COVID19 Realisations – Cooking is fun but can someone do the dishes or chop the vegetables, please?

15th day into lockdown and I have realised cooking is fun and I am liking the kitchen more these days. But there are a lot of things that you need to take care of, which kills the fun somehow and makes it really difficult specially if you are not into habit of cooking. I had never spent a lot of time in the kitchen so this whole experience is a mixed ride – from fun to irritation to fun again, then to a point where I say chuck it I will grab some readymade stuff. I have spent more time in the kitchen in these 15 days than I had ever spent in my whole life. Cooking a good meal is an art and you have to spend a good amount of time to prepare a delicious meal. I never had that much time with me to try cooking.

I will briefly tell you my background. I stayed with my parents for the initial 16 years of my life. For the next 6-7 year I had to move out for higher studies. Then, I got my job in Gurgaon and have been staying here for last 9 years. I was never bothered about the food. There were tiffin services, cooks at different point of time so I never had to learn cooking. I have always a craving of eating good food but sadly I have mostly compromised on that. And now that I have to manage 3 meals a day, for last 15 days, it seems like I am spending the whole time in the kitchen. Cooking is really fun. For people who start learning, they can actually see the transition from shit to a very tasty food and that makes one so happy. But the whole arrangement of things, cleaning the dishes, cleaning the whole mess the new star chef has created make everything very tough. I think most of the newbies would agree on this. Cooking would really be fun when you have someone to help with your mess. Can someone do the dishes or chop the vegetables, please?

Black and White Remote Control on Table

Add to it the work from home scenario. Those update calls can really screw up the whole routine. You have to get your breakfast ready before the first morning call. Thankfully, the breakfast is easiest of the three meals. It does not take a lot of time and gives you a good start of the day. Then, there is a call around lunch time, mostly after the lunch. Lunch is really hectic. It takes nearly 1 hour to prepare my lunch – including the dishes, chopping, cooking and then some cleaning again. I finish eating my lunch mostly by 2-2:30pm in the afternoon and by this time I am very exhausted. The evening snacks is around 5.30pm. I like cooking dinner and I have been focusing more on having a delicious dinner everyday. To me cooking lunch sucks. Cooking lunch is such a drag for me and I just do it because it challenges my survival, but cooking dinner is really fun and I never complain about it. I really put my heart in it.

I got to try a lot of things in the kitchen in these 15 days. I have cooked a lot of things – half cooked rice to burnt rice to super oily and super spicy curry to very bland and tasteless curry. Slowly, I perfected few things, got some good idea about the measures and quantities which make me feel good now. I am sure many people around the world would be struggling in the kitchen. The fight for survival teaches you a lot of things and hopefully makes you stronger and wiser. Cooking is not really tough as I always assumed but it does demand you to pour your heart in and it asks for some patience as well. After all, nothing leaves you happier than having a self-cooked delicious meal.

COVID19: The world was not prepared for a pandemic

The world was not prepared for a pandemic. Countries were not equipped with enough resources to identify the risk, deal with it and minimise the damage. They were busy pouring funds in everything but not in something which could combat this unforeseeable pandemic. No one could imagine the economic implications the pandemic could cause, trillions of dollars washed off the market. Coronavirus hit the world in January 2020 and in three months the world has crumbled down and there is no clear escape. It showed the world how unprepared it was. The wealthiest and the most equipped countries could not do much but to face the wrath of this deadly virus. The economy is tumbling down at an unexpected rate. Too much efforts have been put in by the governments across the world. Too much resources have been deployed, a lot of money has been sanctioned for the fight against the virus but no one seems to be a clear winner. Everyone is just thinking to minimise the damage and no one seems prepared for the future.

Coronavirus is more than a pandemic. This situation is no less than a war. It has left us with very few choices. We are already witnessing a lot of changes. Social distancing is the new way of living. Countries have sealed their borders. The airlines sector has gone for a toss and tourism completely slaughtered. The world around us is completely shut at least for some good 3-4 months. No hangouts, no parties, no strolling down the streets, no gathering, no movies, no shopping – everything that we were used to of doing is not normal any more. Lock yourselves down is what the situation demands. If you are a little casual about the virus situation that’s an alarm right there. You have to be very very careful of what you do, where you go, whom you meet. There are just too many restrictions this pandemic has put on us. The virus can even hit us harder if we are not much careful about it.

