Monthly Archives: December 2015

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 Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

My perspectives are a bit skewed because I have read the author’s works in reverse chronology. I think that probably explains why I found this a little underwhelming compared to “And the Mountains Echoed“. But if I move that out of the equation, then this is a good book, not just from the point of a universal human story, but for the fact that it is a window into life in Afghanistan.

The book covers the time frame from a few years before the Soviet occupation to the post-Taliban era and covers three generations.
The characters are really fleshed out and this is what works for the book. Amir’s loneliness living as a motherless child, his friendship with Hassan, his complicated relationship with Baba that continues even in adulthood, and his guilt stemming from what he let happen and made happen have all been well captured. Hassan is immediately lovable and the author is able to convince us that such a genuinely noble character can exist. All the others – Amir’s Baba, a complex character who never stops being a proud Afghan despite a massive change in fortunes, his wife Soraya who has her own relatively minor demons to conquer, her parents who probably fit Afghan stereotypes of an older generation couple, and Rahim Khan, who serves as a father figure to Amir and finally shows him the path to redemption – serve as perfect foils. More

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

One Night in Bangkok

First published in Bangalore Mirror

If you’re looking for a travel post, stop! ONIB is the name of a Bar & Grill in Indiranagar, run by the folks behind Plan B and Mother Cluckers. Reaching Indiranagar 12th Main is only marginally easier than getting to Bangkok, so we wanted to make sure that our trip wouldn’t be wasted, and tried to reserve a table. But that, we were told, wasn’t possible. Visa on arrival, just like Thailand! Street parking it is, all the very best!

A sliding door and a thick black curtain lead you into a relatively small seating area, though they have used the space really well. At 7.30, we had the place pretty much all to ourselves. That meant we could really look around, after adjusting to the darkness, at what’s being positioned as India’s first Thai dive bar. The Buddha statuettes, the Muay Thai wall painting and the menu itself easily take care of the Thai part, but I think the place is a dive bar more in spirit than in actuality, judging by the prices and the décor. The bar stands out like a beacon of hope in the otherwise dim lit ambiance. Despite mostly high seating – wooden chairs – the place somehow manages to give out a plush feel. The stylish dinginess, together with the DJ’s groovy playlist based on 80s music ensures that the place has the potential to become a favoured neighbourhood joint, probably for a crowd older than the standard pub/lounge set.

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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.


Em & The Big Hoom

Jerry Pinto

“Home is not an address, home is family” pretty much defines what the story is all about. Jerry Pinto’s debut novel is the story of one woman, her madness, and how her family lives through it in a 1 BHK flat in Mahim. There is no large canvas, no spectacular events, it’s a simple story about complex lives, narrated in the most disarming and sensitive manner.

Em holds the story together, as she does her family too, despite (or because of) her manic and wild self that writes, embarrasses her kids, smokes beedis, attempts suicides, and in flashes, also reveals an understanding of raw human nature. In contrast is The Big Hoom, standing like a breakwater that calms the storms lashing through their lives. He is an enigma to me, and it would seem, to the narrator too! The nameless narrator and ‘Lao Tsu’ complete the family. The back stories and idiosyncrasies of the other characters give them an identity that does not get lost in the narrative. A good time to note that Bombay exists too, peeping out once in a while, though thankfully it doesn’t take itself seriously and is content being a backdrop. Goa probably gets a better role! More

A worked up future

One of the most fascinating reads I’ve come across online recently is Breaking Smart. I’ve only reached Chapter 5 of 22 in Season 1, but it’s already given me a whole lot of insights and perspectives not only on its primary premise – “software is eating the world” – but also on the future of work and employment, an area I have been very interested in for a while now. Chapter 3 (Getting Reoriented) for instance, dwells upon how classic generational conflicts of previous eras is playing out as an economy-wide technological disruption nowThis chapter also talks of the dilemma that pretty much everyone faces these days, (though I can’t be sure how many have thought about/acknowledged this) should I abandon some of my investments in the industrial social order and join the dynamic new social order, or hold on to the status quo as long as possible?  More

The Lost Caravan

From our current environs – Whitefield – getting to Church Street can be classified under ‘travel’, and that’s probably why I took to the theme of The Lost Caravan immediately! (map) The building it’s housed in reminded me of old hotels – the kind you used to see in the 80s and early 90s. A lift sometimes takes you to the second floor. (Bangalore and power cuts, you know the deal) A reassuring large bar and peppy interiors greet you as soon as you get in. The walls are full of curios – clocks, a neat open-suitcase way of showing travel paraphernalia and a/c ducts covered up with maps of all sorts! Also check out the post card sized travel photos. Fantastic stuff. That Mars-Venus touch on the loo doors – nice. :) We had reserved a table for 8, but got there early and sat in the smoking section, which has the kind of street-facing view I really like.

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Habits and home

It’s been happening on enough recent Cochin trips to be given the status of a habit – visiting The Grand hotel for lunch. The food is predictably good, though they take liberties with what can be called ‘meals’. But there’s more to it. The Grand has been around for as long as I can remember, and in the otherwise rapidly changing landscape of my hometown, it offers a solidity and anchorage that is rare and appealing. This time, we had this guy seated right behind us. :)

Another habit, which is even older, is shopping from Malabar Chips – for friends, colleagues, and us. Some of the people working there have been around for decades, and I told D how I’d watched them change over the years. “..all the faces that made up my childhood“, as Rana Dasgupta phrases it in Solo. It made me think how we probably notice changes in others more than they themselves do. By the same token, we don’t notice ourselves change. More