Z is for Zapped

OMG, you guys, I made it! OK, just barely, but I’m here! It’s done! I feel like someone who’s finished a marathon (and come in last). And, as you can probably guess from the title, I’m exhausted.

It’s been a whirlwind of a challenge this time around, and a small part of me can’t believe a whole month has gone by. It doesn’t feel so long ago that I suddenly realised it was April and jumped head-first into the challenge, without having thought out any of my posts in advance. Now, that’s not too different from how I usually do the challenge, but I’m at least mulling beforehand, a step I skipped this time, which proved to be near disastrous. I managed to do things on the fly for the most part, before completely dropping the ball in the last (and, to be fair, hardest) week. And now I’ve sprinted through six posts in two days, and, whew, I need a minute (or bajillion) to catch my breath.

As always, I’m glad I had friends doing the challenge with me – it’s always fun to have people to brainstorm about topics over, even if it is usually to the tune of “OMG I have nothing to write for tomorrow HALLLLP MEEEEE”. That is an exaggeration, of course – I was rarely planning things the day before. At best, I would write my post for the day after I’d come home from work, and at worst… well, let’s just say my biggest lapse was three days, which doesn’t seem like a lot in retrospect, but felt like longer at the time, probably because all I was thinking all day was that I’d fallen behind, but had no idea how I was going to catch up.

On the whole, I’m probably happier with this year’s posts than any other’s, which is rather odd, I think, considering how many were done in a mad hurry. But, hey, there’s no predicting how creativity works – often, my least thought-out, fastest-written posts get the most praise from readers. A special shout-out to the non-bloggers in my life who had to endure me ranting about the challenge every day, and who tried to offer help whenever possible. Here’s to posts that were never written about xenophobia, excuses, zucchinis and thunder tea rice.

Even with help from others, most of the time, it wasn’t lack of time tripping me up as much as it was the lack of ideas. I feel like the challenge works great if you’re a regular blogger, because then you can just line up all the posts you were going to write anyway, and the task becomes more about finding an appropriate letter to fit each one. In my case, since this has become the only time I have to actively think about blogging, I have to consciously think of what to do for every single letter. In the future, I may experiment with a theme. At the end of every challenge, I end up feeling like there couldn’t be possibly anything more I could have left to say the following year, but maybe a themed effort will help assuage that particular fear.

As usual, I didn’t end up blog-hopping nearly as much as I wanted to. I didn’t put my name on the sign-up list in time, but I did click around a little, mostly when I was looking around for ideas for my own posts, but what I found made me curious to read more. I need to put blog-reading further up my leisure activities list – I know I’m missing a lot of good stuff by sticking to just the people/blogs I know!

At any rate, I hope this doesn’t mark the end of my blogging experience for the year. Whether it’s writing or just reading and getting ideas and inspiration, I hope I can make more time for it. I got to 200 posts with this challenge (and a grand 10 years after I started blogging, at that) – here’s hoping to 200 more in lesser time!

Y is for Yercaud

Last December, my family planned a big reunion of sorts. My immediate family (Mom, Dad, brother, sister-in-law and niece) and I were going to see our extended family in Chennai, and I was quite excited about it. These were aunts and uncles and cousins I hadn’t seen in ages, and I was looking forward to spending quality time with them. Then, of course, the Chennai floods happened, everyone was left in disarray, and we cancelled the Chennai part of our trip altogether. That left the core bunch at home in Coimbatore, which is a lovely little city with great weather, but where there’s not much by way of activity or excitement.

We’d floated the idea of a road trip early on, a short getaway from home to get out of familiar surroundings, to get some sun and fresh air for a couple of days, and to activate some family bonding time. When the word came back to us that Yercaud, a small hill station in Salem, Tamil Nadu, had been chosen as the destination, I think it would be fair to say that I was… not very enthusiastic. Furthermore, when we were told we’d be staying at a health resort of sorts, my interest level dropped even further. My road trip fantasy was fast deteriorating into a nightmare. This wasn’t what I had pictured! I wanted wind in my hair, songs in the car, chatting and gossip, not Yercaud and health food and ayurvedic remedies.

