Punstars and Pundits

About two years ago, tired of turning to Facebook every single time I was bored, and sick of scrolling listlessly through articles I didn’t want to read, I removed the Facebook app on my phone. I figured I could check the website if I needed to, and that not having it handy on my phone would curb the addiction somewhat. I was right. I stopped checking Facebook often, and subsequently, I stopped posting as well. I had underestimated how dependent I’d grown on being able to post photos directly from my mobile, so when I stopped using the app, I stopped putting up pictures, and soon everything else also declined. These days, I only use Facebook for the contacts, to be able to get in touch with people whose phone numbers I don’t have (and to allow people to get in touch with me for the same reason).

For the most part, I’m happy with the baggage I’ve shed. I don’t really miss Facebook. Instagram has filled the need for pictures quite nicely, and I get my (relevant) news from all over the internet anyway. The only thing I do miss is interacting with people in the comments section, that too in a very specific kind of post. For a brief period in 2014, my Facebook wall became the hub of what I now refer to as “pun battles”, where something innocuous I would post would attract the punstars and the pundits among my friends and unleash a slew of punny comments. Myself, Sayesha and a few more friends were regular features on these posts (every other comment would be one of us), but my favourite part was always when someone random would sashay in, make a single high-class pun and waltz out in style. I go back to these posts once in a while to give myself a little chuckle, but I figured putting some screenshots over here would make them much more accessible for the future. (Excuse the terrible editing – I wanted to blur out the names.)

It all started with an innocent link to a pun battle on Buzzfeed (article is over here if you want a laugh), but some of us were feeling competitive already:

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Almost a full year later, I made a momentous discovery at work:

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Soon after, I ate something suspect:

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Then this happened:

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The last pun battle happened a while ago (I guess you can only take Russian humour so far):

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I only have one thing to say: take me back to Punderland, please!

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Of Options and Opportunities

How much of our life is defined by opportunities we get and how much by the options we choose? So many of the decisions of our youth tend to be out of our hands – where we live and grow, where we study, what we study, what we pursue as hobbies, who our friends are. And then we mature into adults and suddenly, every decision is ours to make, every option leading to its own consequence, every opportunity a chance to turn our lives one way or the other.

Sometimes I think about all the nodes in my life at which I’ve had to make a decision and wonder what it would be like if I’d chosen another option, pursued another opportunity. What if I’d stayed in India to study instead of going to Singapore? A part of me thinks I’d be less mature than I am now, having seen less of the world and done less by myself, but maybe living with my parents for longer would have given me more discipline and made my life more ordered. What if I’d gone to Singapore, but studied Arts instead of Science? I would have had a happier time in university, but what would my job prospects have been like? If I hadn’t ever taken up teaching, would I ever have been able to appreciate having a job I truly enjoyed? What would life be like now if I had decided to marry and/or have children earlier in life? What will come of my decision to give up my life in Singapore and come back to India?

In the end, I believe that all things happen for a reason. It’s cheesy, but it’s what gets me through life without worrying about what-ifs, without second-guessing every decision I make, without drowning in regret. Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s always going to be easy to look back and see a bad decision for what it is. But what’s also worth remembering is the fact that every good thing that’s happened in my life has also been because of the decisions I’ve taken. I’ve met awesome people, I’ve gone to wonderful places, I’ve done things I’ve enjoyed, all because my decisions took me down a certain path in life.

I have to give credit where it’s due – Lady Luck has mostly been on my side. Yes, there have been hurdles, but nothing I haven’t been able to overcome. I don’t think I can overstate how much luck and fate play a part in making sure things turn out the way we want them to. Sometimes, all the good decision-making in the world can’t change a bout of bad luck. And recognising that, in my opinion, plays a big role in helping us make peace with the hand life deals us.

So, all in all, I think I’m doing pretty well in terms of dealing with options. What I need to work on is recognising opportunities and seizing them. I tend to get complacent about life when things settle down, I take things for granted. I don’t like change (or rather, change that might yield negative results), so I err on the side of coasting along until a wave knocks me off course. I’m learning now to keep my eyes open, to not just look for stuff only when I absolutely have to, but to have my finger on the pulse for new opportunities, to not be afraid when it comes time to grab those opportunities and change my life, one way or another.

It’s a work in progress.

