Life Ordinary

Please find detached

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl

This quote has been a favourite since I first read it, and creating that space is something that I not only constantly try to work on, but also write about – the challenges and the learning. However, this post is on a tangent – what if we delay the stimulus itself? Yes, I admit it’s quite impossible to do that with people, but what about consumption in general? Given that we are now debating the direction(s) of the ‘arrow of time’, there’s no better time to discuss that space. After all, in my consumption, I am what is called the ‘observer’, and I’m the one creating the moment of interaction.

That wouldn’t be a problem, except for the increasing dominance of the urgent over the important. Seth Godin had a very interesting post titled “Spectator sports” about how we have taken the discourse around things of significance to the level of spectator sports because we can “vent without remorse.” A longer read in context is Helen Boaden’s commentary on the state of journalism as she retires from BBC Radio. The devices, features and services popping up around me indicate that ephemerality is trending upward. Think about the cycle – watch something live on TV, tweet about it/post on FB/Whatsapp, someone has a comment, a discussion ensues, and somehow inexplicably reaches generic areas of conflict like religion or liberalism before the next cycle starts. Rinse, repeat. Did we have a discussion aimed at understanding each others’ perspective and expanding a worldview? More often than not, not!  More


A few unrelated incidents in the last month or so made me think about privacy, or rather, the lack of it. The first was news coverage on Bangalore Mirror where they skipped the standard blurring of the face of the accused/victim. I tweeted about it then.

A couple of weeks later, I read the agonising story of the woman whose picture was all over social media during the Brussels bombing. It wasn’t just her harrowing experience that bothered me, but the fact that this was an exposure she didn’t want. She had no say in the matter from the time the first photo was clicked.  More

Framing passion

A lovely Malayalam movie came out earlier this year – Maheshinte Prathikaaram – a simple premise based on actual events. The movie is set in Idukki, which makes for a great backdrop and also provides excellent material in the form of the simplicity of the people and their lifestyles. We saw the movie soon as it released and I loved it. Very few scripts manage to  bring together an enjoyable mix (read balance) of humour and poignancy, and it requires a well chosen and talented cast to execute it well. This movie did both.

While the principal narrative track (the revenge that is suggested in the film’s name) around Mahesh, the protagonist, is entertaining in itself, the idea around his father’s character – Vincent Bhavana – interested me a tad more. Recently, I saw the movie again, and now that I knew how it would play out, I could pay more attention to this track.  More

Kindred @ Kottayam

The predictability of the biannual trips to Kerala has been on the wane the last couple of years. To the extent that this year we have made only one visit, and it does seem the count will stop there! This year, our more extensive plan, which involved a cousins’ get together, was reasonably wrecked by the announcement of a nationwide bandh on 2nd September. A few of us though, decided to have ourselves a hartal holiday, and thus D and I found ourselves in the world’s first solar powered airport on the first day of September. The pre-arranged cab would take us to Kottayam, with a pit stop to pick up a cousin and his wife.

As we veered off NH 47 on to HMT Road, I realised I hadn’t been on this road in this millennium! NH 47 is apparently called NH 544 now, but I refuse, citing old age as an excuse! HMT stopped ticking earlier this year, I wonder how long the road will be a reminder – probably until local or national pride finds what they deem a worthy recipient. Meanwhile, the only landmark I could remember was at the beginning of the road – Food Craft Institute, which my mother used to visit for baking classes in the 80s. I looked around for the Toshiba Anand factory, remembering the replica of a giant Toshiba battery on a tower that could be seen from afar. Seems I was seeking a world that had been erased more than a decade ago. My last memory of the place was a staff quarters (I can’t be sure if it was KSEB or HMT itself) – we had relatives there and a kid, slightly older than me, had the only clockwork railway I had ever seen. Yes, it was a big deal in the 80s! I glanced around excitedly and then wearily, hoping for a few more tokens of the past, but the place had changed much, I really couldn’t remember anything more, and it was a painful reminder of how fickle, and out of one’s control memory is. After all, to quote Julian Barnes, “memory is what we thought we’d forgotten.More


My “nostalgia analysis” post had an excellent comment – “I have noticed that nostalgia happens for certain things when you are satisfied with how things turned out. And then there is bitterness…” I am not really convinced by the first sentence, and think it’s a little more nuanced. Broadly yes, when everything turns out well, nostalgia is ‘easy’. But as I mentioned in the post, I think the mind also reconstructs and reconciles what it can. In a way, taking memories into dreams territory. A vision of near-perfectness. Probably a device used by evolution to help the organism cope, survive and thrive. Ok, that sounded cold. Moving on. It is the second sentence that really caught my attention.

