If you’re spending too much time on the computer

I’ve been spending far too much time on the PC over the last two years. The result – a sore neck, shoulders, wrist and occasional lower back problems. The ideal thing is to take regular breaks, but if you’re addicted, you don’t have much of a choice. The following are guidelines that I’ve created for myself based on my experience, discussions with friends, and online research.

You might find them useful, but follow these at your risk entirely, preferably in consultation with a doctor/physician. I’m using these guidelines at my own risk.

1. Take frequent breaks, at least every 15 minutes. www.workrave.com is a free software for reminders and exercise. You’ll have to reset the reminder time in workrave from 3 minutes to 15 minutes (or whatever you want). Don’t forget to disable the “Skip” option (which is very tempting).

2. The Chair
: is probably the most important element of your office setup – get a cheap table, but get an adjustable chair even if expensive. The features of the chair that I bought (photo attached)

* Back can be raised, so great middle back support
* The arms of the chair can be raised – this was critical for me since my shoulders have been in great pain. My arms used to be suspended while typing, which puts pressure on the shoulder joint and neck
* Neck support – my neck leans forward while typing, so cervical spondolysis can become an issue
* Height of the seat is adjustable, so my legs are bent at 90 degrees or more. less than 90 degrees is not recommended

What’s not there in this chair, but is available in other models:

* Lower back not adjustable
* The seat base cannot be moved forward
* The arms cannot be rotated or pushed forward

Keep in mind:

* No such thing as a perfect chair (in this case, the neck support isn’t perfect, so I place a cushion
* You need a chair with a straight back. So chairs you sink into are not recommended, neither are chairs that arch your back backwards.

3. The Table:

* The monitor screen needs to be placed at eye level, else one tends to lean forward while typing. This can cause back and neck problems. I’ve raised the height of my monitor. Ideally, don’t use laptops.
* Elbows need support, and should ideally be at 90 degrees. I’ve had the height of my keyboard drawer/rest and mouse drawer/rest on my table adjusted accordingly, and the chair has adjustable sides

4. Mouse: your wrist should not be cocked up while using the mouse, so keep some kind of a rest under the wrist. Also, the slimmer the mouse, the less your wrist is cocked up.

5. Laptop?

* Preferably not. Usually, the keyboards are smaller, and touch pads need you to sustain pressure on them for using. Also, since either the keyboard will be raised or the monitor will not be at eye level, somethings bound to give in the long term
* Solution: when at home, connect laptop to an external monitor, and use a USB keyboard and a USB mouse. These are not very expensive, and very very useful

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Am utterly overwhelmed with tech issues of late….

PC: One hard disk went kaput recently, and I did a reinstall of the OS. Since then, the other hard disk has stopped working. Sometimes the PC just doesn’t load. The system appears to be overheating,and just shuts off sporadically.

Mobile: The screen of the N95 went black during one call. A problem with Nokia service centers is that they format the phone every time, so I’m likely to lose all contact information. Trying to back it up with a blank screen is a major ask.

Net Connection: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…the MTNL connection is erratic. Apart from this, the Speed i get from the Reliance connection is not good enough.

Wifi: erratic, again.

Laptop: on a couple of occasions, it’s just switched off on its own. The other laptop has Vista, which makes it unusable.

problem is that much of this is happening at the same time. I tried replacing parts of the PC recently, but that hasn’t helped. The solution – will need to buy a brand new PC (with XP, and NOT Vista). No solution for Reliance and MTNL net connections, or the Wifi. Have to get the mobile fixed,and risk losing all the contacts on my phone. aargh – i should havebacked up more often

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The Budget and the next elections

Well, a rather surprising, albeit boring budget. PC’s gone ahead and tried to please everyone, perhaps at the cost of corporate India. The 6000 crore waiver to farmers sounds good on paper, but there’s apparently a fine-print. I’m not too worried about the cost to the government – after all, money is a flow and it will stay within the economy. But if they’re printing money to make up for the deficit, coupled with inflation fears – will lead to inflation. I suppose that explains why interest rates havcen’t been cut. The part I liked (apart from the tax sops) was the allocation of Rs. 75 crore to Tiger conservation – for setting up a Tiger Police force. I just hope some of that money is deployed instead of being siphoned off.

