids had back in 2007-08ish that once they had a Blackberry in their hands, they had achieved a life goal. Why do you want to be tagged 24×7 by your bosses, young MBA kids?

And then came the erstwhile RIM’s change in strategy, when they tried to appeal to the youth, clearly identified by all and sundry as the SEGMENT TO TAP! in the Indian mobile telephone market.

That move sounded disgustingly hypocritical and suicidal to me. You are clearly a niche company. Jumping into the mainstream market when there were at least two strong, established players with equity in that market, certainly sounded wacko. Particularly because those two companies could always make smartphones that can be used in business. If corporates around the world gradually started ditching Blackberry, the company would be left neither here nor there.

Needless to say, RIM’s move failed disastrously. And now they are rebuilding again from scratch, dropping the name RIM and calling the company Blackberry as well.

***************

With this context, imagine my consternation when I found that my new workplace required me to have a Blackberry.

After dragging it along for a bit and breaking a couple of walls, I procured one yesterday. I’m so disgusted that I haven’t taken it out of its box yet. There it lies on the dining table, unwanted and uncared for. And inside that packet is a device that’s black and with tacky keys and… GRR!

***************

And today I read a report that Eric Schmidt carries a Blackberry. What now?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/mar/21/eric-schmidt-blackberry-user

Schmidt even takes his BB along for foreign trips

He says he likes the keyboard. He says he’s comfortable with it.

He’s probably lying. There’s probably a corporate policy at Googleplex that requires employees to carry Blackberrys.

Challenge Accepted

I’ve just been given a challenge – a challenge to explain in four sentences why I’ve neglected this blog – and now I realize that hyphen is a grey area in the entire spectrum of English sentence construction – which would thus enable me to extend these four sentences for as much as I’d want – but for the sake of propriety, I must stop doing that right now.

Truth be told, the simple reason is that I behaved like a strategic consultant with no capability or power to execute his ideas, and this made me passive and meandering in my attitude towards Directement Zero. I created all sorts of storyboards and concepts that I’d have liked to implement, and I started work on a superhero-surreal-humour-family-drama manuscript that got stalled after 8,000 words. This shan’t happen again – We turn a new digital leaf, and brush the old one off my chiclet keyboard.

New Leaf

A>B, because I said so

I have not blogged for several months. This is due to no particular reason other than a lack of “enthusiastic time” as I’d call it. I’ve had time, but I hadn’t been enthused enough to blog then.

And now, in the last working day of the month of March, I happened to read this article by an accomplished columnist in the Mint, and a delightfully politically incorrect one at that.

http://www.livemint.com/2012/03/29200444/Why-it-is-better-to-live-in-th.html

This has finally made me write. Not a long post with a purpose or a twist in the end, but a comment to the above post.

And then I see that comments have to be moderated by the powers that be at Mint. Even though they did moderate a particularly esoteric one which said, “What nonsense”, I do have my doubts whether mine would see the light of the day. Hence posting below. Do read Mr. Patel’s article first though.

Why it is better to live in Kerala than in the rest of the South

1. In Kerala, you can eat excellently cooked Beef with genuine Porotta at mainstream restaurants

2. In Kerala, you can make fun of all North Indians, including Tamilians, Telugu people and Kannadigas. And particularly of Rajnikanth

3. In Kerala, you’ll find more Bollywood + Tamil + English movies in theatres than Malayalam movies

4. We are very tolerant and broad-minded in Kerala. We have built a crazy-popular religious destination mainly for Tamils, Telugu people and Vivek Oberoi


Let me hypothesize that the reason Kerala is much more awesome than the rest of South is because we don’t have many Brahmins in Kerala. We have Communists instead, who are arguably more intellectual than Brahmins. Communists are primarily bothered about equitable distribution rather than about Raaga Mayamalavagaula, and the former is clearly a more intellectual discussion than the latter.

But do not talk to them about Poland.

Nameismatics

Albert Einstein. Oprah Winfrey. Teddy Roosevelt. Veerapandiya Kattabomman. Nelson Mandela. Mammootty.

What is common to all these luminaries, apart from the obvious fact that they were all incredibly successful in their respective fields?

The answer I’m looking for is not a trivial one like, “Ooh, all of them have been suspected to be members of the Priory of Sion!”. They probably are, so what?

