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Friday, February 26, 2010

Chp 286. Hello Mom...




Trrrringgggg trrrringggg…

Your phone rings. It’s Mom. Mom calling. Seeing her name flash on your mobile phone is definitely something, isn’t it? Especially when you are somewhere or with someone or doing something (or a combination of all three) that you really don’t want your mom to know of. It’s funny how she always manages to call up at such "odd" times… Damn ESP.

Just a few years ago, mobile phones were only for the rich and famous. And bulky as hell. And expensive too, with incoming calls charged. And now, everybody has one. More than a trend, it has become a necessity. My mom too joined the mobile phone bandwagon and bought a Motorola handset two years ago. She learnt how to sms last month.

Ok ok I’m being evil I’m just kidding… Love ya, mom.

So, curious me want to know, how do you save your mom’s name on your mobile? I save mine as “Mom”.

Funny thing is, “Mom” is used more frequently in the US, while “Mum” is more common in UK. And India being a former British colony, you’d only expect more people to follow this trend. However, it’s quite the opposite. Of course names like “Maa” and “Amma” are clearly more popular over here, but when it comes to the colloquial English term, “Mom” certainly reigns over “Mum” here.

So that brings us back to the question. How do you save your mother’s number?

In my language, the word for mother is “Nu”, but till now I haven’t come across that many Mizos saving their mother’s number on their mobile phones as “Nu”. It’s usually “Mom”, save for a few with more colorful names for their mothers like “Home Minister”, “Jail keeper”, “Wicked Witch” etc.

Please take part in my small survey and let me know which name you use for your mother.

What name do you use for your mother on your mobile phone?
Mom
Mum
Others
pollcode.com free polls



Why am I interested in this topic? Well, here is a funny scenario.

Suppose you’re working extremely late in office, or just got back from partying at 3 in the morning, so you’re tired - Extremely exhausted and possibly sloshed.

You reach home, and fall off to sleep immediately the moment your head hit the pillow.

And then 5 in the freaking morning, the phones rings. Loud. Irritating. Never ending.

At first it feels like somebody drilling through concrete in the middle of your dream. And then you slowly wake up. You realize it’s not a freaking dream. Drowsily you reach out for the source of that infernal noise with your hands. Your eyes are still shut and your hands keep searching.

Finally it finds the little monster. You swear that if it’s one of those HDFC home loans or ICICI insurance telemarketers, you’re gonna give that person the worst curse ever uttered in the history of Mankind.

And then you grip the phone and slowly open your eyes.

It’s Mom!

Her name flashes all over the mobile screen. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.

You try to cool down by reminding yourself that 5 in the morning is not that early back in Mizoram.

You bring the phone slowly to your ears and clear your throat while taking a deep breath. And then you answer hesitantly…

“Hello…”

The moment you hear the voice on the other end, you suddenly realize… she’s not YOUR mom. Because the freaking mobile phone is not yours!

Suddenly, all signs of drowsiness disappear and you are completely awake. Oh shit, you mutter.

And that mom on the other line is shocked… “Who the hell is this? Who are you? Where is … (insert girl’s name here)???? Answer me! Hello? HELLLOOOOO!!!!”

Oooopsie.

Disconnect. Switch off phone.

Awkward huh?

At this point, you can quietly get up, wear your clothes and leave the house, but don’t forget to leave a small note on the pillow to remind the girl sleeping next to you that her mom had called. Because that is a gentlemanly thing to do.



Ok ok, all jokes apart, and not that I am saying that has happened to me or anyone… I’m just trying to state the possibility of something like that happening…

So the next time you answer a call from “Mom” at 5 in the morning, first make sure it’s your mobile phone.

Do let me know how you save your mother’s name on your mobile. I’m sure many of you will have interesting stories to tell. I’m all ears. Cheers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chp 285. It’s all about the money.


Hello there, my all-weather friend.


For the past one month, I’ve been spending my office spare time playing this new MMORPG called “Three Kingdoms Online”. I am was totally hooked to this game (which you can easily play using your Facebook account).

Link: Three Kingdoms Online

Important: Do not confuse this with other similar sounding PC strategy games or MMORPG all bearing the name “Three Kingdoms”, because all these games are based on the epic Chinese historical novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. One of my all-time favorite movies “Red Cliff” is based on this novel too.



What is it with MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that gets us all worked up and highly addicted?