But you know what they say about assumptions. Yercaud turned out to be a great little place, with fantastic weather (what I like to call ‘air-con climate’, where it’s as cold as if you’d switched an air-conditioner on outside, but the sun still shines on your face and warms you up). We had great views from our resort, and we had the whole place to ourselves, so we could really run amok without people yelling at us about the noise, the food was healthy and delicious, and the family bonding was fantastic. We sang songs, we played games, we performed skits and recitals. We went on long, leisurely walks and we solved many, many, many crossword puzzles. If the three-year-olds participated actively, so too did the seventy-year-olds. We had the most diverse group of people in terms of personalities (as well as levels of chattiness), but we all got along splendidly. I think it’s fair to say the trip exceeded my expectations beyond measure.

Not everybody gets a chance to travel with extended family, and I’m not only glad that I got to, but that the place was beautiful and the company was great.

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X is for Xerox

I’m sure most people are aware of the fact that Xerox is a brand name that, through frequent usage, has all but taken the place of its product (the photocopy). I grew up all my life using ‘xerox’ as a regular verb/noun, with no idea of it as a brand, and I guess that’s kind of the reason why the company has been trying so hard to get people to break that habit. I understand why it wants to protect the trademark, but in a weird sort of way, it feels like it’s something Xerox should be proud of. I mean, a company that’s managed to become THE dominant name in its corner of the industry, enough to cross over into the common lexicon must have done something right, no?

Obviously, the current example that comes to mind is Google. In fact, I got some feedback on my captioning the other day, saying it wasn’t necessary to capitalise the G in ‘googling’ – most dictionaries now recognise it as a common verb. (I don’t think Google is panicking nearly as much as Xerox did.) It’s a fascinating idea for me, this micro-study on how language evolves and changes with time (whether for better or for worse will always be up for debate). I went to look up other brands that have now become common words, and, no surprises, the list is pretty long.

So, I thought I’d do a little quiz of sorts, see how many of these things have been ingrained into the general vocabulary. I’ve written a short passage below, using the generic words in place of 10 different brand names. See if you can figure out which brand names they actually apply to! (Clue: There’s one on every sentence of the story.)

This morning, the hawker centre uncle had to pack my noodles in a extruded polystyrene foam box. Silly me, I’d forgotten to take my plastic storage container. The plastic bag bit through my flesh, so I applied an adhesive bandage on my finger when I got to work. I was already late, so I hurried into the meeting room and loaded up my slide show presentation program. When I got back to my desk after the meeting, I saw a sticky note on my computer, telling me to collect a package at the reception. I took the lift down to the first floor, humming along to the elevator music. I got back to my desk and unwrapped my package, delicately bundled in inflated cushioning. It was a liquid motion lamp! Klutzy me would have to be careful with it – no amount of cyanoacrylate adhesive would put this back together if I broke it! No, it would have to go straight into the waste container then.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but try not to use a search engine to find the answers, OK? 😉

W is for Whatsapp

There are many kinds of Whatsapp users:

  • The ones who use it more than they use actual spoken words
  • The ones you can reach more easily if you text them on Whatsapp than if you actually call them
  • The ones who cannot type a text message without at least three emojis to express feelings they’ve already conveyed in words
  • The ones who still use ‘:)’ instead of one of the bajillion smiley face emojis
  • The ones who cannot create a Whatsapp group until they’ve found the right (appropriate, funny, memorable) title for it
  • The ones who send ‘Good morning’ texts (every single day, with nothing to add after)
  • The ones who send ‘Good morning’ texts in groups with 30 people, resulting in a chain of even more useless ‘Good morning’ texts.
  • The ones who send ‘Good morning’ picture texts (sun rising, happy baby, etc)
  • The ones who use every group they’re in as an opportunity to advertise
  • The ones who need to share every single joke/quote/cancer remedy they’ve heard of
  • The ones who mute groups when they get too annoying
  • The ones who can’t help but read every single text, even when the group has become annoying
  • The ones who prefer sending audio messages to texting
  • The ones who write ‘k’ instead of ‘OK’ and only participate by way of monosyllabic responses
  • The ones who don’t even respond, and you just have to assume by their ‘last seen’ status that they’ve seen your message
  • The ones who have 2048875 unread texts (how do these people live?!)
  • The ones who love the capslock function to an unhealthy degree
  • The ones whose autocorrect function is either overly active or not at all
  • The ones who still rite lyk dis because typing full words is too hard
  • The ones who change their profile picture every other day
  • The ones who notice and comment on every single profile picture change
  • The ones who use Web Whatsapp, so they text super fast and accurately.

