From the Editor – The Age of the Gadgets

In my waking dreams, I often see myself handling an expensive SLR with a huge telephoto lens with an easy dignity or gazing at the flocks of beautiful birds through a pair of expensive binoculars while smartly taking extensive notes. However, if this was to actually happen the picture would be slightly different. The SLR and the expensive telephoto lens would be there alright but I would be struggling with adjusting the focus while trying not to drop the worth-more-than-my-life ensemble. And the binoculars would still be there but the notebook would be trying to get away from my grip while I turn my purse upside down to look for that damned pen! Don’t get me wrong. I love gadgets but the feeling, it seems, isn’t reciprocated.

However, if you love gadgets and if gadgets love you too, there isn’t a better time you could’ve been born. This is officially the Gadget Age. There are gadgets for everything. Music, videos, games, travel, photography, videography. Chances are if you can name an activity, there’s a gadget available for that.

We’ll come back to gadgets soon but before that let’s find out about the winners of the two monthly awards, the featured author and the featured story:

And without further delay, let me bring to you the Featured Author for the month of February 2012. He published his first story in April 2011 and took us by surprise with his fluid and poetic Himalayan Adventure and since then has brought to us a total of 13 stories. His current series Of Seven Capitals and New Delhi is a testimony of the passion of this whimsical ghumakkar. He is none other than our very own idiosyncratic Ghumakkar Nikhil Chandra. Here’s what his bio says about him:

“Nikhil Chandra is an obsessive traveler, self-proclaimed photographer, gluttonous reader, thinker, musician, movie buff, curious, observing, self-respecting, responsive, unique and adaptable individual. Due to some inexplicable cosmic revelation, he has become a fanatical – mistaking it for being an EXPERT- writer. So read whatever he has to write at your own risk. P.S. – His writing is forthrightly biased and consistently idiosyncratic.”

Click here to read all of his stories

And now for the Featured Story for the month of January 2012. This won’t be a surprise for you if you are an author at Ghumakkar. This secret has already been revealed in the Ghumakkar Author Newsletter for January 2012 that was sent to the authors yesterday. Because the content of the newsletter is exclusively for our authors, we cannot share the link but we can surely announce the winner again. This was again a difficult decision because nearly 50 stories were published in January 2012 and quite a few of them were incredibly good. But the story that stood out was D.L. Narayan‘s An Egyptian Diary. Here’s an excerpt:

“A ghumakkar loves serendipitous moments, when one comes across something remarkable but totally unexpected. I had such an experience a few minutes after landing in Cairo. The drive to the hotel from the airport was rather uninteresting as the architecture was pretty drab, just row after boring row of grey, rectangular concrete blocks . All of a sudden, I saw a building which looked like a Hindu temple. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and asked the driver what that building was. He shrugged his shoulders and said “Qasr El Baron”, which meant Baron’s Palace in Arabic.”

Click here to read the entire story

And now, coming back to gadgets, I am assuming all of us like to experiment with gadgets or at the least, are embarrassed to admit otherwise. There are several gadgets that are Gods-own-gift to the travellers. A Digital Camera is obviously one gadget that has changed  the entire photography industry and made it a much cheaper hobby and profession. No more buying of camera-rolls, not being able to preview images that are to be printed and no more dark room. Just buy a decent camera (click here for tips by Devasmita) and a memory card and start clicking. Apart from that, there are several interesting gadgets for cameras and photography.

 (Thanks ThinkGeek for the image.)

This is an SLR camera mounted on what is known as a Gorillapod. This bizarre tripod wraps itself around surfaces and its SLR+Zoom model claims to be able to support an SLR camera with a Zoom lens. Sounds perfect for photography at those difficult places where there are no level surfaces to balance your camera and a tripod seems too big to carry. There’s no limit to what imagination can acheive if taken a little seriously.

You could also buy a GPS Logger or use the GPS logging application on your phone to accurately capture and later embed the exact latitude and longitude information about the place where a particular picture was clicked, in the exif information of the photo. Imagine the accuracy!

