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An ode to NPR and the technology that keeps me a loyal fan

December 29, 2008 4 comments

When I moved to Boston in 1997, having recently traded the life of a penurious grad-student in Buffalo to the slightly less penurious life of an entry-level Software Engineer, I spent most of my time in the car listening to pop/rock stations belting out the same old tired hits, punctuated by not-so-brief pauses while the hyper-ventilating RJ got a few random sound-bytes in. And then, I discovered WBUR (Boston’s NPR station, IMHO the best in the country). Yes, rather amazing that I hadn’t heard of NPR until then. But when one is living the life of the penurious grad-student bumming rides off other grad students who drive beat-up old Japanese cars, one doesn’t turn the dial to that which instructs and elevates – one just tags along, listening to “Jewel” or “Pink” or whatever.

If my time in Boston could be considered formative – in the sense of that much of my world-view was shaped during this time, NPR has definitely influenced a large part of it. Thank heavens that serendipity didn’t have Rush Limbaugh in store for me. Otherwise, this note might have been a paean to Palin or a rant against liberalism.

I would time my departure from home so that it coincided with Robin Lustig delivering BBC’s Newshour in his inimitable style. I’d spend lunch listening to Christopher Lydon’s “The Connection” on the Net and the drive back home listening to the soothing baritone of Robert Siegel in “All Things Considered”. Against my natural instincts, I’d sometimes drive under the speed limit(!) to make sure I didn’t reach work/home before a particularly interesting segment ended. Am I the only one who has had the experience of driving into a parking lot/garage and waiting for the segment/program to finish before getting out of the car? I hope this is an oddity that’s not unique to me!!

These days, my commute in Bangalore is long and painstaking, but thanks to the magic of mp3 and the iPod, I can listen to my favorite shows, albeit not “live”. I am spared the agony of listening to Bangalore’s insufferably upbeat RJs and their exaggerated enthusiasm for the local vernacular and can instead continue to feed my liberal bias and yet-to-abate appetite for the American zeitgeist. 

If you’ve taken the trouble to read this far, do chime in with your favorite radio shows (not necessarily just on NPR). And please – provide links to their podcast equivalent where possible.

~G

OK – this wasn’t really an “Ode” – more an “Encomium”, if we’re being technical! 🙂

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Categories: Musings Tags: , , ,

Oh! What a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!

December 29, 2008 3 comments

Before you jump in and read the rest of what follows, I must warn you that this note contains the usual gratuitous references to driving in Bangalore, my kids (and my barely concealed pride in them) and gasp!… some questions on spirituality and the afterlife. 

Owing to the generosity of the Massachusetts library system, whose services I will continue to undeservedly enjoy until 2010, I am able to download a variety of audio books for my listening pleasure during the drives in Bangalore that I love and enjoy so much. (As you can see, the driving leitmotif seems to govern many of my thoughts and actions!). My wife Deepa, and I decided that rather than subject our girls to the antiquated (timeless, as we like to think) music we like – or even worse, subject ourselves to the nursery rhymes that they like – we should start listening to some audio books that might captivate and educate, while at the same time keep them from listening intently to any gossip we might be sharing amongst ourselves. Those of you with kids will know how these nuggets of information seem to come out at exactly the most inopportune times. After having our attention riveted by a somewhat poor reading of the first book in the “Magic Treehouse” series, we started listening to a splendid reading of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. 
After a few chapters, our six year old, Alekhya, started to ask some rather difficult questions around Voldemort’s death, how souls work, how spirits fly to heaven and what happens in the afterlife. I guess I had it coming, especially since I had made some glib statements the previous day while watching Ratatouille (2 thumbs up!), about the rat actually being a reincarnation of the chef, Gusteau. Thankfully, we reached the end of our journey and I was spared the agony of having to think on my feet about one of the many subjects I am ill-equipped to expound on – reincarnation.

As expected, later in the evening, as Deepa and I were preparing to tuck the kids in for the night, the topic resurfaced.

Alekhya: “Appa, how does reincarnation work?”

Me: “It just works.” (yep, I’ve got this down to an art)

Alekhya: “How do I know if I’m going to be reborn as a human, or as a rat, like Remy in Ratatouille?”

Me: (Thinking on my feet) “Ummm – mumble, mumble… (clearing of throat)… cough… that’s how you know.”

Alekhya: “What??”

Me: (Shucks, there’s no fooling this kid) “Well, if you’re really good you’re born as a human and if not, a dog or maybe even a rat.”

Alekhya: “What if you’re really really really good?”

Me: “Then you’re born as somebody who can do everything well without trying – sports, music, math, the works.”

Alekhya: “What if you’re not really good, but not really bad either?”

Me: “You might be born as someone who has to really work hard for everything.”

Alekhya: (with a very worried look) “Appa, I’ve lied twice in my life – is this going to be a problem?”

Me: (After much hugging and kissing) “Nope sweetie – it is definitely not going to be a problem”.

Ah – what I’d give, to go back to a time when I could count the number of times I’d lied, on my fingers….

For now, I’m getting a head start on my next life…by downloading an audio book about rodents. 

Yeah – I’m pretty optimistic.