Decrees of Influence

‘Influence’ as a subject has been popping up on this blog since 2010, the last post sometime in Feb 2014. In about half a dozen posts, I wrote about influence in the context of the landscape and complexities, visibility-credibility framing, the data driven approach and its challenges, ‘micro celebrity’ price tags, brands’ usage of influencers as media, and my talk on influence at #WIN14.

Conceptually, I am all for “influencer marketing”. I know it can work in some contexts because of what we achieved with it in Myntra in 2012-13. But even further back, in 2010, thanks to a discussion on a post by Palsule, I realised that with web platforms, after a certain scale is reached, the culture starts resembling that of mass (media) and the ‘influencers’ as well as ‘influenced’ begin a relationship that’s familiar from a mass media era. (Influence CyclesMore

The Calcutta Chromosome

Amitav Ghosh

“The Glass Palace” is one of my all time favourites, and I find it difficult to believe that it was written by the same author. That is by no means a takedown of this book, in fact it is to the author’s credit that he manages to do such a fantastic job across genres!

I’m finding it very difficult to give a genre label to this work – fantasy, horror, thriller, medical mystery historical fiction – though sci-fi for some reason seems to be its accepted genre. The plot uses a whole lot of themes – science, mysticism, religion, mythology, counter-science, even nihilism to a certain extent. I can’t be sure but I also wonder if the author was firing a tiny salvo at a Western attitude towards Indian scholars, and how history has been written to glorify its authors. (non-objective and not giving credit where due) 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

Nasi And Mee

I think Nasi and Mee opened just as we were moving to Whitefield. But we had heard so many good things about it that a plan had been in the works for a long while. The plan just kept getting postponed, and would have continued to, but for a couple of friends who thankfully manage to be very unsympathetic to the rigorous planning with which I plan my restaurant outings! And thus we landed in Koramangala, on a rainy Friday night, after having spent the previous hour and a half trapped in an Uber in slow motion. Even as we were pointing out to each other the changes on 80 feet Road, Koramangala, we spotted Nasi and Mee adjacent to what can arguably be now called a heritage hangout – Rendezvous!

Somehow, the space manages to give itself a hipster feel, helped by a largely young crowd. Great buzz, and just the right amount of light for us older folk to see around, and look at the menu.

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Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

I probably wouldn’t have picked up the book if everyone and their everyone else had not raved so much about the movie. I am glad I did. (I need to add a few thrillers to the reading list occasionally) One of the indicators of how much I enjoyed a book is the number of days I take to finish it. This one was completed in half the time that had been allocated for it.

“You two are the most f*cked-up people I have ever met, and I specialize in f*cked-up people.” says Tanner Bolt somewhere in the last fifty pages of the book. That, arguably, is the best description of this book. From the time you wonder, just like Nick, what happened to Amy on their fifth anniversary, you’re hooked. That is the beginning of a roller-coaster ride, which keeps you on the edge pretty much all through the 400-odd pages. 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


First published in Bangalore Mirror

Over the years, the Kerala toddy shop menu has rapidly grown in stature from being mere ‘touching’ partners during drinks to a whole cuisine in itself. Hence you can imagine our delight on seeing an outlet that promises “authentic Kerala shaap cuisine”, especially when it unabashedly calls itself Shaap! Before we go further, let’s get the linguistics out of the way. ‘Shaap’ in this context does not mean a curse, it’s just the way ‘shop’ is pronounced. To be noted that after a trip the ‘shaap’, people are prone to cursing and swearing! The outlet, we realised when we got there, has been refurbished – from its previous café avatar. However, it’s a job that has been reasonably well done. From the signboard that has been done in the toddy shop style, and the thatched coconut leaves on the walls, to the posters (movie quotes and pop culture), the Balarama comics (not Hindu mythology, it’s a popular kids magazine) on the shelf and the use of a non-Malayali labour force, it was absolute Kerala! An entire blackboard-finish wall has been dedicated to the menu, and we couldn’t wait to start!

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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


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.



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