The Daily Khan


Pop Culture Accesibility

Over the past few weeks, I've been lucky enough to have absorbed quite a lot of popular culture from a variety of sources. And as I sit here watching After School Club on Arirang (don't ask), trying to understand Korean pop culture which inherently consists of (from what I can perceive) several young Korean girls with different colour hair dancing to highly choreographed routines, I keep thinking back to a certain conversation I had with a friend a few days ago.

I ended up watching the latest Hunger Games movie, except that this was the first time I was watching any of them. My friend, who has seen the others, asked me if I was familiar with the story. I narrated what I knew, and was quite impressed with my knowledge of the story even though I hadn't read the books or watched the movies. I answered with, what I believe, is the truth of much pop culture nowadays:

I surf the internet. You tend to pick up these things.

It's unbelievable how much junk I pick up spending hours on the internet everyday. To the extent that I actually watched the Hunger Games movie and had a fairly decent idea as to what was going on. Couple that with several other movies I've been indulging in recently, and a comedy show, a few books, and my daily dose of the internet, I realised that I am actually absorbing and processing tons of information every day. On top of which this city is still new to me, which is in and of itself, new information.

This came to me recently as I was fretting over not using my brain since I'm still looking for work. It's a very traditional way of thinking I suppose. One feels like one is not utilising one's mental abilities unless one is either at work or at school. Clearly not true.

If nothing else, I end up feeling better about myself at the end of the day.



Tim Cook is gay

Note: While I do understand that a very personal subject relating to the CEO of Apple has literally nothing to do with me, considering that he has made it public and is therefore public information, and this blog is all about me, I am going to make it all about myself.

Apparently this is old news. However, I only found out yesterday. So this is new news to me. When I first heard, I was quite shocked. For some reason, I never attributed any kind of sexuality to Tim Cook, or any major CEO for that matter. I just never thought about him as anything other than the CEO of the world's most valuable company. And while I realise now that he is as much a human being as I am, his personal life really is none of my business.

But then, yesterday's public acknowledgement was not for me. It was for others who would be able to identify with him at a completely different level now that he made this information public. And while my first reaction of shock quickly turned to embarrassment and essentially a confused mass of 'not-quite-sure-how-I-should-react-to-this-without-coming-across-as-completely-bigoted', I thought about the weight of this announcement.

The fact remains that had this been anybody else, it wouldn't really have been that big a deal. But this is Tim Cook. Tim Cook runs Apple, a company that is still strongly associated with it's co-founder, and he does the terribly difficult job of being the first CEO of the most valuable company in the world after it's co-founder. And while there is some debate about the quality of innovative products Apple has been producing over the last few years, the fact remains that for a person at that level to come out as gay, it is a pretty big deal. Considering that Apple does business with practically every country in the world, including governments and private entities, and that homosexuality has differing legal status globally, this is a big deal.

Maybe a move like this will lead to a more unified and open legal recognition globally. It's difficult to have a more important spokesperson than Mr. Cook. It is refreshing to hear a business leader talk so openly and personally about themselves, and in many ways, it makes him more human. I only hope that his legacy is not consolidated on just this fact. It would be a great disservice to his acumen and his accomplishments. But it is important to recognise the gravity of his announcement. It took him becoming CEO of Apple (for a while) to publicly announce such a thing. It really shouldn't be that difficult for people to do so.

In an effort to make it more relevant to myself, I thought about how I would feel if he had to come out and say he was Muslim. I would've been very proud, and would've thanked him for it, for showing the world that being Muslim does not mean something negative and deplorable. In fact, as a contributing and functioning member of society, any personal announcement he would've made should be celebrated. In any case, his announcement was extremely personal and hurts no one. But he still did so to show support and courage to those who still can't do what he did. Not many can, after all, there is only one CEO of Apple.

Maybe a day will come when such announcements will not be a big deal. But we've still to deal with a lot of bigotry over a lot of different human characteristics. We're not quite there yet. But maybe this is a step to catalyse things for the better.



The Waiting Game

One of the great challenges of looking for work (apart from the actual looking for work) is the conversations you tend to have with people. Networking with new people is sometimes easier and less stressful than connecting with and catching up with those you already know. Because, inevitably, irrespective of what is being discusses, the conversation always winds back to that familiar yet dreaded question: 

"How is the job hunt going?" 