Netflix Netflux

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that everyone who enjoys TV and movies has welcomed the entry of Netflix as a worldwide, legal entertainment platform. The young ones will never know how difficult it was to watch international media before the days of paid streaming, but as a connoisseur of American and British television from a very young age, I remember having to jump through hoops to watch anything decent, back in the dark ages before the internet. Before streamable speeds were a thing, we had only the TV and local networks, which either didn’t air the stuff being shown overseas or aired them three or four seasons late. (This is probably why every Indian who grew up in the ’90s can quote Friends from memory, because it was one of the very few American shows that was played non-stop on local TV.) Then the internet blew up and illegal pirating started, and it hasn’t really stopped since then.

I think 90% of the people I know have watched something (if not most things) illegally online, myself included. I really can’t judge – in this day and age, it’s silly to expect people to wait years to watch something (especially when the internet has no geo-restrictions and is always rife with spoilers) or to be able to watch TV at a specific time on a specific day. The rise of video-on-demand and streaming services has shown that if people are given the opportunity to watch media legally, a lot of times, they will. Case in point: almost every person I know has a Netflix account now (or shares one with someone, thank goodness for their multi-person access option).

I love my Netflix account, but Netflixing in India is very different to Netflixing in Singapore. I’ve ranted about my data cap woes before, and Netflix is where that data cap pinches the most. Where I would happily stream hours of TV in a day (and I mean hours, they don’t call it binging for nothing), I’m forced to keep to more modest timings here. Where I could watch everything on a high-definition 40-inch TV screen, I’m now restricted to my tablet or my phone, which consume far less data than even my laptop. (And to think I once used to be a purist who couldn’t bear the thought of watching things on a small phone screen. How the mighty do fall.)

One of the good things Netflix introduced recently was the ability to download movies and episodes on portable devices like phones and tablets to watch later (without an internet connection). While I never required this option in Singapore, I planned to put it to full use here, taking advantage of the data war that’s been brewing in India since late last year. The details aren’t important, but the bottom line is that the local telcos have been falling over themselves trying to bait customers with free data. Having two SIM cards, each with varying amounts of free data in differing instalments with different deadlines, I played data gymnastics and made the most of it to download as many Netflix episodes as I could to watch… well, eventually. (I probably spend more time these days deciding what to watch than actually watching things, but that’s another post altogether.)

And so, over the span of two days, I downloaded some 40-50 episodes (literally full seasons of multiple TV series), very gung-ho about the fact that I’d somehow “cheated the system” and temporarily gotten ahead of my data woes. I celebrated too quickly – Uncle Murphy was due a visit, of course. When I next checked my Netflix account, every single thing I had downloaded had disappeared. I spent two days chasing up the problem with Netflix officials, one of whom cheerily asked me to “just re-download the episodes again”. If we had been video-chatting, and if looks could incinerate, that customer service representative would have been a smouldering pile of ash.

Now I’m back to square one, enjoying Netflix like no one should have to – on my phone, one measly episode a day. Still, I remember a time when I refused to go to a family gathering because I wanted to secretly watch a new episode of Roswell on TV (of course, I told my parents I had to study). When I think about those days, just the very idea of Netflix makes me grateful. Good things are relative.

Method to the Madness

It’s always interesting to me how different people approach blogging. I think the mark of a good blog is how effortless the writing seems. I remember, when I first started reading blogs, it seemed like churning out posts would be the easiest thing in the world. I mean, everyone has thoughts, and blogging is pretty much just putting that down in text form. Easy peasy, right?

When I first started blogging, it really was that simple. I had a lot of ideas, thoughts and opinions that I hadn’t really shared with a lot of people, and so it was always easy to think of something to write about. Back then, pretty much anything was “blog-worthy”, because I was working off an empty slate, and no one really knew much about me. My life in university gave me plenty of “adventures” to write about, and I had about 20 years of backstory to draw on for any deep, intellectual posts about life and growing up and such.

Then, as I emptied that first barrel of blog-worthy topics, and I began to feel the pinch of posting regularly, I started to look everything I did through blog-eyes. Was this worth posting about? Would people be interested in it? Was it funny enough to make a story out of? I started thinking a lot more about the mechanics of posting – it wasn’t just enough that I had a thought or an opinion or an event in mind, it had to “click” for me to be able to write about it. Some things were blog-worthy, most things were not. I would often whine, “But I have nothing to write about!”, when people around me, whose lives really weren’t that much more exciting than mine, were managing to churn out much more content than me.

Getting on board the A to Z challenge has really been a way to try and get out of this “click” mentality, and to write without getting too critical about the content. By and large, it has worked, because about 60% of what I’ve written in the four years of the challenge so far have been things I never would have considered “blog-worthy” before. (I’ve gotten desperate enough to write about gourds, for crying out loud.) Without the challenge, I wouldn’t even manage the 26 posts a year I do now.