So this was an election budget, and there will be elections in the next fiscal. I still haven’t decided on whom to vote for: one thing is for sure, it’s definitely not the UPA or the Congress party. The problem is that there is no credible alternative to the Congress yet. I was discussing this with a friend last Saturday (yeah, my birthday), and he said it boils down to succession planning, which the BJP hasn’t done. Interestingly, now Mayavati’s BSP is gaining ground alarmingly fast. Ever since she took over power, Maya has stayed clear of controversy and focused on spreading her party beyond UP; what helps her is the mess that Mulayam Singh left in UP after his goondaraj ended. But the contrast is stark – while everyone else is talking regional – a hangover of coalition politics – Maya started talking national, like a statesman (or should that be statesperson?). Not that I’m a supporter, though – the splurging on her birthday are legendary…the thing I don’t understand about that – why the rabid media, and indeed the election commission and the vigilance bureau don’t question the financing of such excesses…

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On Juande Ramos at Spurs

There was an incident in a Tottenham game a few months ago, very shortly after Juande Ramos had taken over as the manager of the struggling team, that caught my attention. Soon after being substituted, midway through the second half of a successful game, a player (I don’t remember who) was walking straight into the dressing room. Ramos called him back, to watch the game to its conclusion, to watch his team win.
I haven’t been able to watch much football over the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t really been able to track the success of Spurs, but I’ve read and heard that Ramos has been fairly strict since he took over. They beat Arsenal and Chelsea to win their first Carling Cup in years. More on that, and Ramos here. Would love to read a story on how he’s managing the team – star footballers tend to have egos the size of the football field. Ramos’ statements after the win:

“The team has been improving little by little in the terms of the security and confidence that they feel. This final reaffirmed that. They have improved their general demeanour, like in the [recent] games against Arsenal and Manchester United, and Chelsea are another one of those teams, they are on the same level.They have shown they are able to concentrate, to fight with the best of them. The key was not making mistakes. They managed that…(On captain Ledley King) “This was the sort of game that it was very important that Ledley played in,” said Ramos. “He made a tremendous effort to be able to play. Having lost the last time he played in a final [the 2002 League Cup against Blackburn], this was a new experience for him and one which he deserved.”

Little by little. A team that rises too quickly, tends to peak. And then it’s all downhill. Better to build slowly and steadily, litte by little. Hope the success doesn’t go to Tottenham’s head — I don’t think it will, in case of Ramos.

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“Where are you from?”

“What’s your name?”


“Your full name.” It was a command, not a question, but he smiled to make up for the fact that he had been curt. “And where are you from?”

“Nikhil Pahwa. I’m from Delhi. What’s this for?” I pointed to the paper that Vikram was my details writing on.

He wouldn’t tell me, saying that I’ll find out soon enough, but Deepak, who was standing beside me did, later. Vikram was compiling a list of people in the class –  a list of Maharashtrians and non-Maharashtrians. For what? I never did find out.
I never thought about my caste, religion or region before I went to college, and stayed in a hostel in Maharashtra. To tell you the truth, I still don’t know my caste, and I really don’t care. I’ve seen people (in that college) shocked when I’ve told them that.


I was in Mumbai, the day the vandalism began; at the Airport, on my way out. Love the fast Wifi that Airtel has provided at the Airport. I was online, preparing for work the next day, when the Japanese businessman sitting beside me got up and turned around to look at the TV screen. Slowly, a crowd gathered near the screen, which repeatedly showed vandals destroying taxis, slapping people. The commentary was in Hindi, so he asked a someone about where this was happening, probably wanting to avoid the city. Mumbhai, Bombay? Today? He asked two other people, just to confirm. He was glad, he said, that he was on his way out, and sat down to read a magazine.


During a recent debate on television, about the recent vandalism in Mumbai. AL Quadros, the Mumbai Taximen Union’s General Secretary, called Mumbai “Bombay” a few times.  Each time, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena representative on the panel told him to mind his language.

*It’s strange that most media reports call them Workers, or Activists. Karyakarta. Not Vandals, Miscreants or Hooligans. This also holds true for the Nandigram war in West Bengal, the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan, and several such incidents in the past. A legacy of our communist leanings, that we justify violence as a political movement.


Aamchi Mumbai. Mumbai Aamchich. Our Mumbai. Mumbai is ours, and ours alone.

Do you belong to a city, or does a city belong to you? For me, it’s more of the former. I love – I prefer – Delhi, the city I live in. It’s familiar: I know which lane moves the fastest at some traffic lights, and which route to take in the middle of the night. I know the best little places to eat, and where one can get food at 2 AM. That doesn’t mean I gravitate towards people from Delhi in a motley group. I dislike being bracketed, being called a Delhi-ite.

“This city is becoming too crowded,” my cousin had told me four, maybe five, years ago. We were driving past what was then called the Centaur Hotel, one of the less crowded parts of the city. “There are too many outsiders now. These Bhaiiya log.”  He liked the idea of a passport for Mumbaikars, to prevent “immigration” from other parts of the country. At that point in time, I was considering moving to Mumbai – still am – but still not very keen on it. What attracts me is the go-to-work attitude of the city, and all the friends I have there. What doesn’t, is the traveling, the rents and the apparent lack of cultural events that Delhi has in plenty.


When a mob goes on a rampage, who do you hold responsible – the one who incited the violence, or those who committed it? Both.

Rajdeep Sardesai has written an excellent article, moonlighting as a blog post, on the issue, here.