Remember the time when we used to carry one novel with us to read on the train enroute. I remember buying some magazines and books from the railway station every time I had to travel and then climbing to the top-most berth of the AC 3-tier coach to read them in solitude. But there were only so many books you could carry. Luggage restrictions and the lure of travelling light did not allow us to carry our library along with us. But this is no longer true. You can carry your library along without having to drag a sac of book along with you. An ebook reader can make this possible by allowing you to carry hundreds of books at a time. The size of these ebook readers is usually similar to a book, usually slimmer and lighter. This is one gadget I personally find very useful while travelling

And if you plan to travel in public transport for long hours, you should have a music player which is quickly taking a form of an all-in-one device now. If you have a smartphone, you will get phone + music + video + movies + games + Internet, all in the same device. Imagine riding a bus through the mustard fields of Punjab while listening to “Dekha ek khwaab to yeh silsile hue…”. Simply Ethereal!

Another useful gadget can be a battery-operated handheld fan. Especially when travelling in summers, this is a perfect companion to keep you cool.  And you can also carry a pen-sized water purifier to take care of the bacteria and the risk of a stomach infection while traveling in a place where water quality is questionable, making travel much more safer.

All of  these are very practical solutions to most of the issues faced by travellers. But what about the romance of travelling? Do we lose out on the adventure part of Ghumakkari if we carry such gadgets around? I guess yes to an extent. While a kindle may be practical, it can never replace the comfort of curling up with a book. And while plugging in earphones and listening to music privately will take care of boredome, can it ever replace the enriching discussions you can have with your fellow passengers? Particularly if they don’t have earphones in their ears and don’t mind talking to strangers. Probably the best solution is to spend some time to think what we want out of a particular trip and then pack the bags accordingly.

Of these gadgets, the ebook reader and the smartphone are the ones that I will never give a miss. They are neither too heavy to carry nor too huge. And I will most probably end up using these.

Now let me turn this question on you. Considering that you have all these gadgets available at your disposal, which are the ones that you will definitely carry and why? Please share in the comments. And also if you know of any other specialized gadgets for travellers, please leave a comment to share the knowledge with your fellow travellers.

28 Comments

  • Chandra81 says:

    Great post V
    Well gizmos are increasingly being intertwined with our normal life so much so that it is hard to imagine our daily life without them.

    But then when it comes to travel I am quite averse to the idea of carrying too much gadgets. Not only they inflate your baggage but they tend to shift your focus from the actual journey part of the traveling. It’s so much difficult to uncover the unusual when you do tend to see things from the same lens and its true when you’re traveling.

    Imagine instead of looking at surroundings while traveling to a place a person is busy on his/her Kindle! .Imagine listening to music on iPod than listening to the sound of stream and bird chirping. That’s the kind of thing I am talking about. And isn’t it better to travel while sitting in your couch and watching Lonely Planet than using all the comforts of home while actually in those places…where’s the fun in that :-)

    But then there are a few gadgets that docompliment the romance ” of traveling. Camera is one such equipment which adds to the overall experience and let you look out for more angles as in seeing the familiar in more unusual way something like what Eliot said about Metaphysical poetry …kind of “”dissociation of sensibility”.

    Ah now I think I am getting carried away :-)
    Let other Ghumakkar have their say too :-)

    And I am honored by being adjudged the “Featured Author for the month of February” :-) by the editors of Ghumakkar. It’s a great motivation. And I’ll try to live up to the high standards set by fellow Ghumakkars. Thanks a lot :-)
    Cheers!
    Nikhil

    • Vibha says:

      Thanks for your comment Nikhil and congratulations once again!

      Camera is probably not optional anymore! It is a must while travelling. At least for me. But I carry a point-and-shoot though SLRs give better results. I do admit that I carry kindle without an exception though but I never miss observing and taking in the place because of it. :)

  • Nandan says:

    So the gadget bug is biting more of us. Good to see. Great post Vibha but let me come to Gadgets a little later.

    Mr. Chandra – Congratulations for the well deserved award. Enjoy your time as the ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author for February 2012’. I look fwd to our chat and the interview which we would publish on Feb 15th.

    DL – I think the effort (and the experience of spending money in the process) of getting on to Camel and getting a photo clicked has worked :-). You are one of the great things which has happened to Ghumakkar in recent times and the series on Egypt was indeed the icing on the cake. Enjoy.

    Now, back to gadgets. Well, my handheld is a Nokia E63 (it is more like a Unix machine from user-interface angle, in terms of power and stability, it competes strongly with phones of last decade), never had any E-reader, miss my AKAI walkman which had a speaker, also miss my friend’s Worldspace which would work in the interiors of Corbett.