From what I’ve seen of friends doing the challenge, everyone struggles with ideas, even the regular bloggers. The easiest way to go about it is to make a list of things you want to write about anyway, and then assign letters to them as needed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work for me, since the whole purpose of the challenge is to get me to think of things to write about. It also helps to have a muse, like a child who does and says something new and different on a daily basis, but even that takes skill, to be able to take the everyday things and turn them into material worth reading about, and I’m not sure I have that skill. Many people pick a theme, which does make coming up with content easier, but since this is a personal blog about my life, I don’t like the idea of it getting too factual or repetitive.

There is no method to my madness (and, trust me, it is definitely madness come April every year). A lot of people write their posts in advance, but I just like the feeling of everyday panic and despair too much to do that. The mood varies every day. Some days, I know what I want to write about. Most days, I’m struggling to come up with ideas. About half the time, that struggle leads to a post I’m happy with. Other times, I write with the knowledge that future-me will not be as critical and that she’d rather have something to read than nothing at all.

On my most desperate days, I just have to write and hope that no one notices that I’ve essentially written about not having anything to write about.

Little Less Loquacious

I’m generally known as a chatty person – if I’m around people I know and like, there’s a good chance I’m talking my head off. I’ve gotten a little quieter through the years, but I don’t think I’ve lost the talkative habit fully yet. You can see it even in my writing, where what should be short, sweet posts turn into lengthy rambles. (I once contemplated having “Clueless Loves To Ramble” as a tag, but then I realised I’d be tagging pretty much every post with it, and it would serve no purpose whatsoever.) Even my job involves being wordy – I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh, new ways to say the same thing.

Which is why it’s very surprising and slightly alarming that lately, I’m becoming more and more like my mother, in that I’m starting to take after her distinctive style of communication. Let me elaborate. My mother is known for these kinds of conversations (I’ve translated from Tamil so it may have lost a bit of its style):

Mom: Please bring me that thing.

Me: What thing?

Mom: *snaps fingers* THAT thing.

Me: WHAT thing, Mom?

Mom: You know, that thing!

Me: No, I don’t know! What thing?

Mom: YOU KNOW, that! Tsk! Never mind, I’ll go get it myself.

Me: Wha..? USE YOUR WORDS, MOTHER.

Chances are very likely the word she was looking for was something as simple as ‘pen’. I used to find this inability to find the right words amusing, but I’m realising with a creeping horror that I’m becoming this person. I wouldn’t have realised if it weren’t for my cousin (who now lives with us) pointing it out to me. Many times have I started a conversation with her and then trailed off, resulting in her having to tell me through gritted teeth, “Finish your sentence!” Sometimes it’s because I can’t find the right word, other times it’s because I’ve forgotten what I was going to say midway through my sentence, and often, it’s a case of me having forgotten what I was going to say because I spent too long searching for the right word. And, you know, most of the time, people I’m speaking with can’t actually read my mind, so it must be frustrating to be on the receiving end of incomplete thoughts and fragmented sentences.

This is a worrisome trend for a healthy 30-year-old, and certainly for someone who deals with words for a living. I cannot afford to not be able to think of words. It’s not as much of a problem when I’m writing because I have time to mull things over, but my dreams of being a radio jockey are surely dashed now. I imagine radio audiences will not take kindly to long pauses while I hunt inside my brain for just the right word to use in a particular situation.

Anyway, allow me to express my feelings in a limerick (because this is an L post, after all, and I need to convince myself I’m the master of my own vocabulary):

Sometimes I leave my sentences to hang
Even though my cousin will surely harangue
I can’t find the right word
It’s really absurd
I’m just sick and tired of this whole…

*snaps fingers*

(“Finish your sentence!”)

Of Kith And Kin

I love having a brother. Older brothers can be a bit of a stereotype in TV and movies – they’re always overprotective, always a bit macho, and they say things like “You better not hurt her” to the incumbent boyfriend or husband. In truth, my relationship with my older brother is closer to what I have with my parents – absolute, unconditional trust that he will always have my back and that I can always, always count on him.

