From “Whenever” To “In The Moment”

Wishing all my friends and followers a very Happy and Prosperous 2013!

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After the short break, I thought I will start with a post about how partying on New Year’s Eve has changed for me over the years. There is a very significant trend that I see, especially in the way people greet others wishing them luck in the New Year.

But first a look at New Year’s Eve past…

Early Years

I can tell you that the New Year had very little significance in my early years. My family followed the traditional Tamil Solar Calendar which had its New Year’s Day on April 14th. There were greater festivities and greeting each other on April 14th than on what we called “The English New Year”. In fact, other than struggling to get the year printed right on school-work (Indian schooling system those days used to involve a lot of writing and we used the Universal Calendar), there was little significance of the days.

But we were courteous people and would greet friends and relatives a “Happy New Year” when we meet them for the first time after December 31st. If I look back, the most significant thing was that we could do this anytime up to the middle of January, if not all of January!

During My First Job

During my Engineering College Days, for whatever reason – I suspect the tight budgets & living on a monthly dole made partying difficult at the end of the month – we never had any big parties.

This mindset continued into my first job (until 1995) – I only recall one party with some of my childhood friends who were continuing in the academic stream and were in the same city as I. Good fun, but not great to have continued it.

Coming to the point of this post – even during this period, when I stayed far away from hometown for the first time, it was not important for me to call up friends & relatives in the middle of the night and wish them. There were practical difficulties – there were not many phones in India to call from or be called – a condition that had prompted my then employer to get into the business of manufacturing telephone exchanges and employ me too!

And, other than my employer’s VSAT based connection across their plants & customer-site offices we didn’t have anything like the Internet and mailing was an esoteric practice done by a set of us who had access to the Unix mini-computer of our employer!

So, we continued – perhaps lesser than before because of work preoccupation(!) – greeting people for the New Year until mid-January.

Working With An Operator

Things changed with the advent of GSM services in India in the mid-90’s. We now had more phones than before and ones that guaranteed that you will connect with the specific individuals themselves. I was working back in hometown now, surrounded by childhood friends and relatives, and working for a GSM operator had put a free phone at my disposal too.

Yet I couldn’t party nor make calls or send messages in the middle of the night!

The most stressful part of New Year’s Eve and the countdown to a new year is: the sudden burst of traffic on the network! This would cause a few database table alarms (Ericsson had something called a Size Alteration Event) or route congestion alarms which would need attention and as the “first-line” expert, I had to be available for consultations to the NOC team (they had a tougher job).

So, with most of my midnight calls directed at listening to the list of alarms and trying to figure out if there was any unusual alarm, I continued my ritual of greeting up until mid-January. Of course, I started using emails for the more formal and distant relationships, which would be sent out as “Season’s Greetings” around 24th December – people weren’t regular at reading mails, then!

The Y2K Story

The countdown to midnight had grown by the time we hit the turn of the millennium. I had now become responsible for the Switching & VAS NOCs and had been given the responsibility of planning and ensuring a smooth Y2K transition for the network.

This was the eve of the new Millennia and more parties organised across the city. More people outside translated to more calls and SMS’ at around midnight! And we had to ensure that the infamous “Y2K Bug” does not bring down the network either – more than a technical failure it will be scandalous and make the technical leadership look inept at handling such a massively forewarned problem.

I spent the night in the NOC, as did my boss. We were watching a number of parameters, alarms through the night, running special de-congestion scripts and encountered one minor Y2K bug specific failure which was rectified by 2am.

So, my greetings for ushering in the New Millennium was no different – spread into the first half of January.

Mid-2000’s

I feel that during the mid-2000s is when the “greeting in the moment” fad caught up with me. Most of the greeting was SMS messages sent out at the stroke of midnight – I initially used my own Aspect Scripts with the published ATDT commands for the phone (and even built a VB macro & Form in Excel to generate an Aspect script). Subsequently, have used the communication software bundled by phone-maker or freeware available from third parties.

The Arrival Of 2013

The interesting part about the advent of 2013 is that – apart from SMS and emails – I was also glued in on 4 Social Networking sites and WhatsApp! Two more mechanisms to greet “in the moment”!

I found that this enabled me to choose my responses to individuals, prioritise and personalise interactions as I deemed fit – better than the automatic processes of SMS & emails! WhatsApp is no different than SMS in the current scheme of things – but with only a small percentage of friends on this, I was able to pick my way through the messages to the more important ones!

Thanks to Home WiFi and data plans, almost everyone in my family was online on one of these mechanisms during the countdown & subsequent fireworks watching!

Conclusion

I feel that this “in the moment” fad augurs well for the following set of topics in 2013. These will be the areas that I will focus on for most part of the coming year, is what I feel right now.

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