The truth is that as an active member of the funemployed, the only answer to that I would like to give to that question is:

"I just accepted a lucrative offer in a highly promising and rapid growth organisation. Everything is as I would like it to be. My professional life is on track, aligning perfectly with my grand plans and now it's just a matter of time before everything beautifully comes together in a way that only the God's could have designed." 

Instead I am forced to launch into an excessively long and overly complicated tale of interviews, meetings and online applications that are not quite as concrete as I would make them out to be, assuring my listener that something is going to fall in place very soon. Round the corner. In the near future.

Very soon indeed. 

To be honest, my rather ambitious plans of relocating to SEA have yet to hit a brick wall. As with most of these things, I'm still awaiting feedback from potential opportunities. Until they say 'Thanks but no thanks' I refuse to let go of even the slightest bit of hope. But with every conversation with every well meaning member of the human race I do have regarding this, I wish I could give them the news that would allow us to progress to the next level questions in that line of discourse:

"So how are you finding your new job?" 

At the same time, the conversations I do have with other members of the funemployed give me support and hope. Gives me the strength to know that I'm not alone, that we're all in it together and that nothing would make me happier than to see one of us migrate out of funemployment to the proverbial rat race. It helps me to make sense of the whole grand scheme of things. To the sense point where it makes sense to me that I've squatted in Singapore, determined to make things work, to fight off roaches single handedly, to engage in domestic bliss while awaiting a more lucrative opportunity. It all makes it worth it. 

And even those who keep asking me how things are going, I do realise that it comes from a place of affection. I've been in that situation too. The only thing you can do to help is to ask after them and offer any sort of advice or support. And, unfortunately, the ungrateful wretch in me only wants the kind of help that involves an offer letter. 

But this is all a matter of playing the waiting game. As I battle my demons along this (hopefully) short road, I know, if nothing else, I'm really sharpening up my patience skills. 

As I firmly belive, it's only a matter of time. 





15 years

It isn't often that you get the chance to meet somebody 15 years from your past. But so focused and consumed have I been in looking forward, I forgot that it is not only rather pleasant but almost essential to look back and reminisce about the past. Such was my experience a few nights ago when out-of-the-blue I got to meet and reconnect with a friend I had not seen since the turn of the millennium.

In many ways, it was a very surreal experience. To be honest, I was afraid I would have an out-of-body experience over dinner, making what would essentially be an awkward experience even more so. I mean, when has catching up with a distant friend ever been anything other than awkward?

Turns out I needn't have worried. From the get-go we were chatting easily, discussing serious topics like where to have dinner, and finally when we located our eatery of choice and settled in to wait for the chefs to prepare us their culinary masterpieces, we got to exchange the real meaty information; essentially what we were up to for the past 15 years.

Strangely enough I do not quite remember what our friendship was like all those years ago. But walking around Singapore later that night, as he very kindly spent time showing me the city's sights, our conversation and connection seemed a lot more mature and realistic. I don't know if connecting with another individual as an adult is different than it is as a child (I would imagine it is vastly different), but for some reason I remember thinking that we probably, in all our time at school together, never spoke to each other quite like this. This freely and at this depth with this respect. It felt good.

I guess sometimes losing touch with people has it's benefits, if only to reconnect with them on a completely different plane.




A little over a year ago I found myself, for the first time, in Singapore. For three days I was blown away by the cleanliness, efficiency and the overall good vibes that the city shared with me. It also helped that at the point, I had just quit my job and was sitting on a large pile of savings, waiting to be burnt through. I had also a definite plan of what I was going to do once I returned from Singapore back to Dubai; I was beginning my MBA.

A year later, with the MBA done and the only remaining savings being ashes, I launch myself once again in the known unknown. At this time tomorrow I will be on my way to Singapore again. Except this time my plan is considerably different. I do not have a pile of anything to burn through, let alone cash. I do not have a concrete plan as to what I will do should I have to return earlier than expected.

Instead, I head to Singapore with all the hope and positivity I can muster, confident (or maybe over-confident) that I will be able to organise myself and sort out a career (not a job) over the next four weeks while I am there. Should that not work out? Then I guess I will have to back up and try again.