We do, however, have six years between us. I’m a girl and he’s a boy.  We never studied in the same school, and I spent all my teenage years by myself after he left for university in another country. All that put together, and I think it kind of makes sense that we never really became “friends”. We love each other, and we’ve been able to warm up to each other much, much more in recent years (the age gap becomes less and less divisive the older you get), but we’re still way too different to really be friends. If we weren’t related, I don’t know if we would make much of an effort to get to know each other. Because of that, I spent a lot of my teen years daydreaming about having a sister. Younger, older, it didn’t matter, I just wanted someone to talk to (my brother’s never been the chatty sort), to relate to, to get advice from (or to give it, even), to do girly things with.

I didn’t expect to get one at 18. (In retrospect, I should have expected it, but teenage girls don’t really think about their shy, introverted brothers getting married.) When I first met my (now) sister-in-law, some 12 years ago now,  I was immediately envious of her cool, chic haircut and her elegant style. I don’t remember all the details of those first few months, but I remember that she was warm, funny, introduced me to blogging, took me ice-skating, let me ramble and generally did all the things a good sister should do. I approved of her, of course, and let my brother know as much. She was a keeper.

Fast-forward a decade, and my relationship with her has only blossomed. People are sometimes surprised that we have such a solid bond, and I don’t know whether I should be offended (why is it a surprise that two non-related female family members get along well?) or agree with them about it being a bit of a minor miracle. Not in a “women can’t stand each other unless they’re related” way, but in a “how are we good friends when we don’t even have that much in common?” way. Because, honestly, if I really think about it, we’re very different people. We like the same broad things – books, music, writing, movies – but our tastes are polar opposites. Our personalities are not that similar, and our lifestyles are definitely on the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum (and not just because she’s a married woman and I’m single and ready to mingle fine as I am, thanks).

Still, we’ve managed to make it work. I say jokingly that we’ve spoken more in a decade than my brother and I have in three, but I think, more and more, that’s actually pretty accurate, especially if you include our ridiculous Whatsapp history. We’ve managed to bond over the most random things (book clubs, nail art, TV, online shopping) and found similarities in our love for the beach, picnics, Scrabble games, funny memes and new recipes (she makes, I eat). We’ve talked crap, we’ve talked philosophy. We’ve talked boy problems, work problems, people problems. We’ve laughed over badly-written matrimonial ads and made many, many (so many) terrible puns.

We’re friends, but like any good sibling, she’s also been an incredible source of inspiration. She’s dedicated, driven, organised and disciplined, qualities I’m always striving for in my own life. When we write our new year resolutions, I always wonder what she could possibly need to work on. She fires on all cylinders, she’s living proof that it can be done. At any point in time, she’s juggling a dozen balls, and doing it in a fabulous dress and kickass heels. She’s the complete package. In addition, she’s one half of the source of the smartest, funniest, most adorable little warrior princess I’ve ever met, the strongest glue any relationship could need.

She’s a wonderful sister-in-law, but more than that, she’s the sister I always wanted. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Happy birthday, BBG! 🙂

Joy Journal

Because it’s never a bad time to count the things that make you happy, here are some of the things giving me joy presently.

  • Blogging. Yes, I’m still constantly nervous about running out of ideas, but it’s so fun to write something new every day and to go around checking everyone’s blogs for new entries.
  • Work. I’ve moved on from training to writing audio description for a new Netflix series all by myself, which I’ve gotten some good feedback from the higher-ups for, so I’m pleased with how that’s going.
  • Reading. I’m managing about a book a month so far, which I’m happy about, even if I don’t have a book club to discuss with afterwards. (I’m currently reading Slaughterhouse Five, and plan to scour the internet for thinkpieces afterwards.) Also, looking at my to-read list on Goodreads gives me pre-emptive excitement for all the good books yet to come. So many books, so little time!
  • Flowers. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to find much roadside greenery in India, but Bangalore has been providing me with some gorgeous, colourful floral visuals that have been making my heart bloom.
  • Friends. I find it heartwarming that even though I’ve moved away from Singapore, so many of my friends have actively tried to keep in touch, either through Whatsapp groups or Skype chats. It’s nice to know that distance doesn’t break strong bonds. It’s also been nice getting to hang out with the people here – old friends with whom it barely feels like time has passed, and cousins with whom the friend/family line is blurred just the perfect amount.
  • My shows. You know, you’d think that watching movies and TV shows all day as part of my job would sour me on this a little, but nope. I still enjoy catching up with my fictional characters, and that feeling of anticipation for certain shows on certain days of the week, though not as strong as before, still makes me happy. Also, there’s so much good stuff coming out soon. We’re truly living in the golden age of television.
  • The radio. I’ve found a station here that I can listen to on the way to and back from work that plays both songs I know and a lot of older stuff that I wouldn’t normally listen to, so I’m really appreciating the new diversity in the music I’m listening to.
  • Household chores. I KNOW. I’m really enjoying taking care of the house while my parents are away, from putting the dishes back after they’re washed, to buying and restocking produce and groceries, to washing floor mats and changing bedcovers, to paying the bills. You know you’re getting old when you really get a kick out of doing mundane things. That said, though…
  • The thought of the parentals coming back this weekend. If you’re reading this, Mom and Dad, be warned – there will be hugs.

