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Updated: June 17, 2014 19:45 IST

Keys misplaced, mind displaced

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C. K. Meena
C. K. Meena

Have you ever tried cooking in someone else’s kitchen? That’s what working on someone else’s computer is like.

Have you ever tried cooking in someone else’s kitchen? That’s what working on someone else’s computer is like. So if this column doesn’t sound like me, if I jump lanes like an autodriver or a cheating athlete, blame it on my busted monitor. My temporary shift from desktop to laptop has thoroughly disoriented me. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be. I stop frequently to stare vacantly and fumble and mumble, where are the spoons, I don’t see the Enter key, so that’s where the apostrophe and the tea bags are hiding, show thyself I command thee Delete and dinner plates, how sneaky of you, Page Up, to snuggle amidst the coriander leaves.

See what I mean? I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get used to the new house, sorry, system, but on second thoughts, ‘house’ is not a bad comparison, what with keys being misplaced and all. It feels like I’ve been forced to move into a rented, furnished apartment. The rooms and the furniture are alien in shape and location, and my neck and my back have yet to adjust to the unfamiliar layout. Waa-a, I want my old house back! When part of my flat caved in, i.e. something crackled and sputtered behind the screen before it died, I took the monitor to the nearest mason i.e. the tiny computer shop opposite our complex. The man promised to repair it in three to four days and wrote “Flickring” on a copy of the bill. It was obvious that he intended to outsource it.

The pleasure of an unexpected break from writing and editing palled after four days when the “today evening, definitely tomorrow” routine began. Now a spare part was being hunted for, now testing was being done. I remained stubbornly homeless. But my rock-hard resolve to live nowhere but under my own roof began to crumble as a week went by. First, I attempted to check my email on the nearest available smartphone. Have you ever replied to email on a phone? It is torture. The ‘keyboard’ keeps swivelling about like a drunken sailor and the wrong words write themselves. It made me pull my hair out in fistfuls. For a while I fancied that I could go back to writing longhand, but I’ve tried it before and my fingers can no longer keep pace with my thoughts. Moreover it would be a criminal waste of paper because of my obsessive reworking; I would be able to manage about one clean paragraph per page at best. So here I am at last, sitting in front of a borrowed Netbook, missing my grey mouse sorely as my finger describes circular motions in pursuit of the frisky cursor when I want to do a simple Cut and Paste. It’s driving me to distraction.

The very word ‘distraction’ is enough to make my attention wander again. Watch your rear-view mirrors, people, for I’m about to overtake you from the left and then cut diagonally across the road to the extreme right at the signal. Which reminds me of an auto I once saw, or rather, the signs I read on its posterior. “Beware of some two-wheelers, lane-cutters and zic-zac drivers.” Oh I say! That’s rich, coming from an autodriver. Do you see how he sedulously avoided mentioning three-wheelers in the message? There was some more saintly advice on the Rexene covering the rear window: “Fools overtake from the left side”. An autodriver who preaches the rules of safe driving. Now I’ve seen everything.

Where was I? Oh yes. I was being a lane-cutter. Zic-zacking insanely because I’m working on someone else’s computer. Another simile comes to mind. It’s like driving someone else’s car. I don’t drive, but I can visualise the effort it would take to get the hang of another’s automobile. Going back to my childhood I remember my dad struggling to handle a friend’s car that was smaller and much lighter than our Studebaker Champion, which weighed half a ton. Before starting the engine he had to practise shifting gears because the order, from one to four and reverse, was different. While driving he slammed the brakes too hard and the car bucked like a startled horse. Perhaps modern cars are all more or less homogenous in their engine design and other features but each of the old models was distinctive. Driving a Fiat was not the same as driving a Vauxhall or a Morris Minor. Gears were a sticking point: those who were used to a column-shifter (stick attached horizontally to steering wheel) found it difficult to manoeuvre the floor-shifter (stick rising from the floor).

The bottom corner of my screen is telling me I have three hours and twenty minutes left before the battery runs out and the screen goes blank and I have to charge the gizmo. In fact, to my untrained eye, the symbol for the battery looks much like the one indicating network access, only lopsided. When on earth will I get used to the new house? I think I hear the phone. Hurrah, it’s the mason! He claims to have fixed the broken section. What a relief it will be to recover my lost keys and move back in. I hope the next time (and there will be a next time) the house isn’t razed to the ground.

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