fiction ramblings # 1

Before I started working for the Secret Service as an image consultant I used to be a fashion blogger in New York.

My blog wasn’t popular or well known.  It was my side hustle.

My main job was a Renters Insurance Claims Processor at the midtown firm of Smith & Tooley. The job was nothing fancy or intellectually challenging. It involved answering phones, attending  meetings, writing emails, check formula dependencies in excel spreadsheets and once in a while some actuarial modelling.

The firm’s offices were in the shiny monolith tower at the intersection of 44th Street and 5th Avenue. My cubicle used to be on the third floor. The saving grace was I had a street view. Coffee was in free supply. I’d spend all my time staring into the cityscape and chugging Chock full o’Nuts.

The blog began as an offshoot of a diary I used to keep when I started writing down my fashion observations, first on paper; later by the power of google, on blogspot.

I dint tell anyone about this because frankly I thought it was amateurish.

But they found me.

Their reach out to me began rather innocuously. They started leaving comments on my blog saying ‘oh this post perfectly captures our feelings  on the return of the  Madras Shirt craze.’  There were constant encouraging comments. I went crazy with all the steady stream of comments from different users; all of whom seemed to have discovered me at the same time. Catnip to a cat situation, pretty much.

Then there was an email.

“We love your writing…would you like to do an assignment for us? We will pay you $600 for it.”

Obviously I took the assignment for it was very easy money and easy work.

The client introduced himself as a Mr. Vinod Mehta – head of ‘Mufti Creative’ in the email. He wanted me to write a piece on Men’s Suspenders. The assignment was free ranging. I could write anything and everything on Men’s Suspenders. He made a token payment of $300 via paypal as my hiring fees. I was overjoyed and ploughed into the piece and the world of Men’s Suspenders with full gusto. I e-mailed him the final document. He loved it and paid me $400. The extra $100 was a bonus he said.

This arrangement became a constant fixture. I stopped updating the blog and began to devote all my time to these well paying assignments. I never felt the need to ask what ‘Mufti Creative’ was using them for because my growing paypal balance was reaching tax liability status.

Then suddenly one day a year after this money spigot had been turned on; it was turned off. I received an email from Mrs. Lalika Gupta – a lawyer representing the late Mr. Vinod Sharma. She said Mr. Sharma had spoken highly of my work. He had been unwell for sometime and had recently passed away. ‘Mufti Creative’ was ceasing all payments to outside vendors while the heirs settled the will. And since I (apparently) was one of the major beneficiaries of Mr. Sharma’s largess my payments were to be stopped right away.I mean I can imagine…the trupee was sinking against the dollar..the conversion rate alone for the sums Mr. Sharma was paying me, was a small fortune.

This stoppage  threw me into a tailspin though. Due to windfall from writing,  I had pretty much cutback on my full time work at Smith & Tooley to four hours in a month.

Sitting in a bar and moping when my phone lit up with an email. It was from a Mr. Kovid Goyal of Gupt Enterprises. He said he was a friend of the late Mr. Sharma who had recommended me to him. Mr. Goyal said he was in midtown tomorrow and would like to meet me if possible at the Cafe Sipriani at 8 PM. I replied with an enthusiastic Yes.

Long story short.

Mr. Goyal said he was with the Secret Service and my blog had caught his bosses eye due to immense details I packed it with.

The Service was using my blogposts to train their field agents who were embedded in the country on how to dress, talk and demeanor.

Recently they had pulled off a daring mission  because the agents in the operation did not  arouse any suspicion due to their impeccable taste in Men’s Suspenders.




I bought this ‘sleek’ beauty on November 23,2007 with money saved up from working as a photographer’s technical assistant. Already four months into my stay in the US of A I had resisted buying a laptop due to the mental gimmicks of $700 to INR??  I would rather spend extra hours in the computer lab at Uni slogging away on assignments than buy a laptop.


But the it’s #blackfridaysalebro flyer on enticed me with :

Super light and extra powerful, the Lenovo 3000 Y410 notebook PC offers top performance at home, on the road, and in the office. This 5.2-pound notebook PC features a 1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, integrated Intel graphics, a 160GB 5400RPM SATA HDD, 2GB of PC2-5300 memory, and a dual layer optical drive.

The Lenovo 3000 Y410 notebook PC – it’s fast, portable, and loaded with special features that make it a great choice for multimedia applications. If you’re looking for cutting-edge capabilities, an integrated web cam, Dolby Home Theater premium audio, a Shuttle Center for one-stop, total entertainment, and a 6-in-1 media card – you’ve found it with the Lenovo 3000 Y410 notebook PC.

I was hook, line and sinker.

I paid extra for an expedited delivery !! But the UPS Delivery Truck’s axle broke en-route and I received my laptop two weeks late and no refund for the failed promise of expedited delivery.

I have had a love – hate – denial – acceptance -frustration – love – hate – fucking hate – acceptance – divorce – Zen, relationships with this laptop since.

I have never had so many relationships with real people.

I have lost count of the instances where the missus has remarked

” you love your laptop more than me”

“go spoon with your laptop”

“take your laptop with you to your grave”

” I’m sure you’ve listed your laptop also, as a dependent in your life insurance policy”

” I can understand why you love that scene from Harold and Kumar go to white castle where
Kumar has Sex with a bag of weed.”


Has the Y410 been my only squeeze for so long ? Heck no. There have been many since 2007 with their faster processors, big ram chips, sleek design, lighter weights, blazing startup times but I keep returning to the Y410. It’s like the Maruthi 800DX my family refuses to sell because it still runs.

I’ve made improvements over the years trying to prolong the life of this geriatric beast. First came the bigger and max supported RAM of 4 GB in 2008. Then the onetime upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 in 2009. Then a fan in 2010. Then some thermal paste in 2011. Then a new keyboard 2012. Ubuntu/Mint did some airbnb business on the hdd in 2013. Then a SSD and with win 7 in 2014 and most recently  a new battery in 2015.

Reminds me of that scene in 30 Rock where Jack Donaghy says to Liz Lemon,

I like you. You have the boldness of a much younger woman.

Has the laptop failed me ? Multiple times. Again and again.

Have I thrown the laptop away to never wanting to look at it again because it kept shutting down whimsically? Yes.

Have I prayed to Satyanarayana Swami to revive my laptop while it was on life support? Yes.

Have I read the entire Harry Potter series in e-book form on this laptop? Yes.

Have I typed out blazzzing fast responses to gchat windows – with my maybe wife during our courtship – on the Y410’s amazing keyboard?  Yes.

Does the laptop’s fan spin wild and loud like chopper blades? You betcha.

Have I included the Y410 along with my textbooks during Sarawasti Puja?  Yes.

Will the laptop fail me again by shutting down whimsically? Absofuckinglutely.

I feel a  certain joy in using old tech even when it is painful. I am a masochist.

Proudly typing this on the amazing keyboard of the Y410.

Further reading : In 2011, artist Kyle McDonald launched a quest to capture expressionless faces, the kind people adopt while staring at a computer screen.He installed a program on public computers at a New York Apple Store, capturing still images of customers looking at the products.

In mid-May, 2011, I took a timelapse using my laptop’s webcam to get a feeling for how I looked at the computer. After a few days of recording, I watched the video. I was completely stunned. There was no expression on my face. Even though I spend most of my day talking to and collaborating with other people online, from my face you can see no trace of this.

McDonald has recounted the full story of People Staring at Computers at Wired; it’s well worth it to read the whole thing. >