And since we’ve invoked Kurt Vonnegut in this post, I’ll leave you with a timely quote I found:

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Incredible India

Every time I talk about India as though it’s a brand-new experience, I feel a little twinge of guilt. This is my country, after all. I spent the majority of my life here. Yes, I moved around a lot, and Singapore officially qualifies as the longest I’ve ever lived in one city, but India is still home. There is, however, a significant difference between living in India as a child and living here as an adult, and that’s the experience I’m usually talking about when I speak of India now, whether that takes the form of a rant or a rave.

Coming back here has been eye-opening. It’s not really that India has changed all that much in 12 years (although it probably has), it’s that my worldview has done a full 180 since I was a teenager. Things that used to matter don’t anymore, and things I didn’t give a second thought to take center stage these days. From that viewpoint, here are the things that stick out to me about this second India experience.

  • Things are SLOW, especially if it has anything to do with the government. I think I was pretty sheltered from this when I was a child, because I never really had to do anything for myself, but this time around, I became really aware of how long everything takes. I applied for an Aadhaar card when I got here, and my jaw pretty much dropped when they said the official card would me sent to me in two months’ time. I don’t think I’ve ever waited two months for anything in Singapore. (I would have added “except my tax notice” to that, but I filed my Singapore tax yesterday, and I kid you not, got the notice of assessment AND made my payment within 15 minutes, so that throws that out the window.) When the power in our house went out, we had to run about like headless chickens to get the papers in order to restore electricity, when it would have been done with the click of a button back in Singapore. Things just move much, much more slowly over here.
  • Transport has gotten hugely better since I was a child. I barely ever took public transport when I was a child (a private auto usually ferried me to and from school), but I got so used to it in Singapore that I was afraid I’d suffer without it back in India. I needn’t have worried so much. The metro in Bangalore has been a nice transition from the super efficient Singapore MRT. The introduction of Ola and Uber have made taking taxis and autos simpler and cheaper (remember when we actually had to go and wait on main roads to flag one down?), and Google Maps has been an absolute life-saver. I’ve never been good with understanding directions or remembering landmarks, and so having something like Google Maps helping me navigate pretty much anywhere in an easy, step-by-step fashion has made transitioning into a new city very, very easy.
  • There are still way too many people everywhere, but online shopping has made it so much easier to avoid crowds. Pretty much the only thing I remember being able get delivered at home when I was a kid was pizza, which was expensive and not something we’d indulge in a lot. These days, though, you can get practically anything delivered, from groceries and produce to clothes, gadgets and food. It’s a great way for someone who hates crowds to lead their ideal hermit life.
  • The food choices here have opened up so much since I was a kid. This is probably due to my not living in a city like Bangalore when I was younger, but you get pretty much every cuisine here. Also, almost every food place (including established brands like McDonald’s, KFC and Subway) actually has decent vegetarian options, which makes choosing something to eat pretty difficult, but I won’t complain about finally having options again. That said…
  • India is not as cheap as it used to be. This is something I know is true, just based on what my parents recall, but also something that’s tinted by the fact that I didn’t think about the price of things when I was a child. I remember coming home from university one year and going grocery shopping with Dad and being shocked at the bill. I don’t know what antiquated idea I had in my head of how much things cost here, but I’m still taken aback by the price of things now, even when I earn my own money. In fact, I end up converting back to Singapore dollars when in doubt, which is a very, very bad idea for my sanity, because things aren’t that much cheaper than they are in Singapore, but I only make a fraction of the money I used to there.
  • You guys, there are so many stereotypes about India out there, but the one I never expected to get so much confirmation for was the one about cows walking around in the middle of the road. I’m telling you, the cows these days are bolder, because I don’t remember them being this blatant in my youth. My cab driver literally has to navigate around at least two every single day on the way to and from work. They have supreme right of road – you either drive around them or you wait for them to cross the road. There is no situation in which you win.
  • And that brings me to my last point – I think what I’m noticing now about India that I never noticed earlier is just how resilient Indians are. There might be a million and one things happening here that could be rectified or made better, but that resilience is why things keep going. The people here don’t stop. Yes, things take time and the country is not always as efficient as you want it to be, but that deficit has sort of resulted in a can-do culture that overpowers most things. People just keep moving. Cows on the road? Go around them. Power cut? Light a candle and continue working. Metro breaks down? Walk or take the bus. Yes, everyone complains, but that doesn’t stop people from getting their work done. Who knew one day I’d find bull-headed persistence an admirable quality?

