Something’s Missing…

April 6, 2010

My elder son wrote his 10th Board exams last month. While most of his friends had chosen Sanskrit as the “second” language, we prevailed upon Ved to take Hindi. The reason being we could help him with Hindi and not Sanskrit. I took it upon myself to teach him Hindi. After-all, I am the son of a Hindi professor. My grounding in Hindi has been good, I topped my class in Hindi in both 10th and 12th.

Ved’s syllabus had Kabir, Meera, Pant, Mahadevi Verma etc which I think we covered with relative ease. There were some interesting interludes though. When studying Meera and her devotion to Krishna. She says that she would do whatever to get Krishna residing close to her. Said Ved to me, rather seriously, “Dad, if I were Krishna I would never ever even look at Meera. She is crazy!!” Aah, what a difference a word makes! Would not the Hindi baawari be better than crazy?

In of the chapters there was a reference to Krishna coming to Draupadi’s rescue during her “cheer-haran”. And Ved wanted to know who Draupadi was. And he freaked when he got to hear that she was married to five brothers, all at once!

See the erosion in knowledge over three generations? My father is fluent in Sanskrit, and here I was convincing my son to take Hindi for his boards as I was not confident of helping him with Sanskrit. The next-gen extends this to absence of knowledge about a commonly known detail from the Great Epic. The kid is not to be blamed, he has just not been exposed to this story. And my wife and I are the “culprits”, so to speak.


Don’t you think something getting lost here?


Not that I have not been trying. It is an old habit of mine, listening to “Hanuman Chalisa” in the morning, on my way to work, in our car’s audio system. The family car has changed over time, the medium has changed (cassette, CD, and now thumb drive); but this little habit of listening to the “Chalisa” has not. What has also remained constant is the “teaching” I do to my kids as we drive together on their way to school. I explain to them the story of Hanuman and the meanings of the words in the “Chalisa”. Sample this: “Ramdoot, atulit bal dhama, Anjani-putra, pawan-sut nama”. Now you need to picture two lads- my sons- in their early teens, having lived nearly all their lives in Bengaluru figuring out what those words mean. Figure “doot”, “atulit”, “baldhama”, “Anjani” etc. They quietly imbibe the daily lesson. But that’s about it.

I fret sometimes, there is “something” being lost here, in this decline of knowledge about our cultural heritage. And I don’t know if something is being gained in the process.


Mai, my mother, God bless her, is going strong on 81 now. She can still sing in her strong voice the Bhojpuri folk songs of yore, sohar, chaiti, vivah geets etc. Creeping dementia makes her repeat some of the lines again and again. But she holds forth with great enthusiasm. And that enthusiasm is very visible when on a recent visit to her place (she and Pitaji, going on 86, stay all by themselves in Jamshedpur) I take out my laptop and begin recording her singing. Long forgotten songs from my childhood now digitally captured on my lap-top hard disk.

My wife is cheerfully though silently joining in some of the songs. She is more “humming-along” than “singing-along” as she does not know the words of many of these songs. Here is another aspect of our culture being lost. The next gen will probably have no clue about these age-old folk songs, forget about associating each song with a specific occasion.


My wife is at least aware of festivals and sundry rituals accompanying the festivals. She still does teej and rakshabandhan and lakshmi puja during Diwali and other such activities. She still covers her head with a dupatta and sits down to do Durga path during navratri. She still banishes non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays. Much to the chagrin of the children who adore non-vegetarian food at all times of the day.

As for me, I am not into pooja etc. Neither do I visit temples unless it holds a “touristy” significance. I do know the significance of the festivals but I have a “could-not-care-less” attitude. I am not a compulsive non-veg eater, but if it served to me on Tuesdays on my travel, I am perfectly fine. I do not fret if I miss Holi or Diwali due to my business travels across the globe.

Something is indeed being lost here.


Pitaji fretted when he was getting me (and prior to me, my elder brother) admitted into the school where we finally passed out from. After-all he was then a Hindi lecturer in a prestigious college. And our school was an English medium one, run by Irish-American Roman Catholic priests. Some of Pitaji’s colleagues remarked on his hypocritical approach; teaching Hindi for a living and having his own sons admitted into an English medium school. While others told him this would make the sons’ future, why should he impose his personal preferences on his children. The latter camp won. We passed out from this English medium school. This was in the 60’s and 70’s when English medium schools were not common, though highly coveted.