It's incredible how much difference a year makes. A year ago it felt like doing this would be a really great idea, something to accomplish at some point. Now, literally a day away from doing so, I have to remind myself just how quickly life has a tendency of moving, when you're busy living it. A year from now? Who knows. I only hope I have something to burn through by then.



The problem with the current smartphone conversation

I caught up with a friend yesterday and as we were supplying each other with details about what we've been up to since we last met (I casually  let drop that I am currently exploring professional I'm doing here), our mutual love of tech led us pretty quickly to the current global state of smartphones. It's a bit difficult not to discuss such things with people nowadays since there isn't really much going on in my life as is.

As with most things, our attention turned to Apple and the whole bendgate fiasco. We both agreed that more disappointing than Apple building a premium phone with soft metals was people's reaction to it. Yes, it is idiotic to try and bend your phone with your hands. But if some people are having functional issues at the most basic level of Apple products, however small that number, why is it not worth talking about it?

I have to hand it to Apple though. They managed to not only disrupt the mobile space with innovative products (like the original iPhone) and original problems (antennagate, bendgate, other possible future gates). It stands to reason that if a brand promotes itself as the ultimate in its category and charges me a premium to use their products, then as a consumer I require it to be absolutely perfect in every conceivable way.

At this point my friend, playing devil's advocate, used the 'Apple is about the experience more so than the specs' argument. That argument may have been a viable one a few years ago, but with Google's latest Nexus devices, along with several Android OEM devices, you get a more complete ecosystem, functionality at a variety of hardware and price-points.

And then you have new launches like Android One, Android L and the ongoing determination of Windows on your phone, essentially ensuring that you are being provided with the same user experiences at a fraction of the cost from a software perspective, coupling this with low-to-mid-to-high range hardware, and still this works out cheaper than iPhones.

Apple customers and fans should be pushing the company to innovate quicker and provide better products for their existing and potential new customers. The idea of defending a company and a brand, while quite common, is still something that I do not fully subscribe to. As a customer, you speak with your wallet. Unless you actively work for or own shares in Apple, it seems like a complete waste of time not calling them out on their weaknesses.

Despite all this though, all reviews will tell you that, by some sheer coincidence, the iPhone 6 is the best smartphone in the world. And the new Moto X is the best Android device in the world. I refuse to believe that in 2014, two American brands somehow have the best smartphones in the world. And that's another problem. The reality is that the the most important smartphone market is still the United States, and there exists an understandable bias when it comes to American tech reviewers reviewing American brands. I see the same thing when Top Gear (a TV show I adore) reviews British cars. Suddenly all the positives are perfect and the negatives are negligible.

The asinine chest-thumping and online arguments used to be interesting, but nowadays it does not come across as anything more than vapid and myopic. If these really are smartphones, then let's have a smart conversation about them.




At an alumni event last night, I got into a rather highly intellectually elevated conversation with a good friend of mine as we discussed our future plans post graduation. Predictably, both of us are still trying to figure out what exactly it is we wanted to do with our lives (you'd think after two degrees we would have a better idea) and how much money we wanted, but at least it felt good to know that I wasn't the only one having trouble pinpointing these things for myself.

I spoke to him about my pending move to SEA, and he was, befittingly, happy for me. At which point he asked me the million dollar question:


So, do you have an offer already or are you going there to explore options?

Which is a nice way of asking:


Do you know what you're doing?

I confessed, that while I did not have anything concrete in hand, my trip to Singapore would be a follow up on several promising leads. Which is a nice way of saying:


No income, no job, no assets.

At this point we got into a half hour discussion about how millennials (meaning people born between the early 80's and early 00's) like ourselves are more than willing to throw everything out of the window and try something purely for the experience. The Experience Economy as my distinguished friend put it. The NINJA generation (no income, no job, no assets) has been growing steadily, and now I was in a room of NINJAs. True, some people did have jobs and incomes and assets, but even these who did were those who had moved to this city in the hope of making a go of it, essentially building everything from scratch. It's a strange contrast to say, a generation ago, when the only reason my family would move to a new country without securing employment first was because the situation was so bad back home, being unemployed in a new country actually made better sense.