Nor do I want you to do a classic quizzer style, “Basically the funda is.. When Albert Einstein’s funeral happened in Cologne, in what happens to be the tallest cathedral in Europe, a little birdie, incidentally called Oprah, dropped a seed on the priest’s head, which caused a rose velt in the shape of South Africa, which inspired Mandela’s struggles and incidentally, Mammootty is slated to play Mandela in a forthcoming movie. As for Kattabomman, haha hoho, the connect is obvious, isn’t it?”

Yes, I know people who talk like that.

But I’m looking for something far simpler. What jumps out as you peruse the names of these great people?

The simple fact that their names are all reasonably unique!

Let us do an experiment now – think of any random 5 people whom you consider great. Yes, I know that you have thought of Sachin Tendulkar, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, William Shakespeare and Rajnikanth.

Quickly analyzing these people,

1. Sachin Tendulkar – Clearly not a common surname. The only other Marathi Tendulkars I know are Vijay Tendulkar, the late playwright and Ajit Tendulkar, who happens to be Sachin’s brother. And of course we all know Dr. Anjali Tendulkar, Sara Tendulkar and Arjun Tendulkar.

Even though Indian couples went on a rampant mission from late-90s to about 2010 to name their kid Sachin, they could obviously not change the surname to Tendulkar.

2. Mother Teresa – Critics of my theory might have been waiting for this one with ammunition. “There are so many Teresas in this world!”, yes I can hear you shout, critic. “Dude, have you forgotten St. Teresas?”, that was a Mallu critic from Cochin, referring to the hallowed college in the city only for girls.

But give me the benefit of doubt, critics. This person Mother Teresa, great though she may be, had been carrying out her impressive work under a false name. One does not know why she did that, but Bengali pronunciation of her real name might or might not have been involved.

Agnes Gonaxha Bojaxhiu. That was her real name.

Now tell me how many Bojaxhius live down your block.

3. Mahatma Gandhi – One must immediately remove the Nehru-kid and her descendants from the picture as they clearly stole the surname. If you are a Nehru, you are a Nehru. You can’t decide to change your name to Gandhi overnight. Hell, should Ashish Nehra change his name to Ashish Gandhu overnight?

In any case, there exists several assorted descendants of Mohandas Karamchand, including Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Arun Gandhi and so on. There used to be a cricketer called Devang Gandhi, who was mostly crap.

But as can clearly be seen, not many Gujaratis are Gandhis. Not even a Gandhi-Patel hyphenated surname pops up into memory. This is a telling blow as the X-Patel hyphenated surname is getting particularly common in Gujarat (Modi-Patel, Shah-Patel etc..) and fittingly enough, most of them are Ex-Pats also. But no, no Gandhi-Patel.

4. William Shakespeare – While writing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with much ado and what not, the great man slipped in these lines..

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

..And then immediately signed the whole thing with his own very unique name. This remains one of the world’s earliest known instances of effective irony and possibly even megalomaniac dark humour.

Shakespeare, photographed immediately after someone drove a spaceship through his neck

5. Rajnikanth – And finally, we come to the greatest of them all. What caused an ordinary bus conductor, Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, to become an extraordinary being of mostly human looks, Rajnikanth? We don’t know, but rest assured that it is a very unique name. The last known Rajnikanth (of the human variety) in Tamil Nadu was forced to change his name by a mob of angry Rajnikanth fans, and given to Karnataka in exchange of three 1 litre bottles of Cauvery water.

One can keep repeating this experiment several times, but it would almost always throw up the same result – if a fellow is famous enough to be referred to as a ‘great’, it is likely that he has a rare given name or surname. Shah Rukh, Sreesanth, Roger Federer, Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Messi, J.R.R. Tolkien, Justin Bieber..

If anyone mentions Sir Alex Ferguson, I will look at them in a very pointed manner. Yes, this can also be an exceptionally good ‘Greatness Test’. If your name ain’t rare, you ain’t so great, Fergie.

So naturally, the question now is – if your name happens to be something extremely ordinary, like Rahul Sharma, or Rajat Gupta (infamy does not count), or S. Praveen Kumar, what are the odds that you would end up being great?

Unfortunately as it stands, next to none.

But as is the case for every disease, there is a cure, which might turn out to be reasonably effective or not. You can choose to change part of your name.

