The Change Imperative

Ever since I first wrote about institutional realignment, I have been more conscious of it and its implications on our lives. To a certain extent, even paranoid, because of the pace of change. Ray Kurzweil is hard at work to make himself immortal, and believes we should get really close by the 2030s. He has been right before on many things of this nature. Moore’s law, digitisation and everything related are also getting us really close to the singularity. I am reasonably convinced that I will see both in my lifetime. If you live to be 200 and have robots smarter than you around, what does that do to education, money, marriage, work and pretty much everything that constitutes life? On the flip side, natural resources are running out, and I can see the complications already. It’s not a good sight, or experience!

I am finding it impossible to wrap my head around what all of  this would mean to our concept of life. In the meanwhile, I do know that everything is changing at breakneck speed, and in order to survive, we need to be cognizant of things that can impact our lives – as individuals, and as organisations.  I have deliberately avoided the word ‘disruption’ because it gives me a sense of suddenness and it is a furiously debated topic these days. Rather, to quote John Green (said in another context) I think we’re in the first state of “Slowly, and then all at once”.  This, is my take on ‘Change’.

(Thanks Nikhil for helping on a couple of alphabets and Amit for Unsplash, the source of many images used)

 

The circle of nothingness

During a recent trip to Cochin, Dad pointed to a newly constructed building and asked me if I remembered what had been there before it, since he couldn’t. Neither could I, though I might have walked/cycled/ridden/driven past it many, many times. I get quite disappointed on such occasions, because when a memory is removed, it’s almost as though a slice of my life, thin though it may be, has been taken away forever. Strange though it may seem, I feel a sense of guilt, towards myself for not retaining a complete picture of my own life, and towards the object itself. A few days later, we passed a plot on 12th Main, Indiranagar, where a commercial building is being constructed. This place will ‘always’ remain in my memory as my uncle’s house, though they moved away quite a few years ago.

All of this reminded me of Schopenhauer’s “The world is my idea“, and a post I had written more than four years ago, the last paragraph in particular. From nothingness comes an idea, it then takes a tangible shape in a mind, and then probably manifests itself in words, deeds, objects and so on. Beyond its physical life, it exists in the minds of the people with whom it has been shared, maybe in forms massively different from its original, until the minds themselves are no more, and no connection exists between the current form and the original. “Soon you will have forgotten the world, and soon the world will have forgotten you.” ~ Marcus Aurelius  More

Leaping Windows Cafe

One about-to-rain Bangalore night, despite the comments that we shouldn’t go there only for the food, we took a leap of faith, and landed up at this cafe in Indiranagar. You’re bound to miss it if you don’t know exactly where it is, so check the map in the link. It’s a house converted into a cafe and the ground floor is devoted to the library/reading rooms. Up a winding staircase and we got to a balcony where we managed to get a table for two. There are other seating options inside as well. You’ll love the ambiance if you’re into comics. Bright, colourful murals and comfortable furniture. What works for the balcony is that it also offers non-comic entertainment, thanks to a bar across the road! From the menu, I asked for a Nutella Banana shake and D wanted a Peppermint Hot chocolate. (day’s special, said the board) The shake was more banana than Nutella, and despite me specifically asking for no ice cubes, I got them in abundance. The hot chocolate was much better!

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Processes, People & Culture

It has been more than three years since I wrote about my Indigo fandom. Since then, they have been my preferred airline, mostly thanks to their on-time promise. A few weeks ago, Karthik wrote an excellent post “Why I love an errant Meru and hate the awesome Indigo!” that offered some unique perspectives based on a few of his recent experiences with the airline. He ends the post with When did the ‘plastic’ nature of Indigo’s customer-facing organization set in? May be around the same time their hostesses were asked to use wigs? It restored a sense of objectivity to my fandom.

Our way of doing things” is how one definition of culture goes and I remembered Gautam’s recent insightful post on the components that make up ‘culture’ in an organisation. If you look at these factors, you’d wonder whether a cultural change was at the root of Indigo’s new avatar. It made me think of something I wrote earlier – Culture Architecture – the thrust of which  was culture being a strategic business advantage. But how can that be made sustainable? I’ve been a big fan of processes. Indeed, one of my favourite posters is

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Difficult Pleasures

Anjum Hasan

Anjum Hasan is definitely among my top 3 favourite authors, and this book only adds to it. But that also means that this is not a thoroughly objective review. :)

The book has thirteen short stories that have a varied set of characters in different circumstances. As the jacket informs us, some of the stories are borderline surreal, but that doesn’t take away from the empathy that the author (has and) seems to be able to evoke in the reader. This is especially commendable because the characters vary in age, socio-economic class, mindset, location and many other factors. Yet, the single common takeaway from each of these (sometimes not-so-ordinary) slice of life situations is how the author is able to drag the reader in and empathise with the character/s even if not completely identify with.

I loved the two child’s-perspective stories – ‘Birds’ and ‘Hanging On Like Death’. Both are quite the tearjerkers, with some sublime narration. At least a couple of stories are built on the premise of sudden uncharacteristic decisions, and a different couple of them have sudden twists as well. ‘For love or water’ was a favourite and reminded me of a character from the author’s earlier books. So was ‘Immanuel Kant in Shillong’ and this time (since I have visited the place recently) I was able to visualise some of the settings.
To me, very few authors can capture the ‘need to escape and the longing to belong’ as well as Anjum Hasan. In essence, a wonderful read especially if you like Anjum Hasan’s style of writing that reveals layers each time you read.