Without realising it, I can safely say that I am a proud NINJA, amongst all the other NINJAs I know. That boyhood dream of calling myself a ninja has been fulfilled...maybe not exactly as how I'd pictured it, but close enough really. Let's see for how much longer I can call myself a NINJA and truly mean it.

I hope it's not too long.



Mission to move

Over the past few weeks I've been actively working towards making sure that a random thought that occurred to me a little over a year ago turns into a full blown reality. As surprising as it would seem, I am actually looking to leave Dubai and venture forth into the unknown. Well, not all that unknown, but different none-the-less.

South East Asia is beckoning and I am all but there. In fact, come October and I should find myself in that part of the world, hopefully on a one way ticket. As an only child, taking such steps come with a fair amount of trepidation. Considering that I am 28, some may wonder how I waited this long to leave the nest. Others still may wonder why I even want to leave a city like Dubai (which, everything said and done, I adore dearly and owe a lot to).

It's difficult to explain why, but for whatever reasons, right now seems to be the best time for me to jump headfirst into something new and sink or swim (hopefully swim). Part of me feels considerably excited and I would be lying if I was not a bit naive. Try as I might, I have certain expectations about my life and a part of me feels like I'm setting myself up for a fall. The ultimate bachelor life with a high disposable income and a sweet house in a new city, with lots of good food and travelling all over at the drop of a hat. Yes, let's see what exactly I'm able to do about that.

Then, there's the other part of me that's inherently terrified of what is to come. I could very well sink. That's the last thing I want to happen. And whenever I think of that, I think that maybe it's better to be comfortable. And then I remember all the things I've said over the last year to my colleagues about taking risks and not being comfortable and I realise if I don't do this I will be the world's biggest hypocrite.

And then, just to give me that extra boost, I woke up this morning to read about India's first successful attempt at launching a Martian orbiter. Unbelievable. At $70m, in their first attempt. Embarrassingly, as an Indian, I had no idea all this was going on, but as is usually the case, the first success brings all the attention. I can't remember the last time I was this proud. While some might say it is ridiculous to be proud of where you're from, considering that being from a country was a complete fluke, I would disagree. The person I am now could only be possible had I been my parents son, from India. Were I born elsewhere, I would've been a completely different person. Not me, but somebody else.

So who I am ties in very strongly to where I'm from.

If we can send an orbiter to Mars, then seriously, what am I so worried about staying on Earth?

Congratulations to ISRO and the Mangalyaan team.




About two weeks ago, my phone died. My beloved Nokia Lumia 920 essentially bit the big one and decided to call it a day. It works now, except the two years of work I put in to personalise it has pretty much evaporated.

That isn't such a bad thing except that it happened just a few months too early. Now, in the interim, I find myself having to use a new phone for the next months, before I actually go out and buy a phone to upgrade myself to the latest and greatest that is/will be available.

See, I like to have a two year phone cycle, and this December makes exactly two years since I bought my Lumia. And it's been a great device. Never slowing down or stuttering, letting me do what I wanted to do, allowing me to organise and save my data the best way I could (which essentially meant I didn't really lose anything important when my phone had to be reset). In many ways, it offers everything my new phone does, except that my new phone does certain things better.

Yes, I have finally succumbed to the Korean chaebol and will be working with a Samsung Galaxy S5 Duo till December (at which point it will go to my mother and I will go out and buy a phone I really want).

Let me be clear though, this is a very good phone. I last used Android two years ago, when my HTC Desire was stuck on v2.2, refusing to be updated. Fed up and in love with the UX of Windows, I decided to jump ship and invested time and effort into this new ecosystem. In many ways, there are lots of things Google can learn from Microsoft. Similarly, there is quite a bit that Microsoft can learn from Google.

For one, Android (post 4.0) has become the most polished and accomplished smartphone OS in the world (I have never used iOS but I cannot possibly imagine it being any way more impressive than Kit Kat). The level of customisation is unparalleled, and this with an OS that is essentially as closed as the other two (Google is moving away from open source slowly but surely). In fact, there just might be too many things going on in Android. I don't really know if I need to hand adjust half the setting on my phone, but I like to know that should I need to access them (and actually figure out what they mean), I can. Otherwise I do not touch them and everything works just fine. Just like my computer.