This has been done to great success by several people with fairly ordinary names, who had recognized the futility of having ordinary names quite early on in their career. Two prime examples remain Ramdev and Ravi Shankar.

Baba Ramdev was a masterful twist, as we see the fellow’s legacy being built these days. Ravi Shankar went an extra step, adding a Sri Sri to reiterate his greatness. Sri Ravi Shankar somehow sounds nothing more than an ordinary Ravi Shankar being referred to with a modicum of respect or in his wedding invitation.

A very important thing to note at this point would be the sheer ineffectiveness of a mere spelling change. The people of the Bollywood have tried this and needless to say, such experiments have ended in abject failure. We still don’t care two hoots about Viveik Oberoi.

So I’ll wrap up by wishing you ordinary name-carriers the very best in changing your name and thus taking a real step towards your goal of greatness.

Regards
Nagadarsan.

Rule us, Google!

Not a week passes by without one being forced into a conversation with a suspicious-looking fellow who thinks Google is out to get us.

Between furtive glances hither and thither, the fellow proceeds to tell one – “Google has too much power, man!”. He elucidates more on privacy fears (Google could see him lie naked on his terrace if they want to! Yikes!), monopoly fears (Google might give you all the answers in the world one day and no one else! Cripes!) and on other phobias of this sort or that.

I always advise such fellows with the wise words “Sambhavami yuge yuge”. I further tell them that it shall all be for the good. As a conversation finisher, I also ask them whether they have a Google Chrome OS invite.

And then I read this column by Amit Varma on Corruption, Anna Hazare and Goverments.

And that’s when I cried, “Rule us, Google!!”

***

Let me now divide this post into two parts.
1. Current Awesomeness
2. Potential Regal Awesomeness

1. Current Awesomeness

1. (a) Google search engine – I do not need to expand on this much. From providing wonderful doodles to giving you the history of noodles, they provide it all.

1. (b) Google Realtime search – One might not have fully realized the complete awesomeness of this relatively new Google feature. I did recently, during an earth wobble.

4:59 PM, while gently relaxing in the office with a half-drunk coffee and half-droopy eyelids –

“Did the floor shake?!” – Colleague in the neighbouring seat.

“Er.. No..” – Me, sipping my coffee.

“It did! I felt it” – Colleague, furiously wiping the coffee she had spilled on her desk while the floor apparently shook.

“Really?” – Me, trying to figure out whether her coffee had a spiked look.

But then, why bother. I merely turned to Google Realtime and typed in “Delhi Earthquake”. This was at 5:01 PM.

And lo and behold, 4 results turn up, all from within the last 2 minutes. All 4 were tweets made from Delhi asking pretty much the same thing my colleague asked. “Did anyone feel that earthquake?”.

Let us take a step back and analyze. I have been subjected to an earthquake which I DID NOT feel, but the authenticity of which (and the authenticity of my colleague’s coffee) has been verified to me by this amazing search engine, within two minutes. That, gentlepeople, is awesomeness.

1. (c) Google Maps – Let me regale you with an anecdote. In the summer of 2005, a bunch of starry-eyed Engineering students, including I, set out from our college in Cochin for an industrial visit to Bangalore. We had high hopes of watching real software engineers at work, and of being intellectually stimulated and aroused by tantalizing peeks into cutting-edge technology. An industrial visit would be our first introduction to the real world of computer science.

Pshaw, to no avail.

We, in our enthusiasm for the visit that awaited us, set out with little idea of the route from Kochi to Bangalore and after myriad twists, turns and pukes, finally ended up at a beach. It appeared to be Goa.

Imagine our consternation. Our quest for intellectual pursuit blocked by something as trivial as right directions! And more crucially, what in the world would a bunch of 20-year olds do in a place as frivolous as Goa?!

And now think dear readers, would this happen in 2011? No! Never! At least a couple of students would have taken prinouts of correct Google Maps directions from Kochi to Bangalore! Another bunch would have phones with GPRS through which they shall connect to Google Maps whenever the driver strays off on a dusty path to a possible beach! This my friends, is technology. Let us close our eyes and gently thank Google.

1. (d) Google Images – A few days back, a friend and I were involved in a highly intellectual debate which spanned several fields of study. Let me not bore you with the actual details of that high-pressure sparring and this is hardly the forum for that. The crucial part is that the debate reached a juncture where I knew that I would score a substantial point if I could furnish the picture of a naked mole rat.