Do you know any others? Which one(s) do you identify with?

V is for Vine

Vine is a video sharing service whose selling point is that you can only make and share short videos with it – a mere six seconds in length. When it was introduced (three years ago, in 2013), I paid no attention to it – I wasn’t interested in making videos (what could you even do in six seconds?), and in terms of social networking, Facebook and Instagram was already eating too much of my time for me to even want to look at other apps and/or platforms.

Then, slowly but surely, Vine started gaining popularity among the media and tech-savvy crowd, because smart, creative, and most importantly, funny people started using it as a way to display their talents and artistic skills. And if you can tell a story or make someone laugh or blow their minds in a mere six seconds, that’s definitely talent. The Vine creativity pool is amazing – there’s a wealth of stuff on there that uses the platform in a variety of ways.

I’m a Viner in the most passive way possible – I don’t make anything, but I love finding and watching the stuff others do. I know a lot of people haven’t heard of Vine, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here. I’ve put them under a cut to save your bandwidth (LOL, kidding, what is this, 2002?) because autoplay is a pain in the bum, and I don’t want to give you all heart attacks when these things start blasting. Click the videos for sound, and hover over them for original captions (they might not make sense otherwise) and to go to the Viner’s original page (most of these guys have made tons of other funny stuff that’s worth checking out).

OK, I’m done talking now.

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U is for Undo

If life had an ‘undo’ button
Things would be so easy to fix
I’d never have to worry about making a mistake
I’d just go back and give it a nix

If life had an ‘undo’ button
I could live free of regret
Wrong choices, bad decisions, so easily reversed
Easy-peasy, no sweat.

If life had an ‘undo’ button
I’d never have to fear
Of saying the wrong thing or making an error
I’d always be in the clear.

If life had an ‘undo’ button
Be honest, would you use it?
They say experience is the best teacher
If you undo something, don’t you lose it?

If life had an ‘undo’ button
Let’s be honest, things would be dull
No mistakes, no consequences, no redemption arcs
No introspection, nothing to mull.

If life had an ‘undo’ button
There would be no point to life
An error-free existence seems tempting, indeed
But character is born out of strife.

I don’t want an ‘undo’ button
I don’t want to be all-assuming
There is no such thing as a perfect life
To err is to be human.

T is for Tootooie

When I learned the news that I was going to be an aunt, one of my first thoughts (after “OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!”, of course) was that my little niece/nephew was going to call me “Athai” (the Tamil word for paternal aunt). Now, of the three aunt words I could’ve been assigned, ‘athai’ is the one I like the least. It has nothing to do with the person the word has been assigned to (my own athais are all great). Rather, it’s one of those words that just feels old. Athais are usually married (to athimberes), their kids are older than you, they cook yummy food and scold you if you drink too much water during meals – they’re motherly. I was going to be an athai, and, at 23, I was none of those things. I was going to be an anomaly in the world of relatives – I was going to be a young athai.

But this was a petty thing to be worrying about – I was going to be an aunt to an actual human being! And when this little human being was actually born, all thoughts of impeding old age in the form of athai-dom went out the window. I had a niece! This tiny, tiny human was related to me! Not just that, she would be related to me FOR LIFE. I was going to be her friend, her teacher (English and Biology only, please), her confidante and partner-in-crime. What did it matter what she called me? We were linked by blood (say that dramatically, because that’s how I’m saying it as I write it), and nothing could change that.