I am sure, Pitaji too would have wondered again and again, is something getting lost here?


My wife and I had both decided that we will speak to our children only in Hindi. No English words even. This was rather tough as they both grew up in a mixed society in Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore. Not the ideal places for Hindi speaking friends and classmates. But we persisted. Till the schools where they went to summoned us- in case of each of them- when they turned five that enough was enough and it was high time we started speaking to them in English. Or else they would fall behind in class.

With great diligence- and effort- we switched to English. Kids made slow progress with conversational but with eventually did succeed and with strong long-term effects. So much so that now, when the children are in their teens, it is normal for the family to converse only in English. Sometimes, when I insist that they talk in Hindi, the conversation is so stilted that we switch back to English.

Something surely has got lost here!


Wonder what you, dear reader, feel about this loss. In a future post I will give my version about what I think is indeed getting lost.


PS: Ved struggled with his Hindi exam preparations, he was exultant when I went to pick him up after his Hindi Boards. “No more Hindi for me, ever!” he exclaimed. I quietly assured him then, “Ved, another twenty years or so, you will long to come back to Kabir, Meera and Tulsidas. You will. And then you will thank me for the works of these poets I have in my book collection.”


Winter Musings: Part Two

January 3, 2010

Winter was a great time for eating. Mai was more liberal with poori and pulao in winter as compared with summer and monsoon months. Perhaps winters were supposed to be “healthier” than the other seasons. This coupled with the fact that in the winters the choice of sabzis was far more varied, and far more welcome. Summers and monsoons had all kinds of specimens from the gourd family creeping put: Lauki, konhada, turai, nenua, kaddu. To add to this evil- and foul- list were bhindi, sem and baingan. I will not translate these into English for those who do not understand these terms, let them suffer year-long servings of the aforementioned sabzis. Anyway, coming back to the winters, the royalty among the vegetables would surface: phool-gobhi, patta- gobhi, mooli , gaajar, matar, dhaniyasarson- ka-saag, and chane- ka-saag. A gourmet’s selection! (Remember, we were a vegetarian family!). So it could be an aloo-paratha for breakfast, pulao for lunch and gobhi parathas for dinner. What bliss! Especially if the dinner was crowned with gaajar ka hawaa, or more commonly, kheer.


There was one coveted fruit, ber, which the elders tried to keep out of bounds for children till the Saraswati Puja. Ber has multiple species, thankfully only the light-green elongated one (called “Kashi ber”) was the one reserved as an offering to Ma Sarasawti, we could partake of the reddish-brown variety which grew readily in the wilds. In my early childhood days we stayed in a place surrounded by a forested area. And a prominent winter feature was a walk through the woods, as it were, hunting for bers. We would return home satiated with our fill of bers and with acres of our skins scratched by the thorny ber shrub! (To all you nerds reading this piece, the botanical name of ber is Ziziphus mauritania.)

Bhojpuri-speaking people in India have this universal “dish”, litti. If you have not had the pleasures of having litti in the middle of winter, let me tell you, you have not lived! It is not the delectable flavours of litti alone, but the entire process of preparing it on a bitingly-cold winter evening. To start with, litti is prepared outdoors, as much smoke is released when litti is prepared. If you want to know what litti is all about, then here is a rather pedestrian description: Atta is moulded into rounded hollow balls into which you fill a spiced version of sattu. (Sattu is a ground form of chana, it is not NOT besan, the preparation of sattu is a process by itself). As the balls are getting formed, you stoke a “barbecue” with dried cowdung cakes (gointha). The atta/sattu balls are then inserted into the smouldering fire with potatoes, baingan and tomatoes following it for company later. After sometime, the vegetables are pulled out manually, followed by the littis. The roasted vegetables are peeled off their burnt skins and mashed along with spices, salt and mustard oil. That is the “chokha”. The littis are sieved free of the ashes of cowdung cakes on a thin muslin cloth and served along with the chokha with bowlfuls of ghee. Aah, the joys of litti-chokha!!

Now that was a rather prosaic description. There were colorful sidelights as well. As the barbecuing happened, the entire men-folk would assemble around the fire and exchange all sorts of gossip as the cooking proceeded. Some puffing on their beedis. Many lolling around with their gamchhas tied around their legs, below the knee, and their backs; see-sawing on their butt around the fireplace.