Halcyon Houseboating

Last week, a very good friend of mine from Singapore came down to India for the first time. See, this is significant because, for as long as I’ve known her, I have always maintained that this friend, although Chinese by race and Malaysian by nationality, is about 98.5% Indian in all other ways. When she married an Indian Singaporean, it just solidified my theory. The only thing was, this 98.5% Indian and her Indian Singaporean husband had never been to India before, so when they finally made the trip, it was a momentous occasion indeed.

They decided to focus on Kerala, God’s own country, and another friend and I, both residents of Bangalore, made plans to join them at Allepey for their last weekend here. Now, our weekend was about 60% travelling (12-hour trips both ways), but it was worth it to see our friends in “our territory”, and for the other star attraction of the trip – a houseboat stay. Prior to this, I’d never been on a houseboat, and I was really looking forward to it. It promised to be relaxing and fun and a great way to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in years.

And it was! We spent a lovely day on the boat, alternating between eating (there’s always so much eating on holidays), chatting, sleeping (oh, isn’t it nice when nature rocks you to bed) and just enjoying the beautiful backwaters. Our route was not very crowded due to us going in the off-peak season, and the gorgeous views and the company more than made up for the sweltering heat and humidity. And because you know what they say about pictures being worth a thousand words, I’ll shut up and leave you with these photos, collated from four different phones.

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Gaga for Gigas

Remember the days of dial-up? When your computer used to make a noise like it was coughing up a lung, and then you’d be connected to the internet, but could not use your phone? And nothing would load fast, but you’d still pay through your nose for it? I imagine real torture today would involve making someone watch Netflix, but with a dial-up connection. It could be one of those experimental things to see at how long it takes to make people lose their minds.

We’re in an age of abundance now, and we don’t even know it. I know I took my internet speed for granted in Singapore. Our house had the cheapest available broadband plan, for which we got a speed of about 300mbps and unlimited data usage, which was, eh, something we could work with. We never thought we were getting anything special. Then one day I called my dad to ask him what the internet speed was at home to see if I could manage working from India while I was on vacation, and he gave me a number I just couldn’t believe – 2. “2? As in 200, right?” “No, 2. As in 2mbps.” I couldn’t even wrap my head around the difference. How were you supposed to do anything with that?

And then there was the matter of data. I still vividly remember the first time I went home after my parents got broadband in the house. I must have stayed for two or three weeks, but my father ended up with a bill for about ten times the normal number. I wasn’t used to the idea of limited data – for as long as I’d lived in Singapore, there was never a cap. Because of this, I had no clue about how much data it took to load a webpage, to watch a YouTube video, to stream an episode on Netflix or to simply scroll through Tumblr. (I would not have guessed, for example, that the last one far exceeds all the others.)

And then I moved to India permanently and had to deal with the reality of data caps. My cousin and I, both heavy internet users, decided to go for a modest 90GB-a-month plan, thinking it would be more than enough for our shenanigans on the world wide web. Turns out, we were not even close to hitting the mark. Within the first 10 days, we’d blown through about 80% of our allowance, prompting both of us to hurriedly set up data monitors on our laptops, phones and tablets.

Thanks to this, I now know have a pretty good idea of what an ungodly amount of data it takes to do anything worthwhile, and honestly, it’s sucking the joy out of everything. We’re now constantly deciding between offline downloading and streaming on Netflix, between doing things on the phone and on the computer, and trying to find tips and tricks to extend our data usage. The internet should be a fun place, and having to keep track of it is like giving me a wad of money and then making me an accountant.

This post has no happy resolution. We’re still trying to sort out how best to manage our data issues in ways other than our current go-to option, which is, “just buy more”, and which do not involve the parent go-to method of telling us to “just use the internet less, what are you even doing on there?” We may be in a bind, but that does not mean we’re going back to the Stone Ages. No, we’d rather just go with our solution now, while hoping for a technological miracle that brings us up to speed with South Korea in, you know, a year or so. One can dream, right?