But I needn’t have worried. She probably had an inkling about my athai worries as soon as she was born (she is my niece, after all), because when she was old enough to start talking, she started calling me “Thathai”. It was a mispronunciation, but I grabbed at the opportunity to change my destiny. She had inadvertently cute-sified the word (I was totally willing to be a thathai – it definitely did not have the same old-person ring as athai), and I wasn’t going to let the chance slip. I warned everyone not to correct her – thathai was what I was going to be. FOR LIFE.

But my little human being had other plans for me. Better plans. A year or so later, slowly gaining her own independent sense of humour, she decided to modify everyone’s names to make them cuter. First Mama and Poppy became Momsie and Popsie, then Patti and Thatha (grandmom and granddad) became Patsie and Thatsie. When I learned of this change, I confronted her about what my new name was going to be. I had thought she’d be a little daunted by the idea of making my moniker three-syllabled, but nope, easy as pie, she declared, “Thathaisie!”

It was a mouthful, so that phase didn’t last very long, but one day, without warning, I was Tootooie. At least, that’s how I spelled it in my head until she put it down in writing recently and spelled it “Thuthuy”, giving me a mini heart attack. My brain immediately conjured up images of her spitting at me in disgust (“thu, thu, eeeee!”), so I hurriedly got her to change it to the much cuter and less scarring “Tootooie”, and now I just have to lather, rinse, repeat the lesson until it sticks.

Anyway, the transition from Thathaisie to Tootooie (whichever way it’s spelt) was one I was gung-ho about, because I could tell it was taking me further and further away from ‘athai’. It’s catchy too – the official Tootooie song is sung to the tune of Ek Shararat from Duplicate (“tootooie-tooie-tooie-tootooie-tootooie-tooie!”). Even now, whenever she runs towards me, yelling “Tootooie! Tootooie!” (a sight that is heart-melting in itself), and whoever I’m with turns to me with a bemused grin and asks me why she calls me that, I sigh contentedly, knowing the athai connection is slowly being broken. “It’s a long story,” I say. It is. It’s been an evolution.

People ask me if I’ll still like it if she calls me Tootooie when I’m 44 and in actual athai territory (happily married to Tootimbere?), but I love the idea of being called something cutesy when I’m older. Knowing my niece and her endless bound of imagination, though, it would probably have changed by then, most likely to something even more undecipherable. God only knows what she has in store for me next.

I only know that I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

S is for Skydiving

Literally the first thing on my Die Die Must Do bucket list is skydiving. It’s probably the first thing on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and for good reason. I mean, if you can somehow convince yourself into jumping out of a plane from a height of 14,000 feet, you can convince yourself to do pretty much anything, right? Well, last year, I got to check that particular item off my bucket list, and it was pretty darn awesome.

To be honest, though I’d written it down on my bucket list, I wasn’t really expecting to go skydiving anytime soon, and I certainly wasn’t planning any trips around it. Then an opportunity came for me to visit Australia, and as my housemate (G) and I were planning our trip, we came across lots of itineraries that mentioned skydiving. Then we looked up skydiving, and a lot of places mentioned Wollongong (a coastal area just south of Sydney) as being a fantastic place to do it. Even though the price was pretty steep, it was too tempting an opportunity to let slip, especially when Sydney was already part of our plan. So before we could overthink the situation and talk ourselves or each other out of it, G and I bit the bullet and booked ourselves a slot with a company called Skydive the Beach.

That was the easy part. If overthinking is an issue before you decide to skydive, it’s nothing compared to the stuff that can go on in your head in the duration between clicking that button to pay your deposit and actually doing jumping off the plane. Our brains are very well-suited for coming up with half-baked worst-case scenarios, most of which have no basis in solid reason and which probably defy the laws of physics. Here’s what you should actually do in that interim – talk to people who’ve done it. You’ll see they’re still well and alive, they’ll convince you it’s actually no big deal, and you’ll feel a little better about the whole thing. Here’s what you shouldn’t do – look up skydiving videos on YouTube, because you’ll inevitably come across one titled “HORRIFYING SKYDIVING MID-AIR COLLISION!!!”, and even if you don’t actually watch the video, you’ll be traumatised for days after.