Remember the good ol days when Yahoo chat was popular? And then BOTs came in the scene and we had such good fun chatting until we realized… she wasn’t real! And then suddenly it was such a turnoff chatting with… something that wasn’t human. It’s like chatting with God. For a while it was funny, but after sometime, it became just plain boring. Interacting with a computer isn’t half as fun as doing so with a real human being.

I’m a hardcore gamer. I love strategy games and I have spent many days without any sleep during my unemployment years, trying to finish a particular campaign (AOE, WC, C&C, ROME etc). But all in all, there wasn’t that much of a kick because I knew I was always playing against a computer.

Then came multi-player games like DotA, CS etc where you compete with your pals using a cranked up router at a shady dimly lit “cyber cafĂ©” run by a friend at his garage filled with cigarette smoke and “Guns n Roses” blaring from the cranky old 2.1 speakers, till 4 in the morning every day.

Finally came the MMORPGs. They kicked ass. I blogged about TribalWars, talked about Travian, Neopets, Ikariam, Khan Wars, etc. which are all browser based MMORPGs. Which means that you don’t have to install anything to play this game online. Even popular Facebook games like MafiaWars and Farmville belong in this genre.

A month ago, I came across TKO – Three Kingdoms Online.

It was the best thing that happened to me then. I loveddddd the game. It was a combination of Tribal Wars, Travian, Ikariam, Diablo, AOE and many others.

Basic structure of TKO:

  1. Like all strategy war games, you must collect resource to build your city and army. The higher you research your resource field, the faster is your productivity.
  2. Like Travian, you need to have a positive food consumption to increase your population (unlike TribalWars etc where you only have to increase your population limit to have more people).
  3. Like TribalWars, the game progresses very fast, where you can easily raid, plunder, destroy etc enemy forts.
  4. Unlike TribalWars, you cannot be “rimmed”. Nobody can take over your main town and you can even shift your location later.
  5. Like War Craft III or AOM, you can have special Heroes. If your Hero takes part in battles, it boosts your army’s morale. You can research and improve your Hero’s abilities.
  6. Like Diablo, you can arm your Hero with various weapons and amours. You will find special items with higher attack bonus, agility bonus etc on special quests.
  7. Like ROME, you can change the formation of your attack or defense.
  8. Like Emperor and other strategy city building games, you must manage your city properly.
  9. There are also special quests to help you earn extra points or resources.
  10. Most of the characters and faction quests are based on “Red Cliff”, one of my favorite Chinese movies with legendary characters like Lui Bei, Cao Cao etc.


There are many other reasons why I find this game highly interesting, and at the same time, there are a few disappointments with this game too…

  1. Unlike all the other popular MMORPGs, there is no place to interact with members of your league, like a thread based discussion forum etc. Hence it is difficult to coordinate with your teammates.
  2. When there is no proper communication channel, role playing takes a back seat. You cannot talk like a Baron or a Queen or a Warrior with anybody. This kills the very essential of MMORPGs. (read: ROLE playing)
  3. Most of the FAQ were answered by moderators, who too learnt the game from playing. There was no official contact person to clear our doubts.
  4. The grammatical mistakes and spelling errors can truly make you cringe sometimes.


But hey, nothing’s perfect. Beggars cannot be choosers when a game is offered to you for free. So you just take whatever is offered and adjust accordingly. I played along and dominated my entire area, “farming” all the other neighbors, wiping out their entire army and plundering their resources. Until I discovered one VERY BIG FLAW with this game.

IT’S NOT FREE!

I mean yeah, it’s free. You can play for free or become a paid customer. But the difference between paid customers and free customers is HUMONGOUS.

I have played a lot of online games, and there is always that option of playing for free or becoming a paid customer. But none of the popular games I have played so far compromise on game play.

In other games, if you spend money, then you get better interface, chat option with other players, easier and friendlier UIs and so on. But the game play is not affected in any way.

In TKO, if you purchase gold coins, you have a HUGE advantage over somebody who has no gold coins. With your gold coins, you can immediately train new soldiers without waiting, immediately construct new buildings, buy better armour and weapon for your Heroes, buy resources, redistribute status points of your Heroes, and so on. To win great gifts (like weapons or resource pack), you need to challenge a General to a duel, and to do that, you need gold coins! You can even raise your nobility rank status with gold coins. Sheeeesh.

In short, this game has nothing to do with strategy. There is no level playing field.

No matter how much you bombard an enemy, planning night and day, building up your troops for yet another onslaught etc etc, as long as that person keeps buying gold coins, you can never do him any real harm as he can keep rebuilding immediately.

