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On a whim and a fancy

Gizmo may be utterly inexpensive or a completely non-utility item, but I covet it and fancy myself using the esoteric gadget frequently, writes Abhishek Singhvi.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2007 23:10 IST

I have always been gizmo-crazy but never gizmo savvy. No gift ever excites me as much as a new gadget. It may be utterly inexpensive or a completely non-utility item, but I covet it and fancy myself using the esoteric gadget frequently.

One of my ancient fantasies has been to carry a special custom-designed handbag with compartments suitable for all the gizmos that I could whip out at short notice and impress all by putting it to instant use and solve some problem. My cupboard is the graveyard for several models, editions and prototypes of diverse gizmos. I preserve them in the fond hope that someday I will be able to trade them in the second-hand market. My most enjoyable shopping excursions involve hours of idling in the electronic or gadget sections of stores.

Needless to add, my passion for gizmos is in inverse proportion to my competence in dealing with them. For one, not being a student of science, I seldom understand the full use of my gadgets and because of shortage of time, I am unable to master by repetition the use of a gizmo. I have even hired help to make me functionally literate. After several tortuous years, I have proficiency sufficient to my needs.

For me, the ideal handheld device is the O2, a humble PDA with several clones. Simple, it has more fields than other devices (including car and radio phones, which is useful to store additional numbers), it can store large volumes of word files, it enables creation of case storage files in Pocket Word, it has an extremely fast and efficient find/search function and is more user-friendly than other devices. However, it has one major failing — though it has e-mails through GPRS, it is slow and tedious to retrieve e-mails and, most important, it is not Blackberry-enabled.

Switching devices is a major problem. Nevertheless, I settled for the latest Blackberry (BB) to make up for O2’s deficiency. Only to realise some sad truths. One, that manufacturers are interested in keeping the consumer confused so that he cannot choose logically, leading to greater sales of inferior models. That is why there is no standardised format of common criteria on which all handhelds can be compared and graded. For example, a device like the latest BB does not have a simple and obvious function like editing attachments.

Imagine the frustration of just being able to see the attachment and yet not being able to even make the change of a comma and send it back to the sender. Second, far older models (for example, the older Sony mobile handheld) allow editing of attachments. Third, no one publicises or states this in the marketing literature to assist in informed choice. No law prescribes any standardised format to facilitate comparison. Fourth, the search function in the BB is awfully slow and cumbersome, necessitating a long wait till the entire search is over before even the first result can be displayed. Far older models have much faster and more efficient ‘find’ facilities. Fourth, there is nothing as useful as O2’s ‘Pocket Word’ in BB.

It would be in public interest to manufacture a new device that is a marriage of the O2 and the BB. But manufacturers will never do it because the sales of models with shortcomings will then plummet. Some of these obvious pitfalls cry out for urgent legislative intervention.

Talking heads
A discussion with a lady seeking divorce made me realise the existence of a little-noticed phenomenon — the breakup of heterosexual marriages because the male partner is homosexual. Several striking features of such unions deserve closer attention. Instances are increasing where perfectly ‘normal’ middle-class ‘arranged’ marriages result in the wife discovering several years after marriage that her husband is a homosexual. The long gap may be understandable where the male partner is bisexual but it is indeed surprising that wives do not discover for years that their partners are wholly or predominantly homosexual.

Technically, the Hindu Marriage Act has no provision for divorce on ground of homosexuality, although almost certainly such cases would be covered under those parts of Section 13 of the Act which permit divorce on grounds of non-consummation and/or cruelty. Such ‘closet gays’ do not have sufficient support to reveal their true inclinations either to their parents or partners. Several lives of young women are ruined by the compulsions of conformist which result in decades of torture.

It just shows that some of these social taboos have to be now more openly discussed in the context of marriage.

A compulsory Aids test is another basic amendment to the Marriage Act which would prevent much misery. Given the fact that hardly any prospective spouse, in the Indian context, and, indeed, neither of the two families, can be expected to broach this subject at the pre-marriage stage, an amendment to the law making it a condition of a valid marriage to undergo a compulsory Aids test by both partners is the need of the hour.

(Abhishek Singhvi is MP, National Spokesperson, Congress and Senior Advocate, Supreme Court)