Monday, June 29, 2020

The elusive phone

I am at my desk working on my laptop. I hear a voice -- someone is talking. It takes a while for me to figure out where it is coming from. 

It is from my phone! The Google Assistant has launched itself and is announcing the weather in Bengaluru and that I have no tasks scheduled for the day ...! 

The phone is acting up. I shut down the application. 

A couple of days later ... I am messaging a colleague on WhatsApp. Even while I am keying in, I hear a voice from the phone: "Hello, hello, hello ...." But I can't see anyone's name on the display, which is not responding to my touch either.

Finally, I restart the phone.

Once the phone rebooted, within a minute, I get a call from the person to whom I was keying in the message which didn't go. He asks me if I made a video call on WhatsApp to him. I say no.

He is surprised because I have never before made a video call to him. I then explain to him it could be because my phone is malfunctioning.

Not only is the device not responding to my touch but it is also doing things on its own. I also notice there is a vertical black line on the screen.


The phone -  Moto G8 Plus - is only seven months old. It's made by Motorola Mobility which was once owned by Google before passing hands to Lenovo. It's a stock Android phone, without any add-ones by the manufacturer. 

Those were some of the reasons why I went for this brand. Besides, the phone I previously had was a Moto G4 Plus which lasted more than three years, until the battery began draining out too fast. 

Now I need a phone immediately. One, this one might conk off any time; and two, when I give this for repair, I will need another one. 

I scroll through Amazon and Flipkart. The good ones will take at least a week to get delivered. I can't wait that long. 

I go to the nearby mobile store to check what they have on offer. The storekeeper shows me Redmi Note 8, Samsung M21 and a few other 'A' series phones of Samsung; besides some Vivo models.

Some 10 years ago, a phone with features I want would be in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. But now such a phone is available for half that price.  

I tell the storekeeper that I want to think over the models that he showed and I will be back in the evening or the next morning. 

Back home, I do some research. There are only two options - either a Samsung or a Redmi. Samsung is generally more reliable, but Xiaomi phones have good features and are popular. I guess, they can't be that bad. I have had Samsung phones before. So I thought I will go with Redmi for a change.

I head back to the store at 4.30 that evening.


"I am so sorry we don't have that in stock," says the storekeeper.

"What?! I came this morning, you showed me one," I counter him.

"We just had one model, and he picked it up just now," the storekeeper says pointing to a gentleman at the cash counter. "But I can get you one in about half an hour, from our store in Marthahalli."

"Half an hour? It will take about half an hour one-way to Marthahalli." I am surprised.

"No, I will get it Dunzoed," he says with a smile. 

(Dunzo is a very successful Bengaluru-based startup that provides "pick up and delivery" service within a city.)

"Okay. That sounds good. So, I will come back by around 5.30."

I go back home, thinking I would have got that phone if I was a few minutes early.


Around 5.30 the storekeeper calls me to say they have got the phone. So I head to the shop yet again.

He takes out the box from a bag and ... he looks embarrassed and annoyed and I wonder what has happened.

"I am so sorry ... Really sorry. They have sent us a Redmi Note 8 Pro, and not Redmi Note 8."

"Oh! ... Okay ... I am sure this will be a bit more expensive ... "

"Yes, about 4 to 5,000 more."

"No ... I would stick to Note 8, and not Pro ..." I tell him because I can't find any good enough reason to spend 5k extra.

"Okay, in that case, I will give you a call tomorrow morning after I get you a Note 8."

"Fine," I tell him and head back home for the second time in an hour empty-handed.


Back home, I do a 'factory reset' of my Moto G8 Plus, hoping it may solve the problem.

It seems to have worked, except that the vertical line on the display remains. The phone is dutifully responding to my touch and is not behaving in any crazy manner. 

No call from the shopkeeper nor I call him; since the Moto G8 Plus seems to be okay now, and I don't need a Redmi Note 8 immediately.


However, I resume checking out phones online. Because I need a new one when I give this one to the service centre to get rid of that vertical line. I better do that before the one-year warranty expires. 

Amazon keeps notifying me about a 'flash sale' of the latest Redmi Note 9 Pro phone. It is at 12 noon.

What the shopkeeper had got by mistake was a Note 8 Pro which I decided not to buy because it was costlier than Note 8. And now I am being tempted with a Note 9 Pro! 

