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My Last School Science Fair – Part 2

The first day of the Science Fair was quite uneventful – not too many students came to the labs to look at the experiments (the crowd’s usually on the second day) and the judge was scheduled to come the next day. It was rather boring for the most part except for the fiasco Roy and I were in right at the beginning of the day –

When I reached school, I ran past my classroom and headed straight for the chemistry lab. The previous day I had struck up a deal with one of the lab assistants, Mallick Da – he gives us the seat that Roy and I want in lieu of us refilling all the empty bottles of distilled water in the lab. Seemed quite fair at the time.

Roy waddled into the lab with a childish grin on his face a little after I had come. I suggested that we make a quick sample just for the fun of it; I found the experiment really fascinating and couldn’t get enough of shaking the solution and seeing it change colour instantly. As soon as I said this, we both realized that we hadn’t exactly measured the amount of each chemical we had used the last time we had performed the experiment. I tried to replicate that day’s perfect solution by adding what I thought was roughly the same amount of each chemical as I had added that day. Of course, Roy was getting anxious and hyperactive and screaming into my ears every other second, “How do you know you have to add that much?!” When the solution was prepared, we waited for it change colour, but to our horror, it was staying as blue as a B.B. King song.

Continue reading My Last School Science Fair – Part 2

My Last School Science Fair – Part 1

Two years ago when I was in the 10th grade, my best friend, Aritra and I had made a photosensitive street lighting system for the Physics department of the Science fair. The project was well-liked by all the teachers, but the one person that it failed to impress was the student coordinator in charge of the Physics Department – an obnoxious boy called Rohin Banerji. He tried to get us disqualified from the science fair, continually kicked us out of the laboratory after falsely claiming that we were damaging the apparatuses and finally, barred us from being judged for a prize. My pugnacious behaviour didn’t help matters at all and eventually, the two of us almost engaged in a fist fight. My complaints about him fell on deaf ears and henceforth, we decided that we would never participate in the Physics department ever again.

A year later, still indignant, we decided to change things up and apply for the Chemistry department. Our unusual topic – “Analysis of alcohol and phosphoric acid in soft drinks” – garnered a lot of attention from teachers and students alike. It also meant that we had to carry large amounts of soft drinks to school to perform the requisite tests and thus, the science fair turned out to be like a large party for us, with boys (and teachers!) coming every now and then asking for a refill. The icing on the cake was the fact that we won the second prize and it marked an idyllic end to our penultimate school science fair.

Continue reading My Last School Science Fair – Part 1

A Horrid Start To My Summer Vacation

I awoke to the annoying sound of my alarm and tried to open my eyes, but they seemed glued shut. Prying them open with my hands, I peered at the clock on the opposite wall – it was 6:15 in the morning, the time I usually wake up on school days. However, I wasn’t going to school today; I was going to Aizawl, the city my mother is from, for a week. It’s the capital of Mizoram, a state in North-East India and my mother and I travel there almost every year to keep up relations with her side of the family. It’s quite a large hill-station and there really isn’t much for me to do there, but I enjoy spending time in the house with my cousins, my uncle and my grandmother. By now, the alarm was too much for me to bear and I angrily pressed “Dismiss” on my phone’s screen – the sound stopped, much to my relief, and I groggily stumbled out of bed.

By 7:30, I was dressed and had started munching on one and a half apples – my breakfast on school days. The flight was at 10:20 and there was still plenty of time. We left the house at around 8:30 and arrived at the airport in forty minutes. As we stood in line to check in our luggage and get our boarding passes, I suddenly remembered that I had left my backpack in the car – in my hurry to get a trolley for our luggage, I had neglected the very thing that I had placed on the seat next to me. I immediately called my father who had dropped us off and gave him the news. He was back at the gate in ten minutes and my bright orange backpack was now where it belonged – strapped to my back.

We were done with all the pre-boarding activities and had more than an hour to kill. So, we sat down in a relatively empty seating area and looked to our phones for entertainment – my mother was WhatsApp-ing with her friends and family in Aizawl who were all very thrilled about her visit, and I was watching season two of Better Call Saul, a show that I had liked so much that I had introduced it to my grandmother and my cousin who lived with us. Just as I had comfortably nestled myself between the armrest and my backpack with my legs stretched out in front of me, we discovered that the flight had been delayed by an hour due to bad weather in Aizawl. I didn’t really mind much because that just meant more uninterrupted viewing of my current favourite show.