Anyway, G and I managed to spend the month or so in between booking our trip and the actual day in relative peace. Our trip went well, Melbourne providing lots of good weather (0 degrees Celsius!), great sight-seeing and fantastic food. We’d arranged for our skydiving experience to happen the morning we arrived in Sydney after an overnight train from Melbourne (probably not the best idea, on hindsight), so even before we were fully awake, we’d set off with all our luggage on a two-hour drive to Wollongong. The upside to the long trip was that we got some rest in the van, and that by the time we reached Wollongong, it was bright, sunny, and (most importantly) a crisp 15 degrees.

After a quick check-in and signing of forms (“I understand that if I die here today, it will be because of my poor life choices, and not the fault of the company that helped me execute those poor life choices”), it was time to be prepped. We were given jumpers, gloves and harnesses to wear (harness-wearing is one of the few times it pays not to be a man), and told what to do once the plane reached expected height. Now, not a lot of these instructions made much sense without context, but no-one dared to say anything, so we just nodded our heads like good students, no doubt secretly wondering if not asking for clarification was what was going to get us killed. We were then each introduced to our tandem partner, the experienced instructor we were going to jump out with, and who, almost literally, would be holding our lives in their hands. (I made sure to try and bond with mine so he would value my life a little bit more than if we were total strangers. Which we were.)

Then it was time to head out on another 20-minute van journey to the air base that held the planes that we would be jumping out of. If you’ve ever been on one of those little domestic flights that carry only about 20 people and rattle like crazy in turbulent weather, you will still not be prepared for how absolutely tiny skydiving planes are. This one did not look like it could fit more than 5 people, but somehow, 14 of us managed to squeeze in, and I do not think the cliched phrase “packed like sardines” would be inappropriate to describe the situation. There were no seats, just two wooden planks that we straddled like they were benches at the park, huddled so tight one behind the other that I literally didn’t know where to put my hands. I settled for the backpack of the dude in front of me, and got promptly told off (albeit kindly) for touching (and possibly tampering with) his parachute. Egads!

And then, almost improbably, the plane took off. I alternated between looking out of the (slightly grimy) window at the beautiful view of the coastline and back at G, who was sitting on my left on the second plank, wearing a half-excited, half-crazed look that I’m sure my own face was imitating. About 10 minutes into the flight, when the plane slowed slightly, I looked out, and realising I couldn’t make out any specifics below other than, you know, the ocean, I took a deep breath and steeled myself.

This was it.

Oh, no, wait, it wasn’t. My instructor cheerily announced that we were at 6,000ft, and while my brain wasn’t exactly functioning at maximum capacity, I was still able to calculate that we weren’t even halfway up to the height we were going to jump out of. At that point, I sort of mellowed out, content in the realisation that I would not feel a thing if I hit the ground after falling from any height beyond that.

After another 10 minutes or so, when the instructors started fidgeting with harnesses, tightening straps and adjusting their GoPros, we knew it was actually time. There was a huge rush of sound as the plane doors opened and the wind came blowing in, and having been squeezed way into the back of the plane, I watched the other pairs drop out one by one. The only thing that registered in my head was that they weren’t dropping straight down, but sideways, as though the wind was knocking them off track. When my turn came, I hooked my legs around the opening as instructed, and waited. A few seconds later, my instructor gently leaned on me, my legs unhooked and we tumbled out into the air.

