“Let them know you’re thinking about them”

You’re familiar with that – it’s one of Facebook’s birthday reminders. Until some time back, I used to religiously wish folks on their birthday. But I have stopped that, it felt like cheating. To me, this sort of wishing reduced the significance of the event and the wish, and almost brought it to the level of an already degraded currency on the network – the ubiquitous ‘Like’. I know, this can be argued quite a bit. At a very simplistic level, wishing someone on the birthday could be like a little shot of dopamine for them, and easy for you to provide too.

But I have at least two perspectives against this. Call it over-analysis if you will. The first is where I draw a parallel with travel. In the case of places, increased access and convenience tend to bring in people with motives different from an earlier set. From travelers to tourists. Right or wrong is subjective so let’s just say that the character of the places, and their residents change. Arguably, the first set of folks had a deeper bond with the place and more of an interest in its well being. And so too, with the wishes on Facebook. My birthday is off Facebook and I know that those who wish me now really have me in their thoughts.  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

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

leg godt

Sapphire (toys- retail chain) opened a store in Koramangala recently, and lies on my route to practically anywhere. That means that giant Lego display and I stare at each other almost everyday now.

Lego and I go back more than a couple of decades. As always, no age jokes, okay? 1984, to be precise. Remember, I wrote about it in ‘The Foreign Object‘? Like I’d mentioned then, the loot from dad’s US stay was rationed out over a long period of time. Perhaps the only part that was exposed completely in the beginning were Lego sets.

The first set had arrived by a special package even before my Dad or the suitcase reached Indian shores. This was a trailer set, literally, and included a motorcycle too. But the real treasure was the lengthy catalog that came along with it. I quickly set about marking the ones that I wanted and sent it back to Dad.

Now, I suspect that my Dad, from whom I have inherited my skills, being the kind of shopper for whom a ‘milk and bread’ trip to the local grocery store is a mammoth effort, because of the number of choices that present itself, must’ve extrapolated my interest, seen a huge range of Lego sets, and decided that nothing served as gifts to my cousin set (both sides of the family) better, though the age bracket was anywhere from 2 months to a decade. That meant that when he returned, the suitcase had a disproportionate range of Lego sets, and I wangled, via sulks/sobs/means of affection, the right of first choice, and a cancellation of the original, carefully made, catalog choices .

In later days, I began to wonder whether it was a choice I might’ve been happy without, because each set had something I really wanted, and despite my arsenal of negotiating tactics, I wasn’t allowed to open the boxes and ‘exchange’ pieces. After various levels of filtering, I finally kept a digger-tipper combo, a medieval catapult, and a medieval castle set. My medieval set soldiers only had swords, shields and spears, and I hated missing out on the one with bows and arrows, but it was all about box sizes and number of pieces.

Though I was a stickler for not mixing up the pieces in storage, they were allowed to be social and mingle during playtime, and the four sets often gave rise to space crafts which were launched with catapults. (#2 kind of behaviour here) The magnum opus, thanks to a Star Trek/ Space Station Sigma overdose, was a space station, with motorbikes, driven by medieval soldiers, and defended with swords and shields. The tiny spears were also taken to school regularly as part of a superhero costume – they fitted between fingers nicely and could be pushed out using the palm for super-punches. Of course once the punch landed, the spear was pushed back and the palm hurt, so it was discontinued.

Much later, the Lego sets were passed on to cousins who were more than a decade younger. The stories remained, pushed back, as a life was built. And these days, when I see the Lego display, I am tempted to go in and check out the sets, maybe they have those Star Wars sets here now. Wonder how much they cost now, never had to wonder about that, back in 1984.  The price of growing up.

until next time, toys are us :)

PS: Lego owes its name’s origin to leg godt, Danish for play well


For some strange reason, I’ve read Pankaj Mishra’s books in reverse order..well, almost. I read The Romantics first, a long time before, and it remains a book I’m very attached to. Its a good book, but I’ve never figured out the exact reason for this strange bond, in spite of making a rare exception and reading it a second time. Maybe it was the time I first read it (a stage of life) or its characters or its title, someday I hope to know, it will tell me a bit more about myself, perhaps. But meanwhile, from The Romantics, I was lured straight to ‘Temptations of the West‘. A few months later, I read ‘An End to Suffering‘, which served as a kind of introduction to Buddhism for me, as Mishra mapped it on to his own spiritual evolution. I finally completed his first book, ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in small town India’ more recently. Though its title would indicate so, calling it a travelogue would be a gross injustice, as it also manages to recreate the India of the 90’s. So, yes, it is a travelogue, but like many of its ilk, it works in space and time. No, this is not really a review. :)

I’m quite glad that I read his books in the order I did. If I read it earlier, I might have been irritated by the cynicism in the book. But having read his later books, I felt almost as though I was with him, as his thoughts and personality evolved. The book gives you loads of nostalgia triggers – from Baba Sehgal