Monday, November 14, 2011

The Travails of Printers...

Pause. Think. Reflect. What makes a really serious difference to your quality of life? Pollution? Roads? Home Cooked Food?

You are all wrong.

The only thing that truly matters is Printers.

Printers are a driving force for much of our adult life. The predicament starts (or at least used to start, earlier) when one enters college. Parents watch their children with a mixture of pride and trepidation thinking "Wow! My child is now old enough to take printouts. May God guide the connecting cable" Students feel powerful, bold, ready to take on the world.

And then reality sinks in. One printer. One printer! One printer??? One miserable little dot matrix, for a class of 60 students??? "That's because this is an A Grade college" quips the Lab Attendant. "In the B Grade colleges, they have to get all printouts taken from outside. In the C Grades, they write the programs by hand" Ouch!

And then we learn what life is all about. Backstabbing, double dealing, groups, politics. You form coalitions, frame codes, making sure one of your groupies is always there in the Queue for printing. You also form secret agreements with other groups without telling your friends, "just in case..." You make sure there's at least one local language speaking person in the group to beg borrow and plead with the watchmen & lab attendants if needed, when you need to get the lab opened at 6 AM in the morning because the submission is at 8:30 AM. You quickly learn to speak "Urgent submission. Please help us, O most Venerable One" in the local language. Also helps if you have got girls in the group; You don't even need the words, the look alone does the trick.

Of course, the printers have an infallibly accurate track record of failing EXACTLY when most needed. The computer's print command doesn't register, the papers get stuck, the ink runs out - everything happens. Right when time is at a premium and beads of sweat are clamouring on your brow. Then you invoke the spirit of the Printer Baba with a fervour that would put even the most ardent devotees to shame. Printer Baba, people mention in hushed, awed tones, is the spirit of a lonesome student who ages ago died of a heart attack because He couldn't take printouts in time for his submissions. With His dying breath, He swore He would help all those who believed in Him. (Additionally, Printer Baba being a male engineering student responds much faster to the feminine touch; I swear the printers worked better when girls handled them!)

Some poor miserable souls try to work around the system. They buy a printer from their hard earned pocket money keeping it guarded in their rooms or at their homes. Woe betide you if you every try this. Your room will be invaded at all odd times by rapacious souls salivating for the elusive printout. And there's nothing more pitiable watching the printer owner helplessly pleading with them ("Guys I wont have ink left to take my own printouts!") and watching the swarm exhaust every last drop of CMYK left.

And if you think things get better when you enter the corporate world and start working, you are in for a rude shock. Printers are THE most jealously guarded resources in a company. They are almost instruments of State Policy. Hello, don't go around touting your bonus and your top performer rating - You haven't arrived in the company till you have access to a colour printer! After years of praying and yearning, you might get access to one. But before that its an uphill task. Consider the following scenario:

You spend all night working on that knockout presentation for your Boss, who has to discuss stuff with his boss. Being an MBA from a premier Indian institute, if nothing else, you make sure it at least has the jazziest, most colourful graphs and diagrams ever to grace Microsoft Powerpoint. At 3 AM in the night you send a mail to your Boss (Yay; He knows I have been working all night) and in the morning you pay him a visit.

"Sir, I sent you the presentation"

"Yes I saw the mail. Can you give me a printout please? A little quickly, I have to leave in 10 minutes"

"Sir, I thought, since I had sent the e-mail..." and you stop.

He gives you The Look. The "E-mails are for sissies. Real Men take printouts" Look

"Is it a problem?"

"No Sir, of course not, I will get it..."

And you come out of the cabin, your heart racing faster than Michael Schumacher on full throttle. Words come out of your colleagues' mouth, but they don't seem to be making any sense.

9 minutes.

You look around frantically. Everyone has an Agony Aunt / Uncle usually - the one who gives you pearls of wisdom on "The way we do things here" Your eyes pierce the cubicles till you manage to locate him. You rush like theres no tomorrow, panting and breathless and blurt it out "Bossneedsaprintoutin10minutesidonthavecolourprinteraccess"

He looks at you, adjusts his horn rimmed spectacles, and says "Calm down. Tell me whats the problem"

8 minutes.

You go staccato.

"Boss. He. Needs. A. Printout. I. Don't. Have. Access. Please. Its. Urgent."You see him firming up, preparing himself with steely resolve. You wait with bated breath.

"This is going to be difficult. Very, very difficult"

7 minutes.

"There's only one option. The Cleaning Services Audit department." And he gives you a look of grim understanding.

Cleaning Services Audit? We have a department to audit that??? And why on earth do they have a colour printer!!!

"Make it quick. The clerk there knows me - we take the same train back home. Tell him I sent you"

While you eyes are about to brim with tears of gratefulness, he pauses, looks around to make sure no ones looking and then says "And while you are there, can you take a couple of printouts for me? I need it for my daughter's homework assignment. I will give you the file in a flash drive"And you rush there at top speed, looking around for the clerk. You finally locate him based on the Agony Uncle's subtle description (wears earrings; Doesn't shave)

5 minutes

You explain the gravity of the situation. He nods his head in patient understanding and says "But what to do; Saahib will be angry if he knew other people are taking printouts"You plead, beg, anything to make him agree...

4 minutes

Please, please, you tell him. You must have also faced this situation sometime. Didnt you have to take a printout in an emergency ever???
The statement triggers a chain reaction of thoughts in his mind. His eyes moisten and he says "I will help you" and gets up to switch on the contraption in front.

3 minutes.

You insert the flash drive, locating the files at lightning speed, praying they open (they do). The printer's connected, you check the preview, and with an invocation to the Almighty, click on "Print"

1 minute

Nothing happens.

"C'mon, c'mon, for the love of Heaven, by the grace of everything thats good in this world - work, you damn thing, work!"

You see with a look of horror that your Boss is stepping out of his cabin, asking his secy "I had asked for some printouts, where are they..."

You stand glum, in abject surrender, your faith in machinity about to be destroyed...

And then on cue, with the finesse of Amrish Puri in DDLJ's climax scene ("Jaa Simran Jaa, Jee Lay Apni Zindagi), the machine splutters, gasps, and out come the most beautiful sheets of paper you have ever seen.


Is this what Nirvana feels like, you wonder. They are not bad, really, Printers...

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