Now this was no ordinary task. A rat is fairly straightforward, you immediately drive to one of the many markets in Delhi and shoot a rat pic with your camera. A mole rat though? Tougher, much tougher. To begin with, I did not know what a mole rat was. Was it a rat with a mole? Was it a Malayalee daughter of a rat?

And that would hardly be enough as where in the world would I find a naked mole rat? Copious perspiration followed.

And then, as if the Gods smiled upon me, I knew where to look. Google Images of course, with its brand new design and ‘Safesearch Off’ feature, which shall guarantee a naked mole rat!

To cut a long story short, I did obtain a highly defined image of an NMR and subsequent bombardment of the friend with this image traumatized him so badly that I felt pity upon him and eased his worries by observing muted celebrations.

A Naked Mole Rat, for illustrative purposes

***

2. Potential Regal Awesomeness

And now we come to the crux of this post. In the column I had linked to earlier, journo Amit Varma talks about corruption and the inevitability of it as long as people have power. Human nature is that power corrupts. All absolutely true and accepted by many of us.

In this scenario, Varma argues, the best form of government one can conceive of is one with the bare essential power over the people it governs, in order to govern effectively.

Let us consider our Union Council of Ministers now. Including the Cabinet Ministers, MoS and those with independent charge, there are a total of more than 80 ministers governing us from the center. In other words, the government has identified more or less 80 aspects of your life that need governing and have appointed as many worthy souls to perform this function.

Amit Varma argues that, “Governments should exist to implement law and order, to protect our rights, and to provide basic services — nothing else. The more we move towards this ideal, the closer we come to rooting out corruption.”

And that’s when it struck me. Why not Google? But before accepting this point of view, it is important to accept the total and utter necessity of the interwebz in our not-so-distant future. Also important is to completely remove those privacy fears from your mind. Quick, do so now.

Google can implement law and order – A newly created Google Police (GP) can have just the adequate amount of power to serve this purpose. If a thief breaks into your house and steals your, let’s say, ICC World Cup, you immediately message Google Police. The machine at work there promptly switches on the satellite feed that covers your house 24 hours a day. Using the feed, they see the thief, track him jogging away with the World Cup and pounce in on him wherever he is at that moment. Androids sent by GP immediately surround him and confiscate the cup, which shall be returned to you in due course.

Google can protect your rights – If you rant on in twitter about fake Gurus, parlour tricks, unaccounted gold and stuff like ‘Opiate of the masses’, and a bunch of people following you insults your every conceivable relative, Google Rights Force (GRF) can immediately take over twitter and banish those people for a set period, thereby upholding your Freedom of Speech. Now let us not get into the debate over insults being free speech as well. GRF has clear rules pertaining to that.

Google can provide basic services – In fact, they do so already. This potentially lucrative part of governance would include Google Transportation (GT) which allows you to type in your desired destination in your GT homepage, upon which a Google Ads branded vehicle would commute you there. In the future of course, your GT homepage would immediately break down your molecules, drag those into the computer screen and transmit you through wires to your destination and subsequently re-assemble you there.

The picture which emerges is clear. Google need not be shunned, feared and ostracized for their consistent attempts to know more about our lives. They must be welcomed. And they must govern us. And then, this shall be a free and fair world again.

As long as they don’t ban twitter of course.

Walker

To Walk or not to Walk?

now

A single droplet of sweat trickled down His brow before falling to the dry ground. As if to herald the fall, 30,000 cheers rang across the ground, and a freakish pipe-tune accompanied them.

He looked up and saw the maroon-shirted man from across 50 yards. A steely stare was affixed on the pacer’s bearded face as he wiped the ball across the seat of his maroon pants in a workmanlike fashion. A few seconds later, the Jamaican smiled in approval at the now dual-coloured ball.

He knew that the Jamaican wanted Him at any cost. It had long since ceased to be a trifling sporting matter between the two of them. It was now as personal as the mutual relationship between Ricky Ponting and the Indian public.

later

“WALKER!”, screamed the headline of the most circulated tabloid in Mumbai. “FAIR PLAY”, screamed the rival tabloid’s headline, in a font size slightly larger than it’s competitor’s. Grabbing eyeballs was crucial in their particular industry. Font size mattered. Almost as much as ‘Model of the Day’.