Falling from a height like that, it’s not a feeling that’s easy to describe. I was dreading that stomach-in-mouth feeling that happens when you fall from more reasonable heights (like in bungee-jumping, I would imagine), but it’s hard to mentally process actually being above the clouds – there’s a sort of dissociation from the whole thing. I did want to scream, but the second I opened my mouth, air rushed in, and I couldn’t make a sound. The wind was howling in my ears too (I’m sure at least 40% of the sound was my own blood pumping in my head) and I guess in the midst of all that sensory overload, it’s just hard to comprehend that you’re falling. It sounds cheesy, but for those 60 seconds that you’re free-falling, it actually does feel like you’re floating, albeit with a ginormous wind machine aimed right at your face.

All too soon, it seemed, my instructor pulled on the parachute, and a quick jerk later, we were gliding smoothly over the ocean, low enough now to see things clearly. About 5 or 6 minutes later, we landed, and even that was smooth – I was told to raise my legs up when we got close to the ground, so we slid neatly onto the grass in sitting position. No drama, no fuss, just adrenaline pumping through the veins and my brain telling me it was done and dusted. My instructor gave me a high-five and a pat on the back, and that was it – I had jumped off a freaking plane and survived.

I made a point in my bucket list post about how skydiving is probably easier than bungee-jumping, and having done the former, I still think that holds true. I know people who want to skydive, but are too scared to, and I want to assure them that there’s nothing to fear. It takes courage to take the step that sends you plummeting face-down into an abyss, but not so much to just let someone push you off the side of a plane. All you need is a trusting personality, an ability to hold back tears of fear (I’m not sure they’d be all that comfortable when you’re falling at 200km/hr) and a face that looks good when it’s being stretched and twisted by strong winds.

Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.

R is for Recipe

When it comes to recipes, I believe there are a few different types of people. There are the ones who maintain recipe books, filled with either hand-written or cut-out recipes of every single thing they’ve ever cooked. There are the ones who use recipes from the internet (often from a favourite bookmarked site), following every instruction in exact detail. Then there are the ones who browse the internet five minutes before they decide to cook something, find an uncomplicated recipe, take a cursory glance at the ingredient list, shut down their computers and then proceed to do whatever the hell they want.

It won’t come as too much of a surprise that I’m of that last variety. Now, while I don’t cook very often, whenever I do, I’m almost always pretty happy with the outcome. I can’t tell if this is a result of me being a non-fussy food lover or because what I cook is genuinely good. I can’t tell what other people think about my cooking, either – I’ve only ever cooked for close friends and family, and because they’re generally good people, they never have anything bad to say. (Rather, they don’t say anything bad.)

To be fair, I stick to simple, easy recipes, so there’s not much that can actually go wrong. I’m a religious follower of the one-pot lifestyle – if I need to use more than two vessels simultaneously, it’s not worth it cooking it myself. I do try and make an effort to make food presentable – I use a lot of different coloured vegetables in my cooking, for example – but I will also admit that I’ve made food that has looked great but tasted terrible. The incident that sticks out most in my head is the Great Spinach Soup Disaster of 2012, where I tried making soup out of raw spinach (I wanted it to look bright green, instead of the dull green it turns when it’s cooked) and as a result of which my stomach cut ties with me for a whole two days.

Even when I’ve made dishes that people have expressed an enjoyment of, however, I can’t replicate the success exactly because of my agar agar way of cooking. So it will happen that I’ll make a dish that someone likes and asks for on another day, at which point I’ll get stressed about being put on the spot, try to remember what I did the previous time, invariably bungle up a few ingredients (I can never wrap my head around the idea that leaving out one little ingredient can change the taste of a dish), and end up serving that poor person something sub-par, after which they never ask me for anything ever again.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I genuinely do have a tough time with recipes. It’s probably because I guesstimate a lot (if you’re guessing at an estimation, that’s twice the inaccuracy), because I’m very bad at measurements (I’m still mystified as to whether 100g should feel heavy or not), because I have only a rudimentary understanding of physics (“Why does it matter if you add excess water – if you cook it long enough, it will evaporate!”), and because I tend to ignore numbers in recipes and focus just on the words. This applies to word-of-mouth recipes as well – my brain will pick up the list of ingredients mentioned, but I’ll either filter out or forget to ask about how much of anything I need to use.