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Events, Events

so, like I’d mentioned earlier, I intend to go for a lot more events this year (and finish work by 6:30ish every evening). Since I’ve been out of the events loop for a while now, please do CC/forward me any event related mails/invites (Jai: if you’re reading this, please do send the habitat newsletter). So far:

National School of Drama Theatre Fest
3rd-20th Jan
Venue: Kamani Auditorium, Sri Ram Center, Siri Fort Auditorium, LTG
Schedule: http://www.nsdtheatrefest.com/ (warning: heavy flash page…ugh)

There’s also a rock fest on – Yamaha Roxx on 12th and 13th at the Auto Expo, and a whole bunch of gigs sponsored by Jack Daniels in Delhi (see http://www.gigpad.com)

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the lull after the storm

It’s been a hectic month so far, spent mostly driving around the city trying to get a space that was ideal for our ContentSutra mixer in Delhi. In the end, we went with the Ambassador – partly because it among the few that available on the chosen date (this being the wedding season), and partly because Rafat was really keen on it. I had a few places in mind, but the key thing was that it had to be convenient for people coming from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, and the airport…anything too Noida-ish would have made things difficult for the rest.


I remember very little of the mixer; only that I was very tired, happy and relieved at the turnout, and a little zonked. Also remember feeling a little uneasy (and blushing) when people in the audience applauded when my name was mentioned on stage. The main thing for me is that the mixer was useful for a lot of people…and not “just another party”. Before I forget, the last photo in the first row has three people who used to write for Freshlimesoda.com: Parmesh, me and Sanjay Trehan (CEO of NDTV Convergence) 🙂

Am off on a much needed vacation to the Phi Phi Islands on Monday with family friends. I’ll be back on the 2nd, and hopefully, the personal blog shall be updated more often in 2009. As Shekhar said yesterday, I’m becoming a little unidimensional, and talking shop too much…That has to change. Resolution for 2008: more personal time, more events. And yes – I shall read more fiction, and try to write some as well

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On Buying Laptops And Vista

Saturday was a day of major purchases for me: bought a nice and wide 17″ LCD monitor, a new laptop, a Seagate FreeAgent 160 GB external HDD and 1GB of RAM for the now stuttering PC.

Buying the laptop

The parents were with me, since the laptop is (was?) for them: we went to the Toshiba, HP, Lenovo and Acer showrooms. There was very little product differentiation: The Toshiba laptops appeared to be were priced higher than the rest, and a couple of the Acer models we did like the look of did not have bluetooth. The strangest thing: the lenovo showroom had the laptops packaged, and the shopkeeper appeared intent on pushing the HP/Compaq range at us. We couldn’t really try out any of the laptops, so we decided to just go to the HP showroom. In ideal circumstances, I take my time and talk to 20 friends before making such a purchase. However, the mother was adamant that we pick one up TODAY, and so we did. Since there was very little product differentiation, I told them to choose a screen size that they’re comfortable with, and I just picked up the one that had all the basic features, was fast enough, and had enough USB ports and Bluetooth.

The one problem I did face while buying a laptop: every machine (barring the Acers) had a Windows Vista installed. The Acers had Linux, which I don’t think the parents would have been able to handle. Apparently, HP doesn’t give you an option for an OS, so no XP; not even if you buy a CD and give it to them to install it. The Vista is unbelievably counter-intuitive, going against design and usability that Microsoft has gotten its users used to. Now, every time one starts a program, it asks you to verify that you want the program launched. It took me 45 minutes to figure out where I can add the network settings, and even then, I had to turn off a bunch of settings to make the connection work. Like Shyam said – so much has been made of the security loopholes in Windows, that this time there’s overkill – it’s almost as if they don’t want you to use the Internet with the Vista. That, and the extremely poor usability. What I can’t figure out is – if Vista’s such a pain, why is HP offering its users such a sub-standard product – and not giving users a choice? An OS adds around Rs. 500 to the cost of a laptop.

I’m not very comfortable installing OS’ and partitioning hard drives, so Shyam offered to help switch the laptop to XP: Now it appears that XP doesn’t support the new hard drive format – SATA, and will require additional drivers. Since MS is likely to discontinue the XP updates, and switch/force users to switch to Vista, I might just end up switching the laptop to Ubuntu…which isn’t so bad for me, but might not be so easy for the parents.

The Seagate External HDD  And The Monitor

Some regret about the Seagate external HDD and Monitor… I should have spent a couple O’ grand more and bought the 300 GB drive, and a 19″ monitor. The drive tries to replicate the functioning of a normal desktop, which is silly…but it appears more reliable than the others available in the market — my 40GB one (laptop drive in a local USB casing) is quite unreliable.

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Thankfully, “cute” was not a word that came to mind when I saw Verbatim, a six minute short film by my friend Jugal. Watch the film here on YouTube, and to feel free to call the film cute in the comments…that should piss off Jugal. 😀

It reminds me of a story I’d written, The Wish, though that had a different theme, and a very different ending.

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