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

Possession

Kamala Markandaya

Kamala Markandaya’s writings have always intrigued me largely because of the times she lived in and the socio-cultural themes they therefore brought out. In this book, for instance, there were at least two themes I could make out.

The first is obvious enough, and also stems from the title – a battle between the spiritual and the material. The story begins with Anasuya, a writer, becoming the inadvertent connector of two lives – Caroline Bell, a rich, divorced, beautiful English lady with an iron will, and Valmiki, a poor peasant boy who is also a gifted artist. Valmiki’s parents have a very dim view of him, and the only person who sees his talent is Swamy, an ascetic who lives a solitary life in the hills near Valmiki’s village. Valmiki is swept away by Caroline to London, where she introduces him to her society and culture and tries to help him develop his talent. But it isn’t all altruistic – even as Val’s talent ensures his popularity, Caroline extends their relationship and ensures that he feels beholden to her. She goes to every extent to destroy any competition that arises, and succeeds. In a sense, it is difficult to say who possesses and who is possessed. Swamy’s mostly invisible hand brings out the battle between spirituality and material success. More

The Kabali Experience

Kabali had to be watched in the movie hall, I had decided as soon as I saw the first trailer. The hype that followed all but ensured that polarisation would happen, but I honestly didn’t care what the reviews said. Rajini’s “Kabali daa” in the trailer, to me, felt like a guarantee.

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(via)

It isn’t a typical Rajini film, most people seem to agree on that. For instance, here I was, ready to jump up, whoop in joy, and throw a coin during the entry scene, and in an underwhelming introductory shot, he appears, the embodiment of calm in what’s touted as a gangster movie! And yet, in a few seconds, the movie started delivering on what I’d come for – the spellbinding swag that only Rajinikanth can pull off on screen! (“Koodave poranthathu, ennikkum pogadhu” 😀 #youremember) There are enough of those scenes in the movie to have kept the fan in me very contented. More

The Permit Room

My Instagram feed had been abuzz for a while with some very appealing photos of The Permit Room dishes, but travel (vacation, not the one from Whitefield to MG Road) meant that it took us a while to get there. Despite the TOIT pedigree, the concept and therefore the food, ambiance and decor all are completely different. No craft beer, ok?

The name is a throwback to the days of Prohibition, and the food takes absolute liberties with good old South Indian cuisine. Spread across three floors, the decor is unabashedly kitsch – posters, quotes, art, matchbox collages, and the satirical take on taxidermy – all chuckle-worthy stuff.  We sat on the first floor, with a view of Garuda Mall.

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“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

The Palace of Illusions

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Like I’ve said before, what does it say of a story when countless people, centuries later, can continue to render it in their unique way? It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s completely enthralled by the phenomenon that is The Mahabharata. It’s even more heartening when renditions are such that they do justice to the epic.

This is the Mahabharata told from the viewpoint of Draupadi, and as a reader, I could easily believe this to be indeed her autobiography. I could sense the changes in Draupadi with time, not just in her behaviour, but also in her perspectives and even the words she uses. It is almost as though the author walked in her shoes! It is difficult to bring anything new to the table with regards to the basic story itself, but the author manages it with the help of at least three devices – the role of Karna in Draupadi’s life, the perspectives of a female protagonist and finally, the interpretations Draupadi draws of and from the events that happen around her. There is a fourth too, that lends a uniqueness to this retelling – the Palace of Illusions, and what it does to Draupadi’s own perspectives. 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

The Workshop

First published in Bangalore Mirror

The new restaurants that open on 100 feet Road, Indiranagar seem to be giving a hat tip to the traffic by having an automobile connection in their names. At least, that’s what struck me when I saw our destination – The Workshop – exactly opposite a restaurant called Horn OK Please. The restaurant has outdoor seating, which, if you can get over the blaring horns, does look like a comfortable place to watch the world go by. We chose to sit inside, where, on comfortable sofas or functional but aesthetically pleasing chairs, you can watch the IPL season go by. The wall graphics continue the theme (of the name) by creating a workshop impression out of kitchen utensils and the cooking process. The overall effect is bright and cheerful, and does a decent job of creating a relaxed, casual dining ambiance. The menu offers a mix of café fare and more elaborate dishes from Continental, Italian and North Indian cuisines. With the background of pop from the earlier part of this decade, we decided to begin.   More

Prosperity’s moral code

A few months ago, TechCrunch had a post debating the role of capitalism in a world that includes AI, where jobs are disappearing at a rate faster than new jobs coming in.  Capitalism has always been played as a finite game, focused on profit for a set of people, largely irrespective of the costs to others or society at large. As I wrote in “A shift in the world order“, its only real foe in the recent past has been the nation state, and its executive arm – the government. A foe increasingly struggling to even defend its own relevance, I’d say. As the dominant system of the world, we will then automatically (whether rightfully, is debatable) begin questioning capitalism’s morality codes. More than what we are doing currently, because the impact will not just be higher, it will also start affecting more people.

Earlier this year, I had written on how if it intends to survive, capitalism needs to expand its scope, and play an infinite game – whose purpose is to continue the flow of the game, and bring in new players. Something similar to what Douglas Rushkoff calls digital distributism (read) a model that aims for the circulation of money rather than the extraction of money. An evolution that capitalism needs to go through, or it runs the risk of imploding. This, of course, is not really in line with the way an earlier generation of corporations, or Silicon Valley operates.  As Maciej Cegłowski writes in “The Moral Economy of Tech“, treating the world as a software project gives us a rationale for being selfish. We pretend that by maximizing our convenience and productivity, we’re hastening the day when we finally make life better for all those other people. More

Be Careful What you Wish For

Jeffrey Archer

The fourth volume of the Clifton Chronicles, and since Archer has made it a point to end each book at a very crucial juncture, the book dives straight in. One of the problems I faced was that I had to do some reading up on the web to remember the plot and the characters.

As with the previous book, the original protagonist Harry Clifton has very little role to play. Most of the plot lines are centred around his wife Emma and son Sebastian. Both of them have to fend off various kinds of attacks from their enemy Don Pedro Martinez. Sebastian’s problems on this account seem relatively small compared to that of Emma’s, as Martinez tries every trick outside the book to bring down Barrington Shipping with the help of Major Alex Fisher and Lady Virginia Fenwick. We are also kept aware of Sir Giles’ political career even as he too becomes a target of Martinez. More