DP

A republic of convenience

Masala Republic is a Malayalam movie I watched recently. First, my sympathies with those who attempted the heroic task of watching it in a theatre, but to be fair, it did give me some food for thought. No, not about my choice of movies, but things slightly more important in the scheme of things. It talked, for instance, of issues that needed a voice – the changing socio-political and economic dynamics of Kerala caused by a huge influx of people, mostly low wage workers from Bengal and the North East.

The movie begins with the disruption brought about in the life of these folks by a ban imposed on Gutka, which apparently is part of their staple diet! This reminded me of the (real) scenario I witnessed when the liquor ban was announced in Kerala. Almost overnight, I saw an ecosystem disbanded – small shops around bars, auto-rickshaws that ferried drunk guys home, to name a few components.

Notwithstanding the political play that brought about this ban, I was forced to ask – isn’t alcohol consumption an individual’s choice? One might cite domestic violence, decrease in productivity, drunken driving etc, but unlike say, smoking, it does not automatically cause damage to the larger society. Isn’t a blanket ban a bit like banning automobiles because of road accidents? If the justification is that individual choice must bow before collective progress, then can we really condemn Sanjay Gandhi for the infamous sterilisation programme? After all, population control would, at least arguably, have meant progress. What we are debating therefore, (I think) is the means. And means is exactly what an alcohol ban is. Does society really have the moral right to take such a decision? Who decides society’s collective moral compass and what can resist such selective applications of morality?

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Who decides where the line is?

P.S. Would be glad if you could point out whether I am missing some relevant piece of information or logic here.

The Fatty Bao

On a Saturday, when we wanted to do more than just monkeying around, we climbed a few more floors to get to The Fatty Bao (map) We had reserved a table for two, and even though most of the tables were empty, we were rather firmly asked to take a specific one, just like we were told not to go upstairs because it was full. One of the tables we asked for remained empty until about five minutes before we left. Oh, well. Despite all that, I quite liked the ambiance – fun and relaxed with a dash of quirky.

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While the decor has a panda domination, the ‘Monkey’ flavour is evident in the menu. There are quite a few interesting cocktails to choose from – I asked for the Mandalay Bay, and D wanted a Bora Bora. The jasmine tea in my drink was refreshing and worked really well with the vodka and ginger beer. The other drink was quite a melange – gin, coconut water, vodka and passion fruit – and it was difficult to get one dominant flavour. But that also made it quite a lively drink! More

The Krishna Key

Ashwin Sanghi 

‘The Krishna Key’ has all the ingredients that a thriller needs – a direct connection with history and/or mythology, a James Bond -like leading lady and vamp, a serial killer, and a plot that more often than not, is racing to a climax; and yet, I had a feeling of unfinished business after I completed the book. I think Ashwin Sanghi painted himself into a corner as soon as he decided what the ‘key’ would be because it would be difficult to end it any other way.

The entire plot is built around Krishna’s legacy and its path through the ages. So chapters begin with Krishna’s own story and at many times, one can sense a certain similarity in events, though the characters are completely different. There is a fair amount of vagabonding in space – Kailash, Dwarka and so on and time – Vedic to Mughal to the modern era. More

Penang Post! – Part 4

Continued from Part 1Part 2 and Part 3

The last day of our vacation. Sigh! We only had one item on the agenda, and no prizes for guessing it involved food – specifically lunch! But before that, we had our standard awesome breakfast at Spice Market cafe. They had an awesome Blueberry Crumble and the banana cakes had been fantastic for a couple of days now!

We didn’t have a lot of time to digest it, because we had to leave the hotel by 2 and had very minimal time for lunch. We took a cab to the Living Room Cafe (actually walk-able, but 10 MYR away by cab) which served fusion Malaysian. A small cafe on the main road that also sells art. They had quite a few interesting photos around  – Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin, Muhammad Ali & the Beatles etc. There was also a band practicing. I ordered a Cider, D an banana juice and we waited for what we had come for – Beef Rendang. We got talking to an American lady who had been in Batu Ferringhi for 1.5 years and planned to stay 2.5 more. We wondered what it must be like. Meanwhile, the beef rendang did prove to be an excellent choice.

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Penang Post! – Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2

We lazed around and barely made it in time for breakfast! The buffet at Spice Market Cafe was awesome as always, and my meal was made thanks to the parfait and bread pudding. I also saw what suspiciously looked like a snide remark on Twitter ;)

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The day was not really packed in terms of schedule, but we were a bit delayed and when I learned that the taxi to Penang Hill would work out only to about 30 MYR, I immediately voted to skip the elaborate bus plan. We reached the Penang Hill station in about 45 minutes  and it actually worked out to 50 MYR (contrary to what the lady at the hotel said) but it was a wonderful ride – peaceful settings with only a couple of traffic bottlenecks. There are a couple of queues to be navigated – one for the tickets (30 MYR per person) and the other to actually get into the train that will get you to the top. The internet suggests that one person should stand in each, since the waiting time could turn out to be quite much, but the line for the latter seemed reasonable, so we stood united! More