I have never attempted to buy anything during these 'sales' when only a limited number of products are on offer and prospective buyers in thousands will make a dash online to grab them. The chances are practically nil.
But I decide to try my luck. Because this has better features and is only marginally costlier than Note 8.

No, I am not fast enough and my web connection is not strong enough. I get edged out. I don't make it. 

I wonder who all were lucky to get that phone within about 30 seconds of the opening of the sale. And how they managed to get it.  

Now I find that there is another 'sale' coming up after a week or so. Who knows I might be lucky then. 

No, no chance. 'Sale' is definitely not my cup of tea!


I am not disappointed since my Moto G8 Plus is (seems to be) working well and there is no hurry to get a new phone. 

Another reason is I have figured out that some of the Samsung models are as good as, if not better than, Redmi models. 

The third reason is Samsung is a brand I know well. I always had their phones except for the two Moto Gs and one Sony. 

Also, I didn't want to push my luck too far with Redmi, going by my recent experiences.


Sunday, June 21. Father's Day. Fête de la Musique. International Yoga Day. Summer Solistice. Partial Solar Eclipse. ... 

Wow! So many events?!

The day actually turns out to be quite eventful.  

The first thing I notice in the morning is that the phone is acting crazy again. The same problem. 

The screen is not responding to my touch; worse, the display is flickering and different apps are feverishly getting launched on their own. This time it looks much worse than earlier. I am not able to have any control on what is happening on the screen! 

After some struggle with the screen, I manage to do a 'factory reset' to erase all my data in the phone before the phone becomes completely inaccessible. 

I erased all data not with any hope of setting the phone right but when I give the phone for repair I don't want anyone to have access to my data. 

I head to the nearby store yet again looking for a new phone.

This time I ask for a Samsung phone. In the M Series, there was just one: M11. That doesn't seem to have good reviews. So weigh the options of the A-series ones. 

This time I have no doubts as which one I should buy. Galaxy A30s.

Finally an end to the struggle with the phone and indecisions. 

Back with Samsung after about four years.

The day is eventful in other ways too. My brother-in-law and his daughter come home. My son joins us on video. They all play games. Good fun. 

The day ends well.

Monday, June 8, 2020

We are all human beings. Everything else is a label

The pandemic has had varying impacts on different people in different parts of the world. But at a basic level, we all, all of us on this planet, have felt like one. When we spoke to someone, maybe in our neighbourhood or thousands of miles away, there was one topic we related to: how we were coping. 

All of us shared a worry - about our health. We stayed at home, remembered to wash our hands frequently, wore masks, kept a safe distance from one another ... 

In the midst of all this, on May 25, a medieval show of brute force snuffs out the life of a man in front of a live video camera. 

In 2008, the chant "Yes, We Can", reverberated across the United States. On November 4 that year, while I was watching the concession speech of John McCain on a TV screen during dinner at a San Francisco restaurant, the enormity of the historic event was still sinking in. 

The dominant view among many people I spoke to was that it was not just about America getting its first African American president. It was also a symbolic break from the past in the way one looked at another person, and that too, when at stake was who the new president should be.

Twelve years later, one single incident sets the clock back, brings latent fissures and frustrations -- which many people think began building up since 2016 -- to the fore. Hundreds of thousands of people pour on to the streets in many cities across the globe, crying out, yet again, for a change.

'Black lives matter' is not just about the colour of the skin. It's about everyone who is marginalised, not just in the United States but all over the world. People are discriminated and victimised often because of reasons like nationality, the language one speaks, the food that one eats, the religion one practises, hierarchies in society, office ... the list goes on. 

These are nothing but mere labels. They don't really mean anything.

It doesn't matter which clock one looks at to know the time.
It doesn't matter what colour the umbrella is when it rains.
It doesn't matter what transport one takes to reach a destination in time.
It doesn't matter what movie one watches or what music one listens to in order to relax.
It doesn't matter what exercise one does to stay fit and healthy.
It doesn't matter what food one eats when hungry. 

We are all humans beings. 

Mercifully, it's not gloom and doom all around. There are many slivers of radiance shining through the clouds, spreading love, affection, kindness, compassion, generosity, and humility.

And thereby comes the hope of real change.