By 11:15 we had boarded the relatively small propeller plane and found out that our seats were in the very first row. That meant no keeping hand luggage near our feet; it would need to be stowed away in the luggage compartment above us – this was a problem because we were carrying quite a lot of hand luggage and fitting it in would be a problem. Lucky for us, someone noticed us struggling and removed his briefcase to make room for our bags.

Soon, we were airborne and when all that could be seen from the window were clouds, I resumed watching the show. That was interrupted by the in-flight meal which was so terrible that I couldn’t take more than a few bites of each item. My mother told me to eat more or else I would soon be very hungry. I assured her that wouldn’t be the case as we would soon be in Aizawl and food would be aplenty in the house.

We were just twenty minutes away from the scheduled landing time when the pilot announced over the P.A. system that we would have to circle the landing strip for a while till the weather cleared up. As soon as I heard this, I remembered the story my father had recounted in the ride to the airport about him being in a similar incident – his flight started circling the then-airport in Tuiriel and when it became abundantly clear that landing was not possible, they turned around and returned to Kolkata. I was praying that I wouldn’t be in the same predicament.

Unfortunately, God wasn’t tuning in to my frequency at the moment and the pilot made a second announcement that we would have to go to Guwahati to refuel. He added that if the weather in Aizawl was better by then, we would make a second attempt at landing. The moment he uttered these words, I could hear the collective groan from all the passengers on-board; clearly, everyone was as exasperated as me.

As soon as we landed in Guwahati, I called my father and my grandmother to let them know what was happening. My mother, meanwhile, was informing the driver who was supposed to pick us up at Lengpuii Airport of the cause of the delay. We waited for what seemed like a decade and I was growing very impatient. Finally the pilot killed the suspense and much to our dismay, told us that landing in Aizawl in the current weather would be impossible. We would thus, have to return to Kolkata.

Everyone was quite disappointed, especially those who had travelled all the way from Bombay as this was a connecting flight which made one stop at Kolkata. My mother started a conversation with a Mizo man seated next to me; the two of them were conversing in Mizo, a language that I have sadly forgotten how to speak when I heard that man mention my late paternal grandfather’s name. I tuned in to the conversation more and discovered that this man worked for the sister-in-law a colleague and friend of my grandfather. My grandfather worked in Mizoram for many years and knew many people, but I was very astonished to find that people who once knew him still remembered him, this many years after his passing away. The man then pointed to a woman behind me and told us that she was the sister-in-law he had mentioned. We exchanged niceties and as my mother cheerfully continued chatting with them, my mind wandered to another thought – when and how were we going to go to Aizawl.

In case Jet Airways wouldn’t place us on another flight to Aizawl, I would have to go and file an insurance claim and get our tickets refunded. My mother said she didn’t know much about this and that she wouldn’t understand anyway, so my father ran me through the process by text message before we departed for Kolkata. Before long, we were going back to where we had come from.

It was now 2:30 in the afternoon and I was ravenous. The airline was courteous enough to give us another meal on the way back which sadly, wasn’t much better than the first, but my hunger overrode my taste-buds on this occasion and I munched down on a sandwich and a slice of cake.  By four o’clock we were back in Kolkata and I just thought to myself, “What a waste of a day!” After grabbing our luggage from the conveyor belt, my mother and I headed to a Jet Airways help-desk near the exit. The lady there collected our boarding passes, circled our names in a little register that was placed on the desk and told us to go to the Jet Airways ticket counter on the upper floor.

Now, since we had a ton of luggage with us on a trolley, we couldn’t use the stairs. The only option was to use a small elevator. Even though all that was separating the two floors were two small flights of steps, people without any luggage whatsoever refused to walk their way up. This led to the formation of quite a long line in front of the elevator. Finally, there were just two people in front of us and I was sure that we, along with them, would be the next batch of people to get on. However, the elevator wasn’t descending and after waiting for about three minutes, I realised that the man right in front hadn’t even called it by pressing the button. I angrily brushed past him and pressed it – what do you know, the elevator finally came.