In short, yeah, the people who designed this game would be making a lot of money initially from all the poor suckers who bought “gold coins” using PayPal or their father’s credit card. But in the long run, this game is definitely going to hit the gutter (if it hasn’t already). There are so many great games out there for free, this one will not survive, unless the designers of this game do something about it. Don’t give a player the upper hand just because he got the moolah.

To conclude, if you don’t mind spending money, this is the perfect game for you. It is highly interesting and engaging. But if you are the type of player who is all about strategy (and don’t like to pay for this kind of services), then better not sign up.

As for me, well, good riddance to TKO. Now I will start spending my spare time on blogs and other more constructive online activities.




Monday, February 08, 2010

Chp 284. Love bites, sometimes...


It’s that time of the year again, for another Valentine post/story. Hope you enjoy this one.


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Pu Siama sat on the grand sofa motionless, lost in his own thoughts, oblivious of his surroundings. His mind was miles away, thinking about his beloved son. The son that he never got to know well, separated by distance, time and culture. The last time he spoke to him on the phone was a year ago. And the last time he came home was almost five years ago. Suddenly, a friendly nudge brought him back to reality.

The MC announced, “I now invite our respected Chief Minister to come to the stage and…”

The entire auditorium erupted in loud synchronized applause. Pu Siama took a deep breath, adjusted his suit and stood up. As he walked towards the mike, the applause grew louder.

He delivered his speech with much charisma and grace. He had achieved everything in life, but deep inside he was a sad man. The one and only son he had, was like a stranger not just to him but to the state Pu Siama loved so much – Mizoram.

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Thousands of miles away, on one of the busy small narrow winding lanes of Munirka, Johnny kick-started his bike with ease. The Delhi registered motorcycle had seen its fair share of kilometers, accidents and women.

Johnny worked as a senior Marketing executive at a renowned FMCG. He graduated from Delhi University with honors. Being the son of the Chief Minister of Mizoram had its own perks and advantages, but Johnny had never exploited such opportunities because he hated the fact that everybody would look at him differently because of his father.

That was the reason why he had never mixed with the “Mizo crowd” in Delhi. People talked too much, he grumbled. He felt like his life was being scrutinized and analyzed by everybody around him just because of who his father was.

Hence, Johnny had cut off all ties with the Mizo community and moved in an apartment with his former school mates from Chandigarh, where he had completed his school education. He felt more comfortable hanging out with his non-Mizo friends, after all, he had spent 23 of his 26 years outside Mizoram.

He had dated a lot of women from different race and caste and region, and had always thought he would end up marrying a tall Punjabi girl. He knew his parents would disapprove of it, but he also knew that he would never be happy with a Mizo girl because he knew so little about his own culture and heritage.

And then one fine Christmas party at “Blue”, one of the more flamboyant and posh lounge bars in Gurgaon, he was introduced to a Mizo girl Puii by a common friend.

Puii too was just like him. Brought up in a boarding school in Mumbai at the age of 7, she had spent her entire life in the midst of non-Mizo friends. There was an immediate chemistry between the two of them that night.

The next day, Johnny called her again and shyly asked her out on a date. She smiled.

They spent the whole day at CCD together, talking non-stop about various issues. Johnny talked about how his folks would always poke their nose into his friends’ lives. They would always ask him for the name of his friends’ parents, as if that mattered in his friendship. Puii completely agreed that that really bugged her too. They both asked each other why parents in Mizoram were like that, and then burst out laughing.

Puii then made a mock introduction of her father in a very dramatic way, “Hi, my name is Puii and my father’s name is Lalramliana.”

Johnny imitated his father by putting on his voice, “Ohhhh… Lalramliana. I know him. He stays at Zarkawt locality and his father is a very good friend of your grandfather. He once shot down an elephant with a small catapult this size.”

They both laughed again.

“Seriously, how do these people know everybody?” Puii asked amidst the laughter.

“I have no idea,” Johnny quipped. “And Lalramliana is such a common name. Two of my Mizo seniors in Chandigarh were named that. And I think one of my cousins is a Lalramliana too.”

The laughter never seemed to stop. Soon, hours flew by and before they realized it, it was already nightfall.

Johnny asked her if he could see her again the next day. She blushed and said yes.