The parallels between Windows on PC and Android on smartphone are too many to count. But essentially, just as pretty much everything works with my PC, so does everything work with this smartphone. Google has finally figured out how to make good solid software.

Unfortunately, for me, Windows on the smartphone is just a better looking UX. The Live Tiles and the swipes and gestures are a lot more pleasing to my eye than Android's blocky grids. I do not require multiple home screens. I much prefer the 8.1 version of a single vertical tiles layout. It just works much better for checking stuff quickly.

Microsoft also essentially locked their software on OEM devices. Which is something Google is only now getting round to. Admittedly, by giving away their software for free and opening up the source code to anybody and everybody, Google managed to get big very fast. But it still says something when I cannot use the best version of Android on the OS's best selling smartphone brand.

Samsung is many things, and excellent at many of those things, but they are at best an above average software firm, nowhere in the leagues of actual software companies like Google or Microsoft. Using TouchWiz on this device isn't painful or difficult. It is, amongst other things, utterly cluttered and frustrating to know that even though I paid a whole lot of money for my phone, a cheaper Nexus device (which is hard to come by in certain markets, making it not worth the premium you end up paying for it because of exclusivity and shipping) runs the best version of Android.

Having said all this, it is fair to say that my next phone come December, the one I intend to spend the next two years of my life with, will most probably be an Android device.

As much as I love Windows and my heart bleeds at the death of the Nokia brand, the most exciting and bleeding edge developments are happening on Android phones. It's bound to be the case. When so many OEMs are working on differentiating their devices while still trying to offer the best software experience available, you will end up with the best designed, best hardware-d phones, more so than either Microsoft or Apple can do. And with the onslaught of Chinese OEMs, building as good (if not better) phones than the Koreans or Japanese and others, at half the price (which is where I most likely see myself procuring my next handset from), you suddenly start to ask yourself why exactly is it necessary to pay $1,000 for a smartphone that, in all honesty, I will only use for the next two years.

For now though, I still need to get used to the Android grid.




For the longest time, it could be argued that despite all the intense competition, Apple was somehow always ahead of the curve with their designs and software utility.

That, in my opinion, ended yesterday.

With the release of larger versions of the iPhone, and a smartwatch, Apple is pretty much saying, "Yes, we are following the competition". It is slightly sad and exciting at the same time, because for the first time in a very long time, Apple has let go of their intellectual property advantage over their competitors. While it lost out to market share to Android a while back, Android's fragmented market and 'open source' software ensured that Google dominated the smartphone arena at all price points in all form-factors possible.

It was an interesting strategy that established Android as a large and dominant force. And, as with most market leaders, it looks like Google (and to a large extent Samsung) have also wrestled the responsibility of pushing the industry forward with new innovations and technologies.

And while it is embarrassing to see the press fawn over the new Apple products in the most childish way possible, my opinion on the matter is diametrically opposite. The new iPhones are ugly. The design of the iPhone 5S and 5C were pretty much as perfect as iPhone designs could get. Now they just do not look like premium devices. Instead, we are left with thin phones (but not quite as thin as Huawei's Ascend line) with large screens (but not quite as large or HD as the offerings from practically all Android OEMs and Windows OEMs).

To top it off, we have a bulbous, oddly interfaced (with UI very similar to the Pacemaker), that is being marketed as a piece of jewellery. Much after Android came out with several models.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are not nicer looking than Sony's Z3 line, or the Huawei Ascend P7, or the LG G3. The Apple Watch is not nicer looking than the Moto 360. From a hardware and design perspective, Apple seems to have gone a few steps backwards. None of their new products come across as premium. They just don't seem Apple.

It's quite obvious that the Apple Watch is Tim Cook's baby, and that's absolutely fine. He runs one of the largest companies in the world, it's only reasonable that he would want to make something from scratch. But the competition right now is incredibly fierce. With Google's new Android L right around the corner, and more and more Chinese OEMs showing how to make high quality phones at half the price, Apple may be facing an issue that Microsoft has been dealing with for a while now; the battle for relevance.

I personally hope Apple is able to compete. After all, as a capitalist consumer, what is better for the marketplace than competition? But Apple may have to finally figure out how to compete from a weaker position. Something that they haven't had to do in years.