There were hundreds of copies of both papers in the 08.20 slow local from Andheri to Churchgate, and double that number of commuters read the story, whether it be by leaning over shoulders or by squeezing under forearms. Everyone was happy, everyone was proud.

Their God had walked. A beacon of fair play in these turbulent times of spot-fixing and Navjot Sidhu.

FTW.

now

He adjusted His helmet one last time and took guard. The discomfort was gradually increasing, spreading to other parts of his body.

“It would be a bouncer”, Ishwar Ghorpade told Him.

“You sure?”, He asked Ishwar silently.

Ishwar did not reply to that. Ishwar Ghorpade had the irritating habit of being an inner voice which spoke only when it felt like speaking.

Sometimes He wondered why the public called Him God. God, presumably, was a being which answered to no one and listened to no soul. But He regularly listened to Ishwar Ghorpade while batting. Ghorpade’s rather eccentric suggestion of an upper cut over backward point had resulted in one of His most famous shots back in 2003. Against Shoaib, no less.

I refuse to walk as I wanna bat forever. Waaaa.

later

Thomas Kilichundan walked into his queerly shaped office building, humming a happy tune about Sheila’s youth. He was particularly happy that day since his God had performed wonders again. Rather different from His usual exploits, but fair-play deserved as much credit as destructive hundreds, didn’t it? Thomas asked himself.

As soon as he nestled into his cushioned chair, his nemesis poked his head into the cubicle, in a manner not dissimilar to Dilbert’s boss.

“Saw the match dude?” Nemesis asked Thomas.

“Of course boss, fantastic stuff in the end. Our bowlers seem to be getting in form at the right time!”

“Abbe Ulloo, the Caribbeans were never gonna get 250+ even against an attack with Munaf Patel in it.. ”

“Yeah yeah.. But great gesture from God yesterday. Shows how different he is from the likes of Ponting, no?”

“LOL”

“What?”

“LOL”

“I heard that. Why are you LOLing though?”

“Because you are an ass. You think your God did that because he is a fair player?”

“Why else! Is he mad to walk like that after edging a ball?” Thomas asked Nemesis in a rather bemused manner.

Nemesis behaved strangely from then on. He looked around the cubicle rather furtively, and then looked up at the ceiling, presumably to see if someone was listening from there. When satisfied with his inspection, he leaned a bit too close to Thomas and replied in a noxious breath,

“Fix.”

“What?” Thomas hadn’t caught the world clearly while trying to block out the ciggy breath. “Vicks? I have Amrutanjan in the bag. Would that do?”

“Fix, beta, fix. FIX. Sab fixed hai.”

“What! The cricket? Are you saying he walked because..”

“Shhhh.. Not so loud. And yes, you are correct. There were crores of bets placed on him getting out in that exact over.”

“Rubbish”, Thomas was seething with fury, as many men seeth when mocked upon their religious beliefs, “He would never do such a thing. You can question the integrity of our entire political system and of the office filter coffee, but never of this man. He’s the last hope of a billion Indians.”

“And he bleeds blue, bla bla.. “, Nemesis mocked, “I know that you have fallen right into the trap of those marketing companies. This fellow is a mortal, just like you and me. A mortal who loves money. Have you never thought why he plays the IPL without fail every season, while begging off ODIs? And those insane advertisements. The man’s crazy about money. And I don’t blame him. I only laugh at fools like you.”

With that, Nemesis laughed to illustrate his point and bounded out of Thomas’ cubicle, mentioning an urgent need for a smoke.

The cubicle now had a doubting Thomas, wondering whether his God was indeed a mortal God.

now

The runup had begun. The crowd had fallen silent. It takes 4 seconds for the Jamaican to release the ball once he begins his run-up, His brain fed Him that fact immediately. The laptop-wielding coach had told Him that. And there was something else he had told Him. What was it?

Something about the slower ball.

Something that a finger in the Jamaican’s left hand did just before bowling one.

Think.

But He couldn’t. He was terribly distracted. The sweating had started again. Nope, this wasn’t going to work.

The Jamaican plonked his left foot firmly on the line which belongs to the umpire (Shastri, since forever), and released the ball with a loud grunt.