Waking up in the mornings was a torture. The waking up process would start sometime around 8 am and extend for an hour or so. Within that hour, I would periodically raise my head from under the rajai, glance around and once I was assured that all was well with the world, and that it was too early and cold to wake up, would promptly cover myself up with the rajai and drift off again. There were mornings I would wake up real early and stroll out into the open air savoring the bitter cold. Blowing clouds of vapors in the open air made me feel all grown up, as if I was smoking a cigarette!

And that remains one of the most abiding memories of my childhood.



Winter Musings: Part One

January 3, 2010

The great thing about my school was the generous winter holidays we used to get. Those days our school sessions followed the calendar year- January to December. So the first week of December saw us appearing for our final exams, with a geometry box clipped smartly into the clipboard we used to carry to the classroom. The clipboard was employed to ensure that we did not drill holes into our answer sheets as they lay spread on the rough classroom desk. The temperature was still reasonably moderate till then, so we could get away with just a half-sweater. Some “weaklings”, as we used to call them, would come fully armoured with a thick full-length sweater and a monkey-cap!

Anyway, the exams were but a mere impediment to the 5-6 week long winter vacation which would follow. Of course there was the small issue of the annual reports to be dealt with but that was just an occupational hazard of being a school student. Thankfully my marks were pretty much ok and more often than not I would be one of the top three rank holders of my class. This meant that I was called upon the stage, in front of my justifiably beaming parents, to receive a prize from the school principal. Ours being a Jesuit-run school (Loyola, Jamshedpur), the prize ceremony also had the usual Christmas tableaux preceding the ceremony on stage. I remember being assigned different roles in different years. A tailor in one, one of the three Magi in the other. Or just a “Christmas tree” in another. And in good X’mas spirit we also would learn how to hum “Silent night, holy night”, “Rudolph, the red-nose reindeer”, etc.).

All good fun. In anticipation of the bigger fun which followed the prize ceremony, the winter holidays!

The one great thing about the winter holidays was that the books of the preceding 12 months were of no use. After all we were moving from one class to another! Hence, there was no homework either. What followed was an unadulterated month and a half of fun which got over only when the school reopened on the Monday after Makar Sankranti (14th January).


Upon return home after the last paper of the final exam, I would have a quick bite and head-out to see what my neighborhood friends were up to. They would all be outdoors, playing in the sun. Winter season sports were varied. Cricket was, of course, the most popular one. We would all get onto the neighborhood field (an open patch with a sprinkling of grass on an undulating piece of land covered mostly with pebbles, really) attempting to become the next Bedi, Gavaskar or Vishwanath. Some would even fancy themselves to the next Salim Durrani who was the equivalent those days of Sehwag, if and when he succeeded in scoring some runs. Some other players who thought they were as agile as Eknath Solkar would end up with bloodied shins and elbows trying to take an impossibly placed catch right in the middle of a rubble in the “field” of ours.

The cricket session depended on whether the sole supplier of the cricket gear to our group was home or not. And if home, if he was in the mood to play or not. Often he would be found on the terrace of his house rubbing vigorously litres of mustard oil (sarson ka tel) on his body soaking in the winter sun before his bath. An application of mustard oil in winter was believed to give one strength to brave the winter onslaught besides of course making one’s skin more soft and supple.


We never despaired if cricket was not possible, there were several options available. The two most popular winter season games were gilli-danda and marbles. Neither required any elaborate kit and we were not dependant on anyone to supply us that. We would fashion, impromptu, our gilli-danda with some branches cut surreptitiously from our neighbors’ guava or mango trees. If you do not understand what gilli-danda means you probably are reading the wrong blog and I shall not attempt to explain the sport to you. For those you do understand the game, you will agree that it was a magical day spent outdoors under the winter sun! Gilli-danda with all its multiple variants. Ditto for marbles!!


The winter sun would set early in Jamshedpur, say around 5.30 pm. It would also get cold and there was no question of staying outdoors any longer. So off we trudged back home on our weary feet. Our grimy bodies longing for a wash, our parched throats aching for drink. A cup of hot Horlicks, more often than not. Our parents would also swathe us in elaborate winter clothing, the winters in Jamshedpur could be pretty severe. Suitably fortified with drink and clothing, I would proceed to my next- and very pleasurable- activity. No, not TV serials, there was no TV around those days. Books were what delighted me when indoors. As I lay tucked into my rajai.


