Monthly Archives: January 2017

This Divided Island : Stories from the Sri Lankan War

Samanth Subramanian

We visited Lanka in 2010, just after the war had ended. Reading this book, and on hindsight, I think we underestimated the seriousness of what the country had gone through. I remember the undercurrent of bitterness in a conversation I overheard while sitting in a Colombo cafe. Directed at Rajapaksa, whose smiles beamed down on you every time you looked around, it was about how he was presiding over a reign of terror. I was surprised, because I thought everyone would be happy that the war had ended. Another instance I remember clearly – driving through Trincomalee and seeing some lovely beaches, I asked the driver to stop so we could walk a bit. He laughed ruefully and said that entry was restricted. The soldiers were clearing the area of land mines and a walk there might relieve me of limbs or even life!
When I wrote the travel log, I had the luxury of making these footnotes, but this book is a visceral breakdown of what Lanka went (and still goes) through. The war might have ended, but the scars remain fresh. I haven’t read any war or post war accounts, and therefore lack the perspective to compare, but I do know that this book really brings out the futility of such human conflict. The battle has very less to do with good and evil, because both sides have very little territory to occupy on moral high grounds. A line from Star Wars comes to mind “you have become the very thing you swore to destroy”. Prabhakaran’s treatment of fellow Tamils is about as bad as what the Lankan army inflicted on them. As a Lankan Tamil says in the book, the Tigers first lost the war “for the unconditional affections of the island’s Tamils” before it lost the other war.

In a world of abstractions…

It was in Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus that I first became really aware of how much of an abstraction money is. Just to clarify what ‘abstraction’ is in this context, vegetables, meat, human labour etc all have clear, tangible value. Money is a transactional device with many advantages but it has no inherent value. Its common acceptance is its value. The exercise on 8th November 2016 is a great example to illustrate this –  those pieces of paper we thought were valuable until a minute ago suddenly became worthless. In fact, at one point, there was a chance that after Dec 31st, they would even be harmful!

At some point, I started thinking of abstraction with respect to consciousness. At a very broad level, I think of consciousness as having three basic fluid forces at play – sensations, emotions, and thoughts. We tend to use the adjacent ones (sensation/emotion and emotion/thought) interchangeably but if you think about it, nuances separate them. They all have a role to play, but I also see them as a hierarchy with respect to their influence on consciousness – thoughts at the top. More

Koramangala Social

Yes, I know, I’ve already written about Whitefield Social, so what really is new? Well,  it’s Koramangala, and we welcome any chance to go back to our ‘native place in Bangalore’. When we heard a Social had opened, we just had to drop in. Koramangala continues to change rapidly, and we notice it even more in our quarterly/biannual visits. Meanwhile, when I heard my friends describe it, I thought they must have taken some independent bungalow on 80 feet Road, but this was near Starbucks in an otherwise (except for Social’s own signage) unspectacular building. (map) But once inside, it is evident that in terms of ambiance, this is easily the best Social in Bangalore yet. It is quite bag, spans two floors and offers much better seating options than the other two. There’s also a lot of greenery around, and that includes the bar area as well. We visited during Halloween, and the staff was dressed for the occasion. The service itself, was thankfully not horrible, and we actually liked it more than the other Social outlets – Church Street folks are clear that they are doing humanity a service by taking orders, and Whitefield people tend to be a little too laidback every once in a while.

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Scarcity thinking in marketing

A brand could be defined as a perception in the mind of a consumer, based on his/her/others’ experiences. These experiences could be either of the product/service itself, or its marketing communication. Earlier, in a post in a different context, I had alluded to the framework of choice during consumption. To elaborate, what are the factors that influence a customer’s decision to buy/not buy? The basic 4Ps of the marketing mix cover a lot of ground in this regard. But it does not really acknowledge (even when it is extended to 7Ps) the one thing that is increasingly becoming the most scarce commodity – time.

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The Road to Character

David Brooks

The concept of the book is something I could easily relate to. In fact, it reminded me of a favourite concept from the Mahabharata – Jaya and Vijaya. Vijaya is victory over others, and Jaya is victory over self. In this book, the author writes about two sides of our nature – one that is ambitious and career oriented, and another that is more concerned with the moral battles within.

He calls the former the ‘Big Me’ culture, where the focus is on the individual – be it consumption, or self actualisation. The alternate is where the individual has the humility to understand that he is part of a much bigger picture and through what the author calls ‘eulogy virtues’ builds relationships and moral standards. Using examples across history, walks of life, gender and race, he illustrates how some people have built themselves a moral fibre slowly but surely. He then uses the lessons from these as a contrast to the excesses of our age – from contexts that range from parenthood to social media.

The journeys of the individuals are in themselves fantastic reads. The chapter titles are a clue to the thrust of the arguments within – self conquest, struggle, self mastery etc – and the author does a great job of tracing the tribulations, and the moral ascent of the people involved. My favourite would be George Eliot. Across the vast stretches of time that separates us, her words spoke to me. More

Néih hóu Hong Kong! (Day 4)

Contd from Day 12, 3

A wonderful late start to the day. We just about made the breakfast deadline! The first task was to add currency to our Octopus – that was easily done at the customer desk in the East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. We then walked through the subway to get to the Star Ferry Pier. After some excitement, thanks to me dropping the hotel access card on the ferry waiting bench and the gates getting locked, we hopped on to the ferry to cross from the Kowloon to the Hong Kong side of Victoria Harbour. Getting to IFC mall from there was easy, thanks to the directions on the way, but inside the mall was a different story!

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Néih hóu Hong Kong! (Day 3)

Contd from Day 1, 2

Disneyland! The day D was most excited for! Our route and the time taken was pretty much a replica of the previous day, except we got out at Sunny Bay and took the special MTR rail to Disneyland – the one which had Mickey Mouse handles as D had been excitedly mentioning since the day before. We had booked our tickets earlier  – directly on the site, because for a change the deal was better than Klook. (lunch was included) D had done her research well, and we hurried through Main Street soon as the park opened directly to Hyperspace Mountain in Tomorrowland. This was all Star Wars, so I had nothing to complain about. D isn’t really a fan of rides, but she help up very well and actually enjoyed it. The next ride we went on was Grizzly Gulch, mine cars and this time, unlike the dark tunnel of the previous ride, we could actually see what was happening. I quite liked this one. Mystic Manor was next, and I really liked this too, since it had a magical innocence to it. After we got out, we got lucky with a small line and D got her main wish – a photo with Mickey and Minnie!

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Néih hóu Hong Kong! (Day 2)

Contd from Day 1

We got up at around 7.30 with an aim to leave the hotel in an hour and a half. The standard Continental breakfast at Xi was absolutely good enough to begin the day. Mandy at the reception promised to help us follow up on the lost baggage. Ngong Ping was the plan for most of the day. The journey including MTR transfers and the walk took less than an hour. Might have been lesser if we’d known about the passage directly from the Tung Chung MTR to the cable car. We’d bought tickets for a guided tour via Klook and could therefore bypass the queue. If you reach early, you could probably wait in the queue a bit and buy. The instructions were clear and after a short wait, we boarded the crystal cabin- this one has a glass bottom – a real one which is cleaned after each trip. D remained poker faced and refused to comment on her previous experience with such things. The views from the cable car were spectacular – we could catch the giant bridge to Kowloon that was under construction, the airport, and as we neared the Ngong Ping end (20 mins) the Tian Tan Buddha (aka the Big Buddha).

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