Just after we entered the elevator along with the two in front of us, an elderly Bengali gentleman with an annoyed look on his face and a trolley barely holding the enormous amounts of luggage he was carrying, budged his way in even after everyone inside said that we wouldn’t fit. He didn’t seem to give a damn about what anyone said and came in anyway. As he entered and tried to turn the trolley around, his watch hit me on the hand with a metallic “clang” and instead of apologising, he gave me a stern look as if to say, “How dare you place your hand in the path of my watch?” I was fed up of this man and so was everyone else inside the elevator and one man was outspoken in this matter. He blatantly told him that people like him are the reason our state is going to the dogs. Without giving his adversary a chance to retort, he sped out of the elevator just as the doors opened.

I was glad to be out of that claustrophobic hell hole and rushed towards the ticket counter. I handed the lady there a printout of our tickets and asked her what she would do for us. She told us that instead of refunding the tickets, she would book us on the same flight three days later as all the other flights to Aizawl in the next two days were full. I thought of arguing for a better deal for a moment, but acquiesced and told her to go ahead. After she handed over the new tickets to us, I remembered my father saying that Jet was a full-service airline which meant that in cases of cancellation of a flight, they arrange for transport for passengers and put them up in hotels. Neither my mother nor I wanted to spend the next few nights in a hotel, so I asked the lady to arrange for some transport to take us home. She told us that in cases of bad weather, the airline does not carry out the aforementioned actions. Dismayed, I booked an Ola cab through my phone and told the driver to pick us up at Gate 3A of the Departure level.

After a five-minute wait, I checked my phone to see where the cab was and to my surprise, it showed it right where I was. Confused, I looked around for it, but couldn’t see it. So, I called the driver and asked him where he was. He said he was where I asked him to be and that confounded me even further. I asked him whether he was at the upper level (that’s the departure level) and he gave me a resounding, “Yes!” I was quite sure that he was below us at the Arrivals terminal and thus, told him to drive up to where we were. However, he was adamant that he was at the highest level there was. I was losing my temper in public trying to explain our current location to him and trying to coax him to just drive up. But, he was as stubborn as a donkey and wouldn’t accept what I was saying at all. Finally, my mother and I decided to just take the elevator downstairs instead of prolonging the argument. Just as I was about to enter the elevator, the driver called me and told me was at the upper level, the proper upper level where we asked him to come. We performed a U-turn, spotted the cab, loaded our luggage into the boot and got in.

The driver’s facial expression betrayed his feelings and I could feel his contempt from the back seat. Instead of trying to rub his nose in his mistake, I just typed the drop location in on my phone and asked him to go. That’s when I noticed a small crack in the bottom-left corner of my phone’s screen – I was mortified by the thought that I had managed to crack the screen of the phone one week after it was bought. Even though the phone would be replaced for free by the store from which I bought it, I was still dismayed. I inspected that area closely and a thought occurred to me – what if it’s not the screen that’s broken, but the screen protector. I used my fingernails to chip away at the cracked portion and consequently, miniscule pieces of glass were emerging from it. I was now getting scared that it really was the screen that was damaged, but I couldn’t stop prodding the cracked area. Finally, my fingernails went underneath something and I pulled upwards. I was thanking every God at that moment because the screen protector had taken the brunt of the force and thus, there wasn’t even a sliver of damage done to the screen. I then started wondering how it got damaged in the first place – I never dropped it or banged it against anything. Then it struck me – when I got into the elevator, that angry old man’s watch hit my hand which was holding my phone; his watch must have hit the edge of my screen. I was furious with that man now and thought that had I noticed it when it had happened, I would have given him an earful.

When I walked in through the door of my house, I thought to myself what a terrible day I had had – I had travelled thousands of kilometres in about eight hours and ended up right back where I had started – home. My father tried to cheer me up by saying it wasn’t all a waste – it was still an experience. I agree. It might have been a wasteful day, but it’s one I won’t ever forget.