The aftereffects this virus is going to have on the whole world is unimaginable. There is a big uncertainty that is ahead of us. We are living in a world of uncertainty and there is much more to come. The world around is on a long pause and a resume seems very far fetched. We cannot expect the virus to just vanish some day and our lives become easy. It would take a lot of time and effort to find a vaccine that works and beyond that making it available to the whole world would be some task. No one is sure how long this pandemic will keep disrupting the normal life around the world. The economic disaster which the pandemic has already propelled will make many lives very miserable. We are riding a wave of uncertainty with almost no hope of the wave hitting the shore any time soon and even if hits the shore, who knows about the damage already done.

COVID19: The air is too fresh to breathe. We need smaller lockdowns regularly.

After the first few days of 21 days lockdown in India, the air started to get better. With almost the entire population locked in their houses, no vehicles to move on the roads, major industries closed down – there was a major change in the pollution level in the country. I am living in Gurgaon, one of the most polluted cities in the country (Delhi is even worse). During Diwali (Nov. 2019) the air was quite dangerous to breathe. I remember I started using air-purifier and even bought a lot of flower pots for the indoor air to be clean. It was not much of a relief. The air outdoors was filled with smoke and dirt. The air around was hazy and there was a low visibility than usual, seemed like it were cloudy outside for many days. I had developed a severe allergy because of the bad quality of air. Here is a brief of the Diwali 2019 situation.

Now, the most surprising part was people not realising it. The government did its job by asking people to use less vehicle and more of public transport but that did not help much. People would still use their private vehicles, the industries would still run and it took nearly a month or so for the air to be become breathable – which was still in a bad category on AQI index. The problem is no one cares much about the air they breathe. They do not even think it is affecting their lives. I mean, they will complain now and then but no one does his/her bit. I am even careless many a times. I do not shut down my car’s engine on the red light very often. Caring the environment is not in our character. We are knowingly/unknowingly destroying it minute by minute and we do not even think about it.

Come to think of the current situation. We are under lockdown and it just took 4 days for the AQI index of Gurgaon to drop to as low as 25, which I do not think is ever possible in normal scenario given our attitudes. My question is – should not we try for it? Even if we keep it under 100 on a regular basis, imagine the impact it is going to have. Imagine the younger generation breathing a fresher air and growing healthier. Have we ever thought about it? Now that the governments across the world have taken drastic measures to fight Coronavirus situation, we should and we must try some extreme measures for keeping the environment clean. Why not regular lockdowns, something like every fortnight. After all it is for everyone’s benefit. The main question is – do we really care?

The lockdown started on 25th March. Here are couple of screenshots showing the pollution level in city on 27th March and 29th March.



COVID19 Realisations – Domestic Helpers are such a luxury

We are under a 21 days lockdown in India. This essentially means if you are a sane person you would not move out of your house unless there is an utter emergency. A 21 days lockdown can teach you a lot of things. One of the things is how much of luxury are the domestic helps and how much dependency do they have in our lives. In India we can hire them for a very very affordable price. They help you with literally everything – dishes, cooking, laundry, cleaning the house, helping in the garden etc. You can go beyond that also – there is no limit. A domestic help who can do these things can be hired in a range of Rs 10,000 (about $150). And now I realise that it is nothing.

The maids usually visit in the morning, wrap things up in less than couple of hours. Even before you are having your breakfast, like a genie, your entire mess has been cleared up. You are not bothered at all. You find the kitchen is super fresh, the floors are shining, the clean windows letting in the fresh breeze of air. In the lockdown these domestic helpers are not allowed to move, so we have to take care of all the things. The kitchen does get very dirty, the sink gets flooded with utensils and blocked water, the floor looks gloomy with dust, peels of fruits and vegetables coming out of the garbage bin – is what the initial few days’ scene looked like. We are now getting a hang of the household activities and trying to minimise all the clutter we were careless about before.

Slowly, I have come to realise these domestic helpers are nothing sort of angels in our super busy lifestyles. They take all the pains to make your days shiny and nights relaxed. We need to recognise them for their efforts. We have to give them more respect, they deserve a lot of that. Less of that haggling when they ask for money and more of love and care is what they need.

COVID19: Coronavirus is more than a virus.

Well, I have to get in a habit of writing more and more. There is a complete lockdown of 21 days here in India. I have been working from home. Work part is not much disturbed. Being a software person, home and office are one and the same. It’s all about the laptop, internet and some music. Work is home and home is work.