I have done most of my reading of Hindi literature during my school winter vacations. The very first day of holidays Pitaji would get for me some 8-10 books from his college library. Not only books written by Premchand, Dharmvir Bharti, but also translations of Bengali novels into Hindi; I then used to read the novels of Bimal Mitra and Shankar.  If the college library was not enough, there was another library those days in the city, the one belonging to Gandhi Peace Foundation which to my surprise had a lot of stuff even beyond Gandhian literature. Like American books on science and history. If there was nothing else available then there was always this library local Community Development Center run by the Tatas which had among other back issues of Readers Digest.

Winter, as you would agree, is a time for winter clothing. Those days these were confined to sweaters. Half or full. And nearly all hand-made. With balls of wool bought from a store in Bishtupur; “Dongarsidas and Sons”. There were the packaged balls, branded Modella (with the brand logo of a lion) if I remember correctly, and there were the cheaper “loose” wholesale variety. The store also helpfully sold knitting needles (called “kaanta” in common-speak). Mai and others spent many a winter evening knitting sweaters. The single-coloured ones with the following the basic patterns were the simplest to knit. There were more complex designs, the self-design in the single coloured ones, and they was also the dual-tinted wool. Women would kind of memorize the knitting sequence and would recite aloud as they sat knitting among their groups of friends, “Ek-ulta, do-seedha, do-seedha, ek-ulta.” Etc etc. And as the knitted piece of the wool lengthened, they would call whoever was available close-by to check the length.


(To be concluded)

Reflections on Stainless Steel

May 29, 2009

For the last several years our family has been having our meals off Corelle dinner plates. Those spanking new-looking, untarnishable, unbreakable symbols of modernity in a middle-class household. The virgin-white affairs with tiny floral prints. Not that it was always like that, the precursor to this was Melamine, which over a period degenerated into a commodity. Something which got sold by the kilos off the footpaths of Dadar and Karolbagh. Or Commercial Street and Pondy Bazaar in the South.

And prior to that was stainless steel! That pristine iron alloy!

A household using stainless steel vessels had “arrived”. That was the predominant feeling when I was growing up in a small town, Jamshedpur, way back in early 70’s! Households used different kinds of utensils. And that, for keen observers, marked a sharp class difference.

Enamelled dishes were meant for household pets. Period!

Brassware was old-fashioned and were used only during pujas at home and other ceremonial occasions like marriage ceremonies, Satyanarayan Bhagwan Kathas etc.

Though light in weight, low cost and heat-efficient, aluminum vessels were considered infra-dig. I remember the arrival of the first pressure cooker into our household. As is the norm, the cooker was made of aluminum, and for good reasons. While the possession of a pressure cooker was a matter of pride, perhaps the joy would have been far greater were it to be made of stainless steel.

Chinaware was too modern and households which were lucky to have these would have them on perpetual display in a cabinet. God forbid if a plate were to break or chip! But even a damaged plate was put to use. Essentially reserved for domestic help. Or for those rare occasions when we, the siblings, would consume non-vegetarian food at home. The non-veg. stuff of course was never cooked at home but cooked and delivered by a generous neighbour!

Stainless steel was so very much “in”. Here was something which was, well, “stain”-less. It would not impart a flavor of its own to the food, and it looked silver! Just the right accessories to the dining tables which were just about gaining entry into middle-class households. There were plates and half-plates and quarter plates, katoris and glasses, spoons of various sizes and ladles for all applications and varying sizes of bartans for boiling milk, setting curd etc. There was a temporary fad for stainless steel tea-cups with insulated walls which mercifully faded very soon

When I was a kid I would insist on having my meals off a specific plate. You will wonder what distinguished one plate from another. There was one unique feature, the engraved name on the plate. Whenever new vessels were bought, our mother, mai, would have names engraved on them. Typically, names of her children. This service was provided by the shopkeeper gratis. The name would be written on a piece of paper for the reference of the engraver who would pull out his machine and diligently set to work. Soon enough the “customized” dinner plate was ready. Different vessels had different engraving locations; the outer periphery on the reverse for the plate. In case of a katori, the name showed up on top of the outer surface close to the edges. So I had at least one thali and one katori with my name and I was quite possessive of these! Initially the thali was new and all-shining. And when the metal dulled and wore with the ravages of time (and strong doses of cleaning powder), the engraving would nearly vanish and it was a game to figure out from the faded lettering which plate “belonged” to whom!