It bounced just short of what is considered a good length by knowledgeable people, and rared on it’s haunches, threatening to collide bang-on with the little man’s helmet.

He was in two minds as it was painful to focus. Distracted, He tried to paw the ball away but something that Ishwar Ghorpade whispered at that exact moment caused Him to pull back from the shot. “Phew, that was close”, He thought.

But in a raucous cacophony resembling that of a flock of maroon finches, every fielder and the Jamaican appealed loudly to the umpire. That man, fortunately, seemed undeterred by the ruckus and started gradually shaking his head.

But then.

The sweating started again.

It was unbearable. Painful. As irritating as the dreaded cold sweat in an exam hall.

And all this for a dead rubber?

……

He walked.

He walked the 22 yards as the umpires and fielders looked on, a bit bemused.

He walked in that inimitable rolling fashion, as thousands in the stadium and millions in their living rooms groaned loudly in anguish.

He walked faster and faster as the pavilion drew nearer. He had to get inside the dressing room.

A slow ovation had started in the stadium, (and in those living rooms), as commentators spewed forth adjectives to describe His noble deed.

But as the claps died down and He entered the cool comfort of His dressing room, He ran into the well-equipped washroom at a pace that the Jamaican would have been proud of.

“Never eat Butter Chicken before a match”, He thought, “Never.”

Remembrall

On the 18th day of the first month of the holy Tendulkarian year of 1998, a star was born. A young man from the by-lanes of Maharashtra blasted a boundary off the second* last ball of the match to give India an improbable victory over Pakistan and thus a trophy, which they rarely seemed to get those days.

Hrishikesh Kanitkar. Remember him?

Do not be ashamed if you do not. Because that is the premise of this post. The apparent stars who waltzed into our collective consciousness, and then faded out with un-nerving abruptness.

After that eventful day in January ’98, millions idolized Kanitkar. A lower-order batsman who could finally finish a chase! People went crazy over the kid overnight. Tattoos were tattooed, shirts were printed, faces were painted, babies were named…

Why speak of babies, even my spiritual friend Lord Sabnis changed his name to Hrisheekesh Sabnis, a burden which he still carries.

And what of Kanitkar now? He still plays cricket during the daytime, watches that Dhaka video in the evenings and cries himself to sleep. Poor soul.

Let us spend a minute in silence and then proceed to inspect more of such ‘real-deals’ which turned out to be damp squibs. For fun. A Top 8.

Kanitkar’s current status – Plays (and pretty OK) in domestic cricket. Shifted to Rajasthan from Maharashtra, presumably after wikiing Dhaka and stumbling on to this page.

(* Thanks for the correction, Ritwik Priya. There was one ball left when he scored the winning runs)

8. Jugal Hansraj

Just like Kanitkar batted his way into Indian male hearts, this boy Hansraj smiled his way into Indian female hearts.

How?

One fine day, he left his home and started walking around for a bit. And somewhere in his route was her house. And then he peeped in to see her doing her hair.

OK, I’m obviously talking about this –

With that one song, this dude became an overnight sensation. And that was it. His feminine fans waited years and years for him to turn on that magic once more, but nay, that never happened. The closest was when Hansraj Hans participated in a Jugalbandi somewhere, but no, just not the same.

Jugal’s current status – Produces flop movies.

7. Coke Vanilla

Wackao!! Remember this?

Vivek Oberoi stunned the entire nation with his strange war-cry of ‘Wackao’ as Coca-Cola launched a Vanilla variant, with the Oberoi dressed Elvis-style with psychedelic colours all around him.

Wackao!

Thirsty folks queued up to buy Vanilla Coke that fine Indian Summer, lured by the promise of the Vanilla flavour and Vivek Oberoi’s star status back then. Subsequently, they spent several unproductive minutes trying to understand whether there indeed was a vanilla flavour to the drink. This involved much shaking of the bottle, shaking of the head after drinking, and soon enough, confidence in the drink started shaking.

And yes, Vivek Oberoi himself missed making this top ten only by a thin margin.

Vanilla Coke’s current status – They have gone the usual route that most failed products do. Relaunched it in Canada last year.

6. Pager

For regular viewers of medical dramas, this might not really be relevant. Those fellows use pagers even now. But do you guys remember the hype this tiny device caused in the late 90s?