There has been a lot of realisations in these lockdown days and there are still 9 more days to go. Even after that one may not be as mobile as they were earlier. This virus has killed everything – social life, personal life, economy, travels, weddings, celebrations. The world is not the same, at least for next few months. People are caged in their houses, streets deserted, malls closed, public transportation halted, no more morning walks in the parks, not hanging out with friends. The world has come to a still, and the places which are not are paying heavily for the carelessness.

There are so many challenges for a person under lockdown the first being he has never been programmed to be this situation. And that is why it is more haunting. Well, couple of initial days were not so bad, to be honest, but 21 days is really hard and one has to slowly and gradually make him stronger for that.

बाहर डर का माहौल है । There is a sense of fear when you step outside. A crowd in a grocery store is a big alarm. The coughing person on the cash counter at the grocery store is a big alarm. They are really a lot exposed as they have to deal with so many different people daily. It’s scary sometime to go to the grocery store. Till this virus takes a little breather we really do not have any option at hand. Nevertheless, life has to go on and it goes on irrespective of all the uncertainties. Hopefully we will come out as a winner from this pandemic.

I intend to write a lot more and I hope that will help me kill some time. Take care you guys, stay safe and sound.

1Custom Junior – The New Detail King!

Recently when I visited Jaben Store in Singapore, the much-beloved Uncle Wilson provided me a unit of a new triple driver IEM to review. When I used the IEM for the very first time, I was left awestruck with the quality of sound. After spending a good amount of time I am so mesmerized by the details the iem renders.

This new iem is 1Custom Junior. It is a triple driver hybrid IEM with 1DD and 2BA configuration where the earpieces have MMCX connection.

The main highlight of this bud is it has custom tuning switches at the back of both the earpieces which you can use to switch the tuning profile as per your need and taste.

Disclaimer-

I got the unit for the purpose of review only and is provided to me by JABEN Singapore, in return for my unbiased review.

Please note that I am not associated with JABEN by any means and my review is going to be my personal opinion about the IEM and not affected by JABEN by any means. You can buy a pair for yourself here.

Build Quality –

In terms of build quality, the pair is very nicely built, even though the earpieces are made up of plastic, the plastic is of great quality and you will feel it has a great built. The product feels well finished and build quality looks good enough to be comparable to those of IEM’s like the Moondrop Kanas pro despite being whole plastic body.

The IEM has custom tuning buttons on the backside of both of the earpieces, which we can use to change the tuning a bit according to our taste and need for music which we will mention during the sound quality part discussion.

The earpieces are in the shape of earplugs and sit nicely in my ears, the fit is just outstanding, they just won’t fall out of your ears even while running or working out or whatsoever, please note that I prefer over-ear style for wearing my earpieces.

Sound Quality –

In terms of sound quality, I was really impressed by the details and smoothness of sound it produced. The Sound is actually U shaped with thumpy bass response, detailed mids and smooth treble response. There is no harshness of any kind to treble or any other frequency, the soundstage feels wide enough and there are good details in instruments being played.

One can easily recognize different instruments being played even in fast songs, the instrument separation really makes the sound feel brilliant.

 

Let’s discuss the different aspects of the sound frequency range.

Lows –

1Custom Junior has really good thumps and bass response, the amount of sub-bass is also adequate and one won’t be disappointed in terms of bass response.

And the best part is none of the basses overlap the details in mids, I tried the song Thriller by Michael Jackson and all the music details and vocals everything was clear with no background noise through my Hiby R6.

Mids –

Even though the tuning of sound is U shaped here, mids are so detailed and crisp one won’t feel them laid back by any means.

Vocal based songs like the Acoustic session by Boyce Avenue feel full with life and shine brilliantly here, Heartbreak Warfare by John Mayer is also a good listen here with amazing music and brilliant vocals. Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice sounds very beautiful too.

Highs –

The treble response is well controlled and again well detailed here, Drums in Digital Bath by Deftones sound brilliant and mesmerizing here.

I am thoroughly impressed by the IEM’s response and music production, in Another brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd the music and vocals feel lively and forward.

There is no harshness or sibilance in the treble region, none of the music feels peaky or harsh to the ears.

Other songs which I tried – 

Yosi Horikawa: Bubbles
The Who: Baba O’ Riley
Sara K: Miles Away
Tingvall Trio: Vattensaga
Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble: Teufelsleiter
Radiohead (OK Computer): Exit Music (For a Film)
Funkadelic: Maggot Brain
Led Zeppelin: Since I’ve Been Loving You

Custom Tuning Switches –

There are several tuning options in the IEM’s available at the back of both the earpieces.