A shiny thali had one more rather creative use; it would serve as a mirror when new. With passage of time the surface would get dulled and the plate would lose its original shape and then the reflection in the plate was reminiscent of the “Hall of Horrors” which one would visit in the melas. The reflection would come out all distorted and I had hours of fun making funny faces and watching the contorted, and faded, images on the plates!

Stainless Steel was an all purpose gifting idea, the quantity and quality of steel being determined by the “weight” of the occasion (annaprashan or someone’s daughter’s wedding). A katori and chammach would do for the former while a set of six dinner plates would be more suited for the latter. The gift also depended on the strength of the relationship enjoyed. If the kid enjoying the annaprashan was of a close relative’s, the katori and chammach could even be a silver affair or at least a set of Johnson’s Baby products along with the stainless steel katori et al. Similarly, for a close relative’s daughter’s wedding, a stainless steel dinner set was in order. There were a few pre-packaged brands available, the popular one being from SAIL (the “Salem steel” set). My marriage brought with it my wife, a welcome addition to my hitherto bachelor’s den. And with my wife and her many suitcases of her clothes, arrived a most welcome enhancement for my kitchen, a whole new shiny set of stainless steel utensils and vessels!

Which brings me to a story which sounds amusing now. I had my first invite to a birthday party. I must have been in Std One or Two. Those days, birthday celebrations were limited to one’s family and a special meal cooked at home for all to relish. Maybe a book of two gifted by parents. No hoopla of birthday cakes, balloons or streamers. No kids invited either. And here I was all agog with excitement about this friend’s birthday party. But the problem was, while I knew one had to carry a gift, I had no idea what gift to give. Parents had the solution, a stainless steel katori, of course. I still remember the amazement on my friend’s face as he unwrapped the pink gift wrapper off the katori. I do not know what he did with it later, but for that evening, the katori was displayed among all the books and toys and teddys he had received! I was a bit embarrassed, but this embarrassment was soon forgotten among the fun and games. I was a wiser man afterwards, no more stainless steel katoris for a classmate’s birthday party!

Now, thinking back, stainless steel had a kind of permanence. A symbol of middle class solidity. Imperishable, indestructible, inviolate. A “stainless-ness” a middle class family covets. That I think we lack in the ceramic versions (whether melamine or Corelle). Stainless Steel had a sonorous “ring” to it- a certain tone of voice if you please- which heralded to the world that the user family had arrived! The ceramic versions announce fragility (Corelle claims apart), the ephemeral nature of relationships nowadays.

Give me stainless steel, anyday!

PS: As luck would have it, At my engineering college at BHU, Varanasi, I studied Metallurgy- the engineering science dealing with metals and alloys. Including stainless steel. For the life of me I do not remember the composition of the steel alloy beyond a cryptic set of digits, 18:8.

Do not even remind me of the dreaded iron-carbon diagram. That, dear readers, is another story!

Five Domestic Devices My Sons Would Never Use: Part 1

April 23, 2009

Over the last few decades we have seen the introduction of so many new gadgets, utilities and conveniences. Most of these have become part of our lives so much so that we wonder how we survived without them! Some obvious ones are the internet, email, mobile telephones, iPod. Heck, even mundane things like an ATM machine, credit cards, a remote-controlled TV, a split a/c, I can go on and on. How many of us who are now 40 years plus would have seen these in our school days, or even college days?

While it is easy to list out the new stuff, you should take a look at some gadgets which were very much a part of our growing up days and are now virtually extinct. Ever think our kids would operate or even see any of the following?

The Dial Phone:

In the real old days if you wanted to speak to someone over the phone, you could do so only via an intermediary, the telephone operator. He or she would juggle with some complicated connections inserting wires in multiple slots on a switchboard in front of him and then connect you with your desired number. With the advent of the dial phone and automatic exchanges, getting connected became a breeze!

For some reason all the dial phones were black in colour. In its dying years though it did get into bright red and pastel green avatars. These chunky phones occupied the pride of the place in the living room. An extension into the bedroom or any other place in the house was possible but P&T department would charge you an extra rental. Hence telephones with extensions were not too common.