That night, Johnny couldn’t sleep a wink. He kept tossing and turning on his bed, thinking about Puii. He thought he would never meet someone like her in his life - She was like a mirror-image of himself. And she was extremely attractive too - those eyes, those lips, that beautiful smile, they all kept flashing in his mind over and over again.

They met the next day, and the day after that, and so on, until one day, Johnny held her close and pressed his lips against hers. She reciprocated with a moan. From that day onwards, their love bloomed further and further.

Puii started sleeping over at his place. She was completely head over heels in love with him. She still remembered the last time she had a fight with her mom because she was seeing an Arab exchange student from her campus. This time she knew her parents would not have any objection to her relationship. But still, she decided not to tell them anything about him.

With Puii lying in his arms, Johnny felt complete like never before. He hadn’t told her about his father being the Chief Minister of Mizoram, and she didn’t ask anything about his family either. It didn’t matter. That was one of the many reasons why he loved her so much.

And then suddenly, he turned around and whispered, “Will you marry me?”

Puii couldn’t believe her ears. She said yes as they fell back into a deep passionate embrace.

The marriage was quick. They appeared before a magistrate at a family court along with two of their friends as witnesses, and they signed the required documents. Within two hours, they became husband and wife.

“You know what?” Johnny asked as they laid together that night.

“What?” Puii asked.

“In our culture, we would call this “in ru”, as in eloping…” They both laughed.

Johnny continued his work at the company and Puii found a job as a PR executive for a renowned MNC. Neither of them told their parents about their marriage.

And then one fine day, Johnny reached home to find his wife waiting for him… she was sitting on the dining room chair, contemplating deeply…

“What’s the matter, hon?” Johnny asked with much trepidation.

“Darling,” Puii said slowly… “I’m pregnant…”

Johnny reacted both with shock and jubilation. He ran and hugged her immediately.

And then Puii told Johnny about what she had been thinking the whole evening ever since the color on the pregnancy strip turned pink. She now felt guilty about not telling her parents about their marriage, and with the pregnancy, she felt extremely vulnerable and insecure. She wanted to see her mother and take her advice. She cried.

Johnny understood. He reassured her that he would take leave from work and book a ticket to Mizoram immediately.

He warned her that their parents weren’t going to take it easily, but at the end of the day, it was their life, their decision, their future. She nodded in agreement.

On the day of their departure from Delhi, Johnny called up his father from the airport.

Pu Siama was surprised to see his prodigal son calling him up. The last time they spoke was around a year ago. His heart beat pumped faster as he answered the call with subdued excitement.

The call was quick. No formalities. Johnny quickly told him about his marriage, the pregnancy, and that they were on their way home. Pu Siama almost got a heart attack. Johnny then mentioned her name and hanged up immediately to avoid any awkward questions or reprimand from his father.

Five minutes later, Pu Siama called up his secretary and ordered him to find out everything about the girl, where she studied or worked etc based on the name that Johnny told him. It wasn’t going to be difficult tracing such a person, especially since she was from Aizawl.

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The plane landed at Lengpui Airport that same day. Johnny and Puii got out, checked out their baggage and hired a taxi. He wasn’t surprised there weren’t anybody waiting for him at the airport. He hardly had any friends in Mizoram, and he was like a stranger to his cousins.

Finally, the taxi reached Johnny’s palatial bungalow. There was an awful large number of cars parked outside the house, and Johnny immediately assumed his father was organizing a quick marriage ceremony or reception for them so as to save his face in front of the conservative Mizo society. After all, it was like destroying his reputation if the public found out about his son’s elopement.

As they walked hand in hand cautiously into the main living room, the place was filled with people. He recognized some of his uncles and aunts. But instead of celebrating or even acknowledging him with a smile, they all sat their staring at him, as if they were mourning.

Johnny held Puii’s hand tighter.

And then a middle aged man with blood shot eyes stood up slowly. Johnny didn’t know who he was until Puii suddenly screamed, “Dad!”

Johnny realized his father must have traced who she was and asked her father to come over. He didn’t care. He loved her and that mattered the most.

And then all heads turned towards the centre of the room as Pu Siama stood up. He trembled as his wife and brother supported him on his arms. Johnny hadn’t seen his father in almost five years, and realized how much he had aged.

With a heavy breath, Pu Siama pointed at his son slowly… his fingers shook as he uttered painfully, “You stupid ungrateful son…” pin drop silence filled the room as time came to a halt. He continued with all his energy as he looked at his daughter-in-law, “She… is your cousin’s daughter.”


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