And a piece of cardboard is also enclosed with the package showing different tuning options available with the IEM.

I personally tried all the three options available for tuning, and to my ears, the sound tuning change is around 5% from the original sound.

When I tuned for bass response, the bass increase was not much or overpowering than the basic tuning from the bud and hardly a 4-5% increase in the depths of thumps.

Similarly when I tuned for vocals or details the overall increase in the said department was around 4-5%, but overall the IEM’s basically is brilliantly detailed in every department.

To be very honest the tuning portion is just a mere gimmick and there is not much difference noticeable. This whole tuning is not required when the iem sounds already so great.

Soundstage and Instrument Separation –

Even though the earpieces are closed container design, the soundstage is adequately wide and enough for most of the songs, even for binaural tracks by Yosi Horikawa the soundstage feels amazing.

And thanks to the brilliant detailing of the IEM, the instrument separation is really good even for quick death metal songs by Death and Opeth.

Also, it’s closed container design, the earpieces seal the ears well and there is no noise leakage of any kind even on higher volumes and noise isolation is good too, you won’t be able to listen to your environment and will be enjoying your music easily.

Final Verdict –

1Custom Junior is a great value for its price. To me, it surpasses many iems easily, in its price bracket. I compared with different iems – Fiio FH5, Moondrop Kanas Pro, Campfire Audio Polaris and oBravo Cupid.

Give a silver cable to JR., and it will kick out most of the iems from the room. The bass is more stable and clear. The instrument separation goes to a different level and the mids and lows start shining. It easily outperforms FH5, Kanas Pro and Polaris. And there I made a very bold statement. The bass is more sorted on JR. than in Polaris. Kanas Pro, which is a sweet-sounding iem does not match the details of JR. FH5’s heavy bass and highs are again not as much smooth and detailed as the JR’s. oBravo Cupid is still the next level monster. Nothing can beat it in its price range.

To me, JR is an instant favorite. I hope people do try it and see for themselves how worthy they are. I am very excited to try out the other high end iems from 1Custom.

 

Picture courtesy: My friend’s Website

Is Uber useful anymore?

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There used to be a time when using Uber was cheap. There used to be promotions and discounts and life was very easy. But now Uber has become really expensive. So expensive, that it hurts when you add up the total expense. The pool sharing has become very tedious as well, as it takes a lot of time for even a very small distance. Surges are now very common. Here in Gurgaon, whenever it rains there is a traffic disturbance and the Uber prices go very high. The surges are very common during festivals as well. I have paid as much as three times the normal during the festivals. These surges are very common in mornings as well. All of these factors add a lot of unnecessary dependencies. Either you have to wait for the surge to go down or adjust yourself according to the situation. I am so fearful of the rains these days that whenever the sky is dark, I book an uber immediately and leave everything behind to get to my home, else an easy wait time of a couple of hours for things to be normal – the rain and the surge.

There are many other problems as well. The drivers sometimes create a lot of nonsense. The whole followup and guiding them to lead to the pickup point is so cumbersome. They sometimes do not follow the exact directions and blame their GPS is not working or something else. Some are very finicky about the wait time. They won’t listen at all. Some do not follow the trip directions very well and some follow it so strictly that they do not take any suggestions. Then there are behavioral problems with drivers as well. Last week my friend dropped his phone on a ride and when he asked the driver to return it, he said that he had driven very far off and it was impossible to return it. There were many follow-ups but the driver never agreed to come anywhere near my friend’s location.  One of my colleagues lost his traveling bag the same way. Sometimes it is really hard settling an overcharge. There is no proper customer support to listen to your queries. You raise a concern and if those people are not satisfied with your reasons they will not settle the amount. I, very often, come across this issue. Uber is least concerned about these things, I guess.

All of these things are making the experience little too difficult to consider Uber an option. I feel helpless. I do not own a vehicle. Options are limited. So, I am totally dependent on Uber. That is what Uber always wanted you to be. So dependent and helpless, that you can not do anything. I used to think Uber was always a better option than owning a car and adding to already such a messy and massive traffic. But the burn it is leaving behind in my pockets is totally refuting my concepts. A few months back, it seemed I was saving a lot with Uber. But the base price has gone up a lot and there is hardly any saving. I spent Rs. 2500 in the week ending 26th Aug and that is quite a lot. I think I will have to think of an alternative. Maybe I need to buy a car.

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Spend during 20-26th Aug