mPhil

Home Outgrown

On our way to the airport, for what would be one of our shortest trips to Kerala, I told D that I didn’t see myself making this journey a decade from now. At least not framed in the way we do it these days – a trip home. I was wrong – it happened way sooner than a decade.

It wasn’t a comment made lightly – after all, to borrow a phrase, I was referring to a city which had all the places that made up a couple of decades of my life.

What does one go home for? The obvious answer is easy – to spend time with people who matter in one’s life. To note – even that changes during one’s lifetime. But if I have to dig a bit deeper, Rana Dasgupta’s words make sense – when one becomes homesick, it is not a place that one seeks, but oneself, back in time. And when one does that, the props matter. The places, the faces, all reminders of different phases. When they no longer exist, the place is no longer a cure for homesickness. More

Project Happiness

Our “big” annual vacation typically happens around May-June. But at least six months of preparation precedes it, and my levels of preparation (which D has now been almost coerced into) might be considered way too orchestrated for practical purposes. My defense is that in all probability, this would be the only time we visit the place, so I’d like to make it as hassle-free as possible. Also, the fear of missing out.

As a species, we are uniquely capable of projecting our future in our own minds. My plan is supposed to make us happy. The expectations are already set. And that means that things can go wrong in many ways. For instance, things might not go as planned because of events outside of my control. Or we see other possibilities once we’re in a place but we’ve already committed to our plans in terms of time/money/emotions! More

A working theory of Karma

Karma is one of two aspects of Buddhism that I have not been able to reconcile with my thinking, the other being a related phenomenon – reincarnation/rebirth. My understanding was only based on the limited reading I had done on the subject, this was something I hoped to correct in the medium term. But recently, a post on awareness by Umair Haque put Karma in a nuanced new light.

More searching (google, not within 😉 ) took me to Two Meanings of Karma. The author distinguishes between universal and psychological karma. The former is the cosmos driven moral justice model, probably influenced by the Hinduism version of karma, which I was finding difficult to reconcile. The latter is in line with the one Umair Haque has written about. Our innate sense of morality.  More

A devious self

recite-1ofj9ut

These days when I think of the self, I am regularly reminded of this. I use ‘ego’ interchangeably with ‘self’. Ego as in egotism, not the Freud definition. The inflated view of the self that most of us refer to when we say ‘ego’. While the scientific-philosophical perspective is something I am very interested in, it is more the day-to-day reveals that are more frequent.  More

Empathy & Extinction

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari explains how we’re the most dominant species on the planet because we’re the only ones able to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The ‘funny’ part is that the things we cooperate on usually exist only in our collective imagination – religion, nation, money. Intersubjective realities.

But it gets funnier. When I look around now, I see these intersubjective realities actually causing more divisiveness between groups than unity. Offended because Spiegel allegedly called it a poor nation. Offended because Katy Perry used a Hindu goddess to describe her mood. New day, new reason to be offended.  More

That passion – profession debate, again

In many beer fueled conversations, I have heard the sentiment of “quitting my job and doing something I am passionate about.” While I see merit in that line of thought, these days I also end up playing party-pooper by asking if he/she has a business model in mind, especially since the ‘passion’ is more often than not from the usual suspects list – digital photography, cooking/baking, writing, travel and so on. To clarify, unlike funded startups this model doesn’t even have to scale, but in the medium-long term, the revenue has to be greater than expenditure. That’s a requisite for survival in the world, unless one has alternate sources of income.

I saw a meeting of worlds when I noticed yet another job listing that demanded the person to be “passionate about digital marketing“? As someone who has been working in the domain since 2004, I have seen a version of this phrase appear in many job descriptions. I could replace digital marketing with startups, consumer insights, programming and so on, the question remains the same. More

Free* Will

*Conditions Apply

The first documented appearance of the subject on the blog is in 2011, and I seem to have posted on the subject every alternate year, the last being in 2015. But it’s sheer coincidence and not really pattern following that led me to think, and write, about free will now.

Across my life, I have moved from having a faith and believing in predestination (will of God), to being agnostic and believing in karma, to being an atheist and believing in the influence of luck (random chance) in all the plans I make. In the last version, the view is that my free will is dominant – I make my own choices which dictate my future and nothing is predetermined. The luck explains the good and bad out-of-ordinary things that change my future, but it is random. Karma stories are a forced narrative based on hindsight. More

The bang & the buck

A decade ago, while working with a newspaper group where our small team managed three brands, we had an interesting situation. One of the brands, a vernacular broadsheet, was at an advanced stage in its lifecycle where it had to be made relevant and exciting for a newer set of readers who were native to the region. Another brand, an English compact daily (we didn’t like to be called a tabloid!), was an absolute newbie aimed at what could broadly be called an ‘immigrant’ audience. This was made interesting because research showed that the ‘triggers’ for the two sets of readers were quite at odds with each other. To elaborate, but without nuances, the positioning of the vernacular brand would be around showcasing pride in local language and culture, laced with jingoism, and that of the English brand would be around a cosmopolitan outlook. Holding both these diametrically different ideologies and doing justice to both was quite an exciting experience.

That nostalgia bout was triggered because I’m increasingly seeing this friction between different parts of the population escalate. A certain angst that seems to flare up on various seemingly unconnected issues. So here’s a thought. I am not really a Javed Akhtar fan, and a lot of people dissed him when he connected the Bangalore New Year molestation incident to social segregation and economic divide, but I strongly believe that many of the horrors we witness today – from terrorism to road rage – have economic disparity at its heart. I had written about this in the context of our convenience attitude towards injustice during the Nirbhaya incident. To note, this is not a right-wrong commentary, because I also strongly believe that moral objectivity is an oxymoron. More

A case for the showcase

Clever tees have been an attraction for quite a while now. Less generic, and more fun mashups. This one is an example from a few years ago.

viva_la_evolucion

Once, when I wore this while out in a group, one kind soul complimented the design. Another person in the group immediately commented that people wore such tees to send a “look how smart I am” message. My views was that at least for me, it was less vanity/personality and more a means of expression and identity, which served as a conversation starter, given my less-than-gregarious nature. But it did stay with with me, and make me wonder whether he had a point. More

In a world of abstractions…

It was in Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus that I first became really aware of how much of an abstraction money is. Just to clarify what ‘abstraction’ is in this context, vegetables, meat, human labour etc all have clear, tangible value. Money is a transactional device with many advantages but it has no inherent value. Its common acceptance is its value. The exercise on 8th November 2016 is a great example to illustrate this –  those pieces of paper we thought were valuable until a minute ago suddenly became worthless. In fact, at one point, there was a chance that after Dec 31st, they would even be harmful!

At some point, I started thinking of abstraction with respect to consciousness. At a very broad level, I think of consciousness as having three basic fluid forces at play – sensations, emotions, and thoughts. We tend to use the adjacent ones (sensation/emotion and emotion/thought) interchangeably but if you think about it, nuances separate them. They all have a role to play, but I also see them as a hierarchy with respect to their influence on consciousness – thoughts at the top. More