It was touted as the next big personal communication device, a step down from the brick mobile phones available those days. Yuppy youngsters queued up to get one, so that they could send short and crisp messages about the crispiness of the short snacks being served in the college canteen. Take a look at this funny, banned commercial

And then came SMS.

21st century’s premier communication device’s current status – Extensively used by doctors, because mobile phone coverage interferes with several medical devices. Also by police, coast guard etc as a backup system.

5. Kunchacko Boban

This one is specifically for Mallu readers. There was a time in the late 90s and early noughties when Mallu girls used to frequent Archies stores hoping to bump into Mr. Boban, in an event that would be reminiscent of the popular scene from his supermegatronicmonsterhit debut movie. And now in the new decade, sources tell me that Kunchacko makes his regular rounds of Archies stores and bumps into various ladies of varying ages, who all wonder whether he is wearing a wig or not.

To cut a long story short, the dude was supposed to be the next Mohanlal or Mammootty, when the aging superstars were both in their 40s. Well, Mammootty is in his late 50s now and has more superhit movies in a year than Kunchacko had in his entire career. On top of that, he even looks younger than Kunchacko.

Let us not speak about Mohanlal. Sensitive topic. Sob.

Kunchacko’s current status – Trying to relaunch his career for the 14th time. No verification regarding hair-weaving/wig etc.

4. Veerappan

Now this is not strictly fair, I know. The poor man is dead. But don’t you miss him like hell?

Does anyone have a moustache to rival his glorious piece, grown with such care in the jungles of Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh? Take a minute off to think about that beauty, I implore you.

He had no advanced shampoo solutions, no conditioners and probably would have believed Dove with Micro Moisture Serum to be a non-vegetarian tribal poison (which it probably is, if ingested).

Overwhelmed by such hostile circumstances and despite being distracted by his day-jobs of smuggling sandal and bribing cops, the man grew his masterpiece of a moustache.

Do I not ooze kindness from my eyes?

I for one surely miss him and his mane in the front page of my newspaper.

Veerappan’s current status – Possibly preparing for a Mooch-Off contest in Heaven against Saddam Hussein.

3. Who invented Hotmail?

Was a question that popped up with predictable regularity in little quiz contests for little children back in the 90s. And the buzzers lit up with Usain Boltish urgency as every kid then knew Sabeer Bhatia.

How many of you have thought about him in the past one year? (OK, does not include followers of the Trinamool Congress who must have seen this article of him with Mamatadi)

Bhatia’s current status – In addition to his work for the Trinamool Congress, Bhatia is apparently trying to develop a city in India called Nanocity. I will choose to believe that a certain industrial house has nothing to do with this when I see no branding there.

2. Y! Messenger

Those were the days when the first thing one did upon logging on to the Interweb was to see whether any one of your 15 Y! Messenger buddies were online.

These days, one performs regular Spring Cleaning of Facebook, unfriending 50 people who were inexplicably friended in the first place. On a completely unrelated note, one should not go online when one is not sober.

Ah, the forgotten innocent days of the Yahoo Messenger!

The cute smileys, the private conferences, the lovely Beep and a little Bo Peep smiley…

John Smith's Y!

Interestingly, to connect two things in this list, the Yahoo Messenger was originally called Yahoo Pager when it was launched in the 90s. The product managers over there quickly realized the fate of the pager, but presumably did not see them falling prey to it eventually.

Y! Messenger’s current status – Still up and about, used substantially less by people enslaved n the instant gratification-filled world of Google.

1. Hero Pen

Before Chinese cheapo stuff flooded our market, there was a Chinese product which we all owned and loved. The Shanghai Hero Pen Company had produced a pen that wasn’t much of a hit in it’s home country, but strangely went on to become an iconic product in India in the 80s and 90s.

Back in school, a Hero pen was pretty much synonymous with ‘Ink Pen’. Reynolds and “Likhte likhte love ho jaaye” Rotomac were of course more useful while furiously scribbling in exam papers, but a few girls determined to maintain a beautiful hand used Hero pens even for the exams. I still remember Preethi Miss displaying one such woman’s answer paper to the entire class, not because she got 98/100, but because of the lovely ink-art that flowed from her Hero pen.

Hero pen’s current status – I haven’t seen one in the last 4 years.