..And then there is bitterness..” Bitterness. I can remember many brushes with that phenomenon. It has made me miss several years with people, though thankfully, sanity prevailed in most cases. I reached out, and time healed. It has happened in the recent past as well. The only difference these days is that I am not blind to it, and have tried to understand it, so I can try to minimise the damage it causes. But maybe I was missing something. More

Global Mood Swings!

Recently, at a meet-up of Twitter folks, a couple of people asked me whether I had retired from Twitter. They had a point. Sure, I still shared links, but not only were they few in number, I also mostly stayed away from conversation. My reasons were that I had seen people and their agenda on Twitter change  (from the first time I had encountered them on the platform) – the vanity numbers affecting the ego, the loss of humility, the perceived slights and the overall nature of conversations that are more to convince and score points, than to understand and gain perspectives. From discuss to diss and cuss, as bad wordplay would go. :)

Yes, there are some great folks around with whom I have conversations, funnily enough more over DM, phone, other networks and offline meetings! One could also prune the feed to maximise this, but one could also read a book!

I had alluded to this in a previous post – Binary Code – the increasing disappearance of nuance in our consumption. Obviously, this is also happening in creation. In less than a couple of decades, we have moved from being in bubbles formed from having only a few information sources to ones made from having too many. We aren’t used to having a microphone in the hand, and it’s showing. Making things binary in consumption and reasoning is a way of coping with unbridled creation. It’s also not being helped by search engine and social algorithms accentuating and reinforcing pre existing notions and showing us the kind of things we’d like. Sanitised for our unique taste buds. More

“Both sides”

A few months ago, when I wrote Hope Trope during what on hindsight seems like a particularly low phase of my mind’s wax and wane cycles, a relative wrote to me. She said the post almost made her cry, and as a person who has been reading my posts for a while, she felt that my tone was increasingly becoming personal and despondent. The first description was right, and I was conscious of it. The second I attributed to the struggle – when creating one’s own worldview and life that treads outside of the accepted standards, in things as diverse as work, progeny (or the lack of it) and faith. Teething troubles of a stoic outlook. (which I still strive for)

I now realise that maybe she saw something I couldn’t because despite the best efforts, it is very difficult to remain objective about one’s own feelings. I cannot remember when I began to spend an inordinate amount of time on introspection. From experience, it is a double edged sword, it’s great to be conscious of one’s actions and words, but horrible when one judges the self as ruthlessly as I do, especially if the past gets dredged up. The amazing Book of Life has an excellent read on the subject using the folk tale of Androcles & the Lion as an allegory. I think I made all the mistakes the article points out – a wrong diagnosis, numbing the pain, and to a certain extent, applying the wrong medicine.  More

Binary Code

Facebook is in the process of updating its Newsfeed algo again so that we see more posts from friends and family, and less from ‘Pages’. Great news, except that when every person is media, and there is a limit to the pruning one can do, the feed will still consist of biases, prejudices, hoaxes, paid endorsements without disclosure, and yes, cat videos, Lincoln’s quotes on self driving cars, click bait and baby pics. My point above is less about filter failure and more about the continuing explosion of content and its distribution to set the context.

But now let’s talk about filters. The sheer volume of content means that (in general) the reader will want quickly digestible information before he/she moves on to the highly entertaining video waiting in line. Absolutely connected to ‘the demise of the middle ground in the attention economy‘. The article talks about nuance in political debate getting lost, but I think its reach extends beyond that. As this fantastic Guardian article “How technology disrupted the truth” states, “..everyone has their own facts“. But why do this happen? More

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)


Making sense of nostalgia



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