Life Ordinary

Life menus

In last week’s post, I had referred to this excellent post – “How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds…” in the context of Google/Facebook/Amazon. As I had mentioned, I liked it because it had a direct connection with the can-want-need framework I (try to) use in my personal consumption. Specifically, his first point on the ‘menu’ and the illusion of choice. To quote from the post,

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

  • “what’s not on the menu?”
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

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Making sense of nostalgia

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The other day, when discussing brand communication, we noted how nostalgia was such a broad platform that it would appeal to almost everyone.One moment you’re in the present, and sometimes, even without the slightest provocation, you’re off with a reconstruction of events that transpired. For instance, just a week before that, when I learnt that Kammatti Paadam was releasing, a lot of my excitement was because it was set in Kochi from the 1970’s onwards. Until 2003, that’s pretty much my life. Before and after I watched the movie, quite a few hours were spent recollecting my life in my hometown across a couple of decades.  More

Privilege & Currency

I read a remarkable set of tweets sometime back on the subject of privilege by @eveewing. She rightly pointed out that it is fairly easy to acknowledge privilege, but reparations are far more difficult. Writing about it, by that measure, is the easiest thing to do, but be that as it may….

I had written about privilege a while back, and used the framework from Breaking Smart – socio economic, cultural and cognitive kinds. The tweets I’d mentioned above are related mostly to the first kind – socio economic – and this is indeed the most visible around. But a recent experience made me think of it a little beyond that. More

Map making

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In “The Case Against Cosmic Justice” I’d brought up how (IMO) randomness was the key driver of the universe, and that pretty much every other concept (God, karma etc) was a narrative fallacy. I think that requires a little editing. To use a phrase from “Sapiens”, these other concepts aren’t really fallacies, they are inter-subjective realities. That means it they are belief systems that a lot of people share and agree to. e.g. money, nations. This is different from subjective reality – my personal reality as I experience it or choose to see it e.g. Salman Khan should be in jail for killing people, and objective reality – one which exists irrespective of anyone’s belief systems e.g. gravity. More

Identity Cleft

..and finally, I got myself to see the last episode of Mad Men. I’d been putting it off because the series was the kind I enjoyed so much that I never wanted it to end. The last few episodes were quite ‘meta’ in the sense that through Don Draper, the show’s protagonist, the show itself was searching for a befitting ending.

<spoiler> These episodes saw Don getting rid of his possessions, until all he had left was an envelope with some money (and a ring) and a cover with a change of clothes. He had lived the previous few years of his life as Don Draper – a name that wasn’t his. The idea of Don Draper though was all his, but somewhere in him, was also Dick Whitman, his original name. Every time he made the confession of taking another man’s name, you could sense his guilt, and relief. Maybe that was the freedom he was looking for, when we was getting rid of all the paraphernalia attached to Don Draper.  More

Hope Trope

An old man lives alone in a house. That’s how it has been for almost a decade and a half. With relatively lesser proof, I believe that I can stay alone for a long duration without feeling lonely. But I could be wrong, and a decade is a long time, especially when you think of it in terms of days. Many times, when I’m outside with friends or waiting for D to get home, I think about him and wonder, how does it feel to open the door of one’s home and not have someone waiting, knowing that this is something that will never change now? How does he cope?

Far away from him, a child is growing up. She is also far from what I’d call her homeland. Will she ever speak her mother tongue? Even if she does, will she be a cultural misfit in both the worlds she occupies? Circumstances haven’t been kind to her parents, hopefully things will look up sooner than later. But time waits for none, and one’s childhood leaves imprints that echoes through one’s life. The first section here is a testament to that. What does the future hold for her? More

Atrophy, or not.

An excellent coincidence that I finished reading James P Carse’ “Finite and Infinite Games” the same day I wrote this post. The book helped me frame thoughts to my satisfaction. 

There was an age when accumulating possessions – from apparel brands to places visited to career designations to property ownership and anything that signals prosperity – was the game I played. Or games, because a milestone was a victory in that finite game, and I quickly moved on to another. Trophies that the world dictatedMore

A divided existence

A phrase I came across recently captured my ‘mood’ in both work and life spheres (links to my most recent posts) very crisply – nostalgia for the absolute. Coined by the philosopher George Steiner, it isn’t a coincidence that it reached me courtesy a Breaking Smart essay.

As I have mentioned earlier, the entire series has given me a lot of perspective, and it’s heartening to know that the kind of thought bubbles I have are more common than I thought. There exists a dichotomy however. My perspectives are largely ‘Promethean’ when it comes to tech (and the implications of its disruptive power) in the work context. However, in the larger life scenario, I think I am quite the ‘pastoralist’, more comfortable with sustaining changes to the prevailing social orderMore

The transience of consumption & marketing

Rajesh wrote a very interesting post recently on ownership, and how it would impact brand/marketing/purchase. My own view of ownership has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years, thanks to a combination of factors like increasing life spans, the changing nature of jobs, and the rise of on-demand services. Add to that extreme income disparity, economic flux, and technological advances that have the potential to create obsolescence faster than ever before, and I’m reasonably sure the concept of ownership is up for a revamp.

Rajesh brings up two factors that caused previous generations to value ownership – financial success (trophies) and asset building. If I have to analyse my own motivations in the past, both of these would find a place. If I dig deeper, I also see a couple of others. One would be lack of access on demand. (eg. music/movie CDs, books, even say, photographs) You can see how streaming and cloud storage have changed this. The other subtext I can vaguely discern is ‘control’. A car, home, all lend an air of certainty and being in control. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in middle class India which had quite a lot of experience with scarcity. But in the line of anti fragile thinking, the key skill going forward would be agility rather than trying to retain control. In essence, a whole lot of cases for ownership that no longer seem relevant.  More

Choices & Happiness

A belief system I strongly held on to for a few years was that we always have a choice. Absolutes most usually fail. Some life experiences later, it seemed to me that determinism made more sense. In an everyday life scenario, this meant that many a time circumstances are such that we don’t really have a choice.

On a Wednesday morning, S, my Uber driver for the day’s commute called me. In very good English, he said that while Uber was showing 8 mins on my phone, in reality, he was 20 minutes away, but would try to reach as fast as possible. I wasn’t happy but finding another cab at 1X, I realised, would be a difficult proposition. S arrived about 20 mins later, and we started the trip. At 50 metres, he said that his mobile had switched off and I’d have to rebook. It irritated me because I had lost a lot of time already and would lose more in the process of making another booking and waiting for the cab to arrive. His other phone meanwhile, was repeatedly ringing, despite him cutting the call. He finally took the call and spoke in Malayalam, saying he’d call back later. As his phone was being switched on, he asked me to wait a minute so that he’d be able to take my booking. I did that, and after he gave me a go ahead, requested a cab. Turned out to be another driver, a few minutes away. This imminent waste of time irritated me further. S offered to drop me off where the other cab was. I declined, got out of the car and as I shut the door, said to him in Malayalam that if he didn’t know how to do this job, he probably shouldn’t attempt it.

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