 

My Short (And Not So Sweet) Experience With Android

I remember the moment I used my Lumia 710 for the first time – all the bright and vibrant tiles and the user friendly user interface made the switch from Symbian a dream experience. After six years with Windows Phone, I was expecting the same idyllic transition to Android. Alas, it was not meant to be. After a few days of fiddling with my Android and learning the ins and outs of the system, I found myself viewing it as a hub of different applications rather than a closed and integrated operating system. In other words, I thought it was a hotch-potch of an OS lazily thrown together at the last moment. I was very disappointed to say the least.

I was puzzled at first by the enormous market share that Android has, but then I realised that people don’t really have much else to turn to – Windows Phone is starting to seem like an old memory and not everybody can afford an iPhone. It makes sense then that there is such a profligacy of Android users.

Continue reading My Short (And Not So Sweet) Experience With Android

Switching from Windows Phone to Android

I’ve been using Windows Phone ever since the release of WP 7.5. My first Windows Phone was a Nokia Lumia 710. It was very small, looked very mundane and had middling specs. However, I didn’t buy the phone for its looks or its technical brawn, I bought it for its OS. I’m a very big Microsoft fanboy and so is my father. So, when we heard of the release of a Windows Phone in India, we jumped at it. Before that I was using an old, yet sturdy Nokia 5233 which didn’t really pass for a “smartphone” any more. Thus, when I had the phone in my hands, its drawbacks (of which there were plenty) went unnoticed by me because of how novel, not just the phone, but the concept of a smartphone was to me.

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Wasn’t the prettiest phone out there, but I didn’t care

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Spoiler Talk Part 2

I always had a sneaking suspicion that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son, most probably Jacen Solo as in the original Expanded Universe. He has so much in common with Jacen that the connection was obvious – he’s taught by Luke to be a Jedi, then gets seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, becomes a Sith and tries to take over the galaxy. However, when Han calls him “Ben”, I was a little taken aback at first, but then it started to make sense to me. The Original Expanded Universe was made non-canon so that the people working on the new movies could be afforded more creative freedom instead of being forced to follow a set storyline. Things would get a little too predictable in the movies otherwise and the surprise element would just be non-existent for people who have dabbled in the Expanded Universe. However, the crew clearly didn’t discard the EU storylines because Ben Solo is essentially Jacen, albeit with a different name and naming him “Ben” is a nice nod to Luke and Mara Jade’s son’s name in the EU – Ben Skywalker.

Continue reading Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Spoiler Talk Part 2

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Spoiler Talk Part 1

Disclaimer: This post is going to be filled with spoilers about The Force Awakens, so that’s a fair warning for you if you haven’t watched the movie. If you want a spoiler-free take on the movie, read my spoiler-free review that I posted just yesterday – https://beingnickyb.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/star-wars-episode-vii-the-force-awakens-review-spoiler-free/

 

While watching the iconic opening crawl, I was stumped to read that Luke Skywalker had literally gone missing and that no one knew where he was or why he’d disappeared. My mind was buzzing with different theories about his disappearance and also about the plot of the movie. I initially assumed that this would be a “find Luke Skywalker” adventure where our heroes and villains would scour the galaxy for him and I was disappointed by that prospect, but thankfully, I was relieved to find later on that it was not so.

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Talk to the hand

In my review of The Force Awakens, I said that there was a point very early on in the movie when I just knew that this was going to be a really good ride. I can finally divulge the details of that here. It was when Kylo Ren kills Lars von Tekka (Max von Sydow’s character) and Poe shoots at Kylo Ren in anger and then, Kylo Ren suddenly turns around as the camera zooms in and holds his right hand up and stops the blaster bolt mid-air. I’ve seen people using the Force in many ways in the movies, but I have never seen that. This is one of the things that I liked about the movie – they use the Force in many similar ways, but also add some new things into the mix to keep everything fresh. Another example of the Force being used differently is when Kylo Ren just stopped Rey dead in her tracks – it was like she was frozen by a tractor beam. The film treads familiar paths, but innovates enough to make me feel as amazed as when I watched Star Wars for the first time.

Continue reading Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Spoiler Talk Part 1