And that brings me to now – I hurriedly asked my mom for a cabbage recipe this afternoon before she went off for the evening, and now I’m sitting here, halfway done, not sure if I’ve used the right amount of cabbage, let alone all the secondary ingredients. Then again, the upside to not cooking very often, at least where my mom is concerned, is that when I do cook, it’s such a miraculous event in itself that it overpowers what may be lacking in, you know, taste and general edibleness.

At least, I hope that’s the attitude she takes when she comes back tonight to cabbage mush. Hey, it was her recipe!

Q is for Qwerty

The opening theme song of Murder, She Wrote starts with the protagonist, Jessica Fletcher, clacking away at a typewriter, writing one of her famous crime novels. The show first aired in the ’80s, so the whole thing has a vintage look to it, and it’s all set to a jaunty, chirpy little tune that seems completely inappropriate for the subject matter. It’s a juxtaposition I find myself chuckling at every single time I caption the show at work these days, but when I was younger, what I took away from that theme was the image of those fingers moving gracefully over the typewriter.

Growing up, I loved typing. One of my dream jobs was “writing”, not so much because I was looking for an outlet for creativity, but because I wanted a job where typing was a major requirement. I imagined myself as an author, sitting in front of a typewriter, face scrunched in concentration. Later on, when that typewriter changed into a keyboard, the image lost some of its charm, but my love for typing remained. I’d spend hours learning to touch type, taking lots of tests to check my speed. (It still aggravates me that my father types with one finger on each hand.) It was a sensory thing as well – I loved the feel of bouncy keys, and I loved the sound they made when I typed, like abstract percussion.

Then I grew up, real life took over, and I started focusing on what I thought were “real” jobs that could earn real money. For years, I didn’t think about typing – it was just another part of everyday life, but I didn’t get any pleasure from it. But life comes back full circle, and I now have a job that probably comes closest to my original writer/typist fantasy. My work involves A LOT of typing, mixed with enough cerebral stuff to keep me sane and interested on a day-to-day basis. (My original fantasy would’ve seen me die of boredom quite quickly, I think.)

All this, however, is just preamble to the fact that, in all these years of typing and loving typing, I’ve never once questioned why the modern keyboard is laid out the way it is, in such seemingly random fashion. (I must admit first that it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise how the Qwerty keyboard got its name.) It has a fairly interesting history, evolving out of a need to keep commonly used letters far away from each other to prevent jamming problems on earlier typewriters, but what’s more interesting is the fact that it has become so ubiquitous, so entrenched in people’s minds, that there’s very little impetus to change it to something that could be more functional. A lot of people seem to agree that the Qwerty keyboard may not be the best system to achieve speed, but also that it would take too long to get people to unlearn their current typing habits (touch typing or otherwise) for it to be a worthwhile effort. In fact, the Wikipedia page for the Qwerty keyboard, amusingly enough, lists “inertia” as one of the reasons why it prevails to this day, more than a century after its invention.

Basically, even though we’re a society that has made huge, near-impossible leaps in technology over a very short span of time, we’ve still not been able to shake off a habit we learned ages ago. I know that I barely think about where I’m placing my hands when I type, so if you changed the layout of my keyboard, I would be completely lost. Why, just the other day, I was typing out a post on my sister-in-law’s iMac, and because I’m used to the Windows keyboard at work, I was thrown off by the lack of ‘Home’ and ‘End’ keys on the Mac keyboard, to the point that I completely lost momentum of thought because I was so distracted by the actual typing.

Old habits die hard, they say. This one’s lasted almost 150 years, and is all set to keep going. For good or bad, it looks like the Qwerty system is here to stay – even with apparently faster alternatives out there, like Dvorak, no-one seems keen on spending the time and energy it would take to switch over. It’s also an official Scrabble word, so the next time you’re playing and someone puts ‘QWERTY’ on a Triple Word tile and makes 83 points, take a few minutes to think about the lasting power of habits.