Old-timers would remember the telephone dial where the numbers went clockwise from 0 to 9 with each digit having a dedicated slot on the periphery of the dial. You would stick you forefinger into the slot and rotate the dial clockwise till you could get no further. Then for the second digit of the phone number and then the third… till the process of dialing the entire number was concluded. And then you would pray and hope that the call would go through. It was perhaps a 40% chance that the call would go through at the first instance. When it did not, you would repeat the dialing process. Again. And again. Some creative ones would even rest their fingers and use objects like a pencil to do the dialing work.

The dialer community had two distinct sub-types. Those who would dial in consonance with the natural speed of the machine and stay with the dial on its return rotation to its orginal position. Then there were the others who would zip through the clockwise rotation as if they were driving their Bullet motorcycle on a highway and then stare helplessly at the dial on its return movement crawl back slowly to the original position in the manner of a moped (remember Luna?) negotiating the bylanes!

Very often the dial’s return mechanism malfunctioned forcing the dialer to apply considerable reverse force to get the dial to its original position before the second digit could be dialed!

When we got our telephone connection, my father had enough influence in the telephone department not only to get an out-of-turn allotment but also to get a number which others would find easy to dial: 5111. (Jamshedpur had only 4 digit number those days). This was a matter of great pride for us and a source of envy for others who had numbers like, say, 6987!

The slots in the dials also enabled enterprising fabricators to fashion little mechanical brass locks which could be affixed to the dial to prevent “unauthorized” people from using the phone. Or so the lock owners thought! I remember circumventing this several times. The system-beater, if you do not know, is simple! Taps of the button on the telephone cradle!! One tap= digit 1, four taps= digit 4 and ten taps for digit 0. This came in very useful on two occasions when someone thought he was being very nice to me by allowing me to receive calls but was “clever” enough to lock the phone so that I could not dial a number on it. The hostel warden in Nagpur where I did my plus 2 course and my landlord in my early days in Bangalore when I was a Paying Guest resident!

Why I had to do this is a different story altogether!

The Record Player:

This gadget was a major symbol of cultural sophistication of a household. Or its affluence. The record player -also called a gramophone- occupied the place of pride in the living room. Often draped with an embroidered cotton cloth or a white lacy covering to keep the dust away!

We never owned a record player. Could not afford it! My experience of a record player has been either at my friends’ or relatives’ place.

Records would come in different dimensions, though all were black and round. The difference was in the diameter of each and hence the speed you could play a particular record in. The largest one- called an LP, for Long Play- could be played at 33 1/3 rpm while the smaller one- EP or extended play- at 45 rpm. Some really old ones could be played only at 78 rpm! The rpm was set by a knob on the record player, positioned at: 33 1/3, 45 and 78! If you wanted some real entertainment, you could play a playful Kishore Kumar (like in his Jawaani Diwani movie track) at a slower rpm and hear his voice convert to K L Sehgal’s! Or imagine playing a Lata Mangeshkar’s 78 rpm record at 33 1/3!

We kids could never figure out how these flat black objects would store music and songs so well! There was something magical to these discs. They would be reverentially pulled out of their cardboard sleeves, wiped free of dust and grime by a special duster and placed gently on the turn table which was covered with a soft felt padding. The “needle” would be placed lightly on the disc taking care that the impact of the needle on the disc was minimal lest the disc get damaged.

If the disc did get scratched, the needle would get stuck and the same small piece of the music would keep playing. Like if you were enjoying the aforementioned Jawaani Diwaani number and the needle got stuck, you might here the following: “Yeh jawaaani, hai deewani, hai deewani, hai deewani, hai deewani…”, till someone rescued the situation by nudging the needle along manually!

So now you know the genesis of the Hindi saying, “uski sui atak gayi hai”, used when someone goes on and on about the same issue. (commonly muttered under the breath by the husband when the wife goes into a nagging mode)

Totally scratched records too had their uses. Like the artistic one in the family would paint on the black surface a landscape, or a bunch of flowers or even portraits of Nehru or Tagore and this disc with its newly acquired work of art would get displayed prominently on the living room walls.


(It has been a long post already, I will come back later with the remaining three devices. Suggestions, anyone?)

(To be continued)