Saturday, July 31

Dust busted 

There’s a new health hazard doing the rounds, and I might be falling victim to it even as I key this in. No, we’re not talking about any form of bacteria, amoeba, or viruses. In fact, it’s something you never envisioned would cause you harm, and it’s not even plenteous enough to scrutinize or gauge. It’s all those teeny-weeny motes of dust that sit pretty on your computer, the telly, or the music system. Recent research conducted on this breed of dust that collects on electronic devices has it that the chemical residue found in it could pose a perilous threat to your health.

In a report published by Clean Production Action and the Computer TakeBack Campaign, two groups involved in environmental and health issues studies as related to computers, researchers assert that possibly, dangerous elements of brominated fire retardants are showing up in dust samples swiped from computers. This research implies that the most widely found instance of these substances, commonly used fire prevention compounds known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, have been found to cause health problems in lab animals. The report's contention that PBDEs, which have been shown to present reproductive and neurological risks to animals used in lab tests, remain persistent in the environment and contaminate food supplies, animals and humans, seems to be even more crucial. The study of PBDEs was apparently based on 16 samples of dust collected by the Computer TakeBack Campaign and Clean Production Action from computer monitors in public locations across eight states, including university computer labs, legislative offices and a children's museum.

Even though Dell, HP and IBM – three of the world’s largest PC manufacturers, offer PC recycling programs, the number of PCs they recycle is still at a low, claim researchers. Dell, it appears, has proscribed the use of PBDEs in all its products since 2002, and has worked closely with groups such as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a champion of the report, to help endorse the recycling process. Yet, analysts reckon that the United States trails behind Europe in exercising endeavors to reduce human exposure to these toxic substances - the European Union has already issued a directive that all PBDEs used in consumer electronics have to be eliminated by 2006.

For someone that’s already learned of a freakish, novelty ailment named CRI (Computer Related Injury) I must confess I wasn’t exactly unnerved by this one. But for now, I’m hoping someone unveils special dust busters to save us from this modern malady.

Thursday, July 15

Of old friends and new 

I have a new friend. He’s in his fifties, if you count the years. But he’s considerably young where it counts, as it should, at heart. We meet on the ride back home, every evening. We discuss movies, music, food, books, art, and what have you. And once the words start rolling out, slicing acutely through the air around us, buildings, people, and other automobiles seem just a hazy whirr, and even his salt-and-pepper hair doesn’t stand out. If anything were to disrupt us at all, it would have to be my own fidgety manners, of tossing my hair back and forth, or perhaps, fingering my nail enamel.

I’ve always been fascinated by older people. Many of my closest friends are about a decade older than I. There seems to be an anomalous connection that binds us together. I sometimes wonder if it’s the essence of springtide I apparently convey that acts as the coalescing force, beckoning them to revive their own youthfulness through me, or their sagacity and sophistication that urges me to seek enlightenment in them, thus augmenting the appeal factor that’s ostensibly at large here.

Wisdom, they say, doesn’t essentially come with age. Experiences are what make us who we are. And ever since I have embarked rather curiously upon my tradition of befriending older people, I have endured the realism of all their experiences, as if just being with them and partaking in discussions with them made up for my not having lived life their rational way. I have imbibed their philosophies like a pitcher plant would suck in its prey; made mental notes of all their words like a jeweler would tuck warily, precious stones in his wares; and consulted them when I was in dire need of advice and guidance. My perspectives, on their part, appeared to change, and my foresight, to sharpen. Even though I haven't exactly glided over all my problems and dilemmas all the time, I have learned to treat them differently, and I have always taken pride in connecting with these good old folks.

But I like to believe there has been a reciprocal balance also. When I spoke animatedly, if at all, and inadvertently so – considering the mood swings and attention span one usually associates with my contemporaries and I – to them about the fads and fashions of the times, or say, hip and happening gizmos, or simply juicy hearsay, I like to believe they were warmed, if little, by the playful, lilting joy that is usually thought of as deriving from, to put it wackily, juvenile-chatter.

In any case, I draw enough solace from the fact that life seems richer, fuller, and more meaningful, with them. And they do seem to acknowledge my being a part of theirs. Or at least, they strive to make me feel so. And that in itself is a thing to delight in.

Sunday, July 11

Birds of a kind 

For the Chaudhuris and the Chakrabortys, with love.

We’re a boisterous, bathetic bunch, us Indians. Even so when we, like they say, gang up, in these shores. My head is still reeling with all the chirpy clatter that filtered through every cranny in the house this past holiday weekend. This chronicle is a tad late in the coming, as you can see, but my voice had gotten somewhat hushed, and not just in a manner of speaking. I’m not quite sure if it is the dearth of din in the neighborhoods that we suppose needs fixing, or the dynamics of a sudden surge of long-lost camaraderie that comes to play. But whatever it is, this energy is rather compelling. It brings out the talky and touchy traits in even the most reticent of us.

Coming now to the magical four days we spent with our most charming companions. There wasn’t any ice to break at all, to begin with, even though some of us were relatively new to a close-knit team that had roots dating back to two decades or more. The scheduling of our first rendezvous was an earful in itself. And it didn’t take more than half hour to ready ourselves to convene. The table was set, the delicacies spread, and the silverware, laid out, all in a jiffy. The luncheon, however, lasted three full hours, and in retrospect, I don’t actually remember what the menu was. What I do recall, however, is the conversation. It wasn’t all that topical, so to speak. In those three hours, we relived our entire childhoods, adolescent years spent completely oblivious to the grown-up life that was to come, and all within the safest confines back home, complete with the food we gorged on, the way we fussed about every spice and flavor in all savories we were offered, ordering our moms to add a bit of this and reduce a bit of that, and how, on ageing and entering wedlock, we had realized that we’d still remained the same self-proclaimed food connoisseurs, the difference being, we were the ones to bear the brunt of a meal gone wrong. We exchanged tips on correcting some of those cookery blunders, how to quick-fix several tasty bites, recipe novelties, and favorite specialty restaurants, among many other things, never mind that one husband (the others were, sadly, at work that day) or better half, to use an Indian colloquialism, was part of the tête-à-tête as well. He cooks just as well, and besides, like he said, he's the official food taster in his own distinct manner. And then when weekend actually rolled in, there were the long drives, sightseeing trips, dine-outs, dine-ins, barbecues, fused with simply extended hours of nights that bled into dawns, all packed with six glib voices crying to be heard and heeded to. We discussed olden days of glory, careers, travels and travails, new-found hobbies, movies, songs, snippets, celebrations and events that not all had been a part of, and entertained ourselves with plain, idle gossip as well as sweet reminiscences of eras bygone. We hardly slept, ate and laughed too hard, and lived every moment as heartily as we only, till now, could dream of. Home felt homelier, the homesick soul, lighter and merrier.

One week later, the walls still resound the spirit of our kinship. The ears are abuzz with snappy snippets. The heart aches for the rhythm of our uproar. And I have no plans of getting any less nostalgic any soon. Now, that would make our next reunion seem even farther, wouldn’t it? Unless, my pleas for an encore get heard right away. Listening, my dears?