    Leaving the poetry apart, my gadget collection is

    – I have this solar charger which can charge cell phones, iPad etc. I bought this in US sometime last year and really works very well. Especially, when I go and visit 7-tal where there is no electricity. If there is enough interest, I would post the amazon link.

    – Car USB charger. It is a neat device which gets into the power socket of car and charge any of the USB devices. pretty handy.

    – Push Lights – These are small trinkets kind of things which produce enough light through a mesh of LEDs. You push the surface and it glows so very useful when you are walking in dark or inside the tent etc.

    I usually dont leave home without the regular Victorinox Swiss knife, a point and shoot Nikon coolpix, my E63, USB Charger etc.

    I look fwd to what others say.

    • Chandra81 says:

      When will that be I mean the chat and the interview :-) …and more importantly how will that be? Looking at your FB profile I found out we share same almamater that is KMC :-) But then you are my super senior :-)
      And BTW your gadget collection is impressive when it comes to solar charger…would have loved to use it when I was in Chopta during Tungnath Trek :-)
      And well USB charger is… well a supplement not a gadget :D

      • Stone says:

        @Vibha – First of all, wonderful topic and wonderful Post Vibha, thanks for getting this discussion going.

        @Nandan – Solar charger sounds really interesting, and I’m definitely going to buy one now :-) and a question for you, What’s the purpose of carrying a Swiss Knife’ ?

        @Nikhil – Congratulations for the award; really like your writing style. Btw, I’m from also KMC, junior to Nandan and I guess senior to you :-)

        hmm..regarding gadgets, I prefer minimalist approach. I feel if one needs a book or music on the beach or in jungle than Im sorry one is missing the whole point of being there :-)

        My checklist includes basic stuff extra battery, extra memory card, chargers and sometimes a tripod.

        • Vibha says:

          Aww! Books aren’t so evil. In fact, I can’t sleep without one. :)

          Thanks a lot Stone for your comment. Your checklist seems quite practical. Batteries, memory cards, chargers. Boy! I smell a few gadgets somewhere. :)

    • Vibha says:

      Thanks Nandan for your comment.

      Solar charger does appear interesting. Please do post the Amazon link. And like you, I also carry a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot. Though I have to admit I’m not too happy with it. Nikon’s colour quality has gone down quite a bit.

      Push lights would be handy too though your E63 has a torch too.

  • Congrats Nikhil ………………

  • Aditya says:

    Congratulations Nikhil for becoming the Featured Author for the month of February…

    Now coming to Ghumakkari and the Gadgets….As Nikhil said, its a pain to carry too many gadgets while traveling… For me carrying a tripod is one such thing but then its a necessity too as you never know when the opportunity strikes.

    Mobiles today have replaced most of the things and for me its a must as with this single device i can click pictures, listen to music, watch movies, read, write notes, access maps, use GPS and many more things because of the useful apps available….

    Click with your eyes and then repeat the same with your camera, this is how this goes for me and i can’t imagine traveling without it. So much that most of the space in my backpack is dedicated mostly to the camera and the tripod. Carrying extra pair of clothes is though optional….

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thank you Aditya for taking note but then for an awesome photographer like you a tripod is a must so are a range of lenses :-) And yes …clothes are always optional …but then it’s a guy thing :D

    • Vibha says:

      Hi Aditya,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Have you tried Gorillapod yet? It’s smaller and much lighter. Do share your experience if you have.

      “Carrying extra pair of clothes is though optional.” Oh man!
      As Nikhil said, it is a guy thing :)

  • Naman says:

    Congo. Mr.Chandra!!!! An interesting post Ma’am. BTW Whenever I’m on a trip ,I prefer to carry just a camera. No iPods,No MP3’s and most importantly not a MOBILE,though I have all my contacts.This philosophy lets me engage more deeply into the place I’m visiting! :)

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thanks Naman :-)
      Couldn’t agree more…
      Even I leave all my i’s …I mean pads and pods and all that…and I don’t even miss my mobile coz thats what a place do to you…Its like return to innocence :-) And that’s how I feel traveling should be!

    • Vibha says:

      No mobile? Seriously?

      What do you do if you get stuck somewhere?

      • Naman says:

        Yeah!!! My parents carry a mobile though! And,if I’m struck ,we have those public PCO’s.
        Recently, I toured Jammu/Katra for Vaishnodevi Darshans and I got lost ! Since Prepais SIM’s do not work in J & K ,so none of us got our cellphones and I had a hard time finding my parents. :(
        Fortunately after long 6 hours I met them! Will be writing about the same soon.

        • Vibha says:

          Will look forward to your post. I still do not see the point of leaving your cellphone behind. My suggestion, switch it off and keep it deep inside your bag. But still carry it. You never know when you might need one.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    @ Nikhil: Congratulations on being selected as the Featured Author of the month. I follow your posts keenly and love your avian pictures too. Having tried shooting birds myself, I am know how difficult it is to get the timing right. Except for ducks and swans, which love preening for the cameras.

    @ Nandan: Thanks for the effusive praise and for giving us such a splendid platform for sharing and learning from like-minded folks.

    @ Vibha: Yes, this is indeed the age of gadgets. It is also the age of instant obsolescence; it is amazing how fast these technological marvels become obsolete. You spend a small fortune on acquiring a smartphone and hardly a couple of months later , you find that it has become outdated and there are smarter gizmos out there seducing you into inflicting more damage to your financial health!

    I remember that in the late 70’s, I had a scooter, a 35mm SLR inherited from my dad, a Panasonic 2-in-1 and an HMV stereo system (not to mention a collection of some 100 odd vinyl LP’s); I thought that I had attained gadget nirvana, believe it or not. Well, even Bill Gates reportedly said in 1981 that “640K (memory) ought to be enough for anybody”. Now, he admits that technology has the “shelf life of a banana”.

    • Chandra81 says:

      Ah I am envious…you had such a great collection of gizmos in 70’s.
      Its great to know that you do follow my post…and yes birding I guess is one of the most arduous task for a photographer…especially when one doesn’t have time up their sleeve :-)
      And well Nirvana is when you can be sure that you’re rich enough to be “the man who sold the world”

    • Vibha says:

      Hah! You nailed it DL. The moment you buy a gadget, it becomes outdated. I want to purchase a new smartphone and by the time I finish my research on one model, another, more nifty one, has already been floated. It’s a challenge to keep up to date!

      Thanks for your comment and congratulations for your story being selected as the Featured Story. :)

  • Archana says:

    Hello Vibha,

    Good write up.. Made me list down some gadgets that I should plan to invest on :)
    But in my honest opinion, I agree with Chandra.. I would like to travel light.. so that I dont succumb to the stress of a heavy baggage. Instead, I would want to carry a gadget which is complete in itself .. A great smart phone with a sufficiently good camera and a movie recorder would satisfy me on a travel.

    Having said this, it is again a very personal opinion.. But for photo enthusiasts these days, there are a zillion options to choose from.. Ideally a novice yet enthusiastic photo fanatic would carry a bear minimum of 1. Tripod, 2.Different lenses , 3.A lens filter and maybe 4. an additional flash apart from ofcourse a great SLR/DSLR camera.

    I will share your post with some of the “gadget grabbers” I know.. They sure will be happy to read your post.. (Not that I wasnt :) )

    Also, Congratulations to Nikhil for being the featured author of this month. I will look forward to read his interview. Narayan-ji, congrats to you too for getting your post selected for Featured Story of the Month.

    Cheers to all!

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thanks Archana!
      I hope you’d like my interview :-)

    • Vibha says:

      Thanks Archana. I am myself a big advocate of travelling light but more often than not, I end up carrying huge bags and they are not full of gadgets usually. :)

      For a photographer, though, it isn’t possible to travel light. The camera gear makes sure that does not happen.

      Thanks again for your comments. :)

  • Nandan says:

    @ Vibha, @ Chandra – Here it is.
    http://www.amazon.com/Premium-Solar-Charger-Built–Windshield/dp/B00449U3K0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328112050&sr=8-1

    It is a pretty sleek thing.

    Yes, E63 has a very functional torch. How can I miss it. darn.

    @ Chandra – I was there in 1994. I dont think I am senior to you, forget Super Senior. :-)

  • Vibha says:

    Nandan, the charger looks awesome and it’s quite inexpensive too at 30 USD. for how long have you had it and does its charge ever run out?

  • Nandan says:

    About an year or so. Yes, the charge runs out as you use it but you can keep charging as long as you have Sun. It has worked pretty well. I need it only when I am away to a place which has no electricity.

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