To become comfortable with the new, learn from the old:FaceBook and the Phone-Book

Recently a friend informed me about how she ‘unfriends’ people in her FB list from time to time. These are mostly people who she doesn’t perceive any reason for them to be in her network. I thought she was an odd one out. But a small survey (among my FB network) revealed that 2/3rd of my 50 respondents deleted existing friend connections regularly.

I do admit that my FB network isn’t exactly restricted to friends. Many, in fact are less than acquaintances. If I run through the complete list, I am sure I won’t remember when I last interacted with at least 50% of the people. Worse for about some10% I even won’t know who they are!
However, it never really bothers me that there are people on my Facebook who aren’t really friends or acquaintances. For reasons I will explain here:

Think of a typical social interaction today – Say I meet a friend’s friend at a dinner. We talk and one of us suggests that we stay in touch. The next day s/he sends me an FB request. We never really interact after that and perhaps ever won’t but remain on each others’ FB.
Rewind 5 years – Same people. Similar meeting place. Similar conversations. One suggests we stay in touch. I take out my mobile phone, ask his/her number and give a missed call. Consequently we have each others’ numbers on our cellphone address books.
Rewind 20 years – We pull out our pocket telephone/address diaries and store (write) each others’ contact details down. ( Someone in the group is organized enough to carry a pen or we ask the bearer at the restaurant!)

At what stage did one delete these so called lapsed contacts from one’s phone or a diary. When one ran into space problems, or bought a new phone or a new diary and had to transfer contacts.

FB basically allows you to create a very elaborate phone diary with extensive details (of course access controlled) that you can link to one another. Yes FB in principal is nothing more than a digital manifestation of the good old telephone/address diary. Except that there is no limitations of size or memory.
Thinking of FB as a the new shared, crowd-sourced phone book, you could perhaps stop deleting your unwanted friends.
Of course do not forget to invoke your privacy settings when you add a connection!

I am ‘Harsh; Just Harsh’: A Russian Economist

“Hindi Rusi Bhai Bhai” – These were among his first few words after moving in as my roommate.
Let me introduce Mikhail Safronov a very Russian, Russian indeed. Eats potatoes for 50% of his dietary needs and the other 50% are met by boiled spaghetti. Here to pursue a PhD in Economics, he is an extremely bright chap. A physicist who switched streams to Econ as his scientist father told him that as an Economist he can return to Russia, but as a physicist he’d rather stay in the US

Now here are a few things he has learnt about the States and the world outside Russia:
1. Barack Obama is some man who gave an extremely long and boring speech during his convocation from New Economic School in Moscow

2. Obesity is a problem in USA because the squirrels are so fat, compared to the squirrels in Russia .After confirming from me that squirrels in India are also thinner, this hypothesis is now a theory

3. Linguistic department at Northwestern is stupid as they refuse to give him an English proficiency stamp, even though he says “Once More” if you address a long question in English. ( Takes immense pride that he was admitted despite 300 in verbal GRE)

4. A South Park addict he learns about American cultural symbols from it, for instance about ‘Fags’ and ‘Hippies’

5. He asks every Indian he meets if they know what ‘Bhains Ki Aankh’ implies

However this takes the cake :

Earlier today I was trying to locate my phone in the house. I reached out for his cell and searched my number. Optimistic that he would have saved it, I found my number saved as ” Harsh Just Harsh” . Amused, I asked for an explanation behind this really innovative name entry. And the explanation instead of writing a last name he wanted to emphasise that “Harsh, Just Harsh” was enough!

Hola America – Here I arrive!

I like telling stories.Though not an interesting storyteller, yet I always have a lot of stories to tell!

During my last few weeks in India ,the frequency at which this blog was being updated was quite high, at least by my own standards. I was confident that I had overcome the writers block that had killed my first blog jhola . That made it only natural that the handful of followers, that this blog has (perhaps this group is restricted to a circle of friends), did expect stories and anecdotes from me.

In that context,does it not just seem strange that in 21 days, not one story has been narrated ?

I just hope that the past three weeks of silence have not killed those expectations. And that there are no thoughts that like ‘Jhola’ this journal of mine is dying a premature death. Without going into the reasons of why I never posted anything so far, I would instead attempt to start posting with some regularity.( That’s being forward looking indeed!)

Well,this transition for me has a multitude of dimensions. It is not only moving into a new, remarkably different country and culture, but also moving from a comfortable and rewarding work life back to university, and that too for what I hope to be a not too long and yet successful haul at attaching a doctor of philosophy against my name.

Will these be tales about being struck by the awe and wonders that a transition to a posh neighborhood of a metropolis in a first world country brings with it? Will they be accounts of utter disgust at some of the realities that a transition as significant as this one has in store for most people? Will they be pedantic accounts of what Indian higher education institutions can learn from some rich upmarket universities that have succeeded in marketing themselves?

My stories should cover all this and much more as I begin my explorations into another part of this planet. While the subjects I may talk about are cliched, but I am sure my perspectives on them should be unique or at least interesting to the followers of my blog.
I shall end this ‘prologue’ with fond hope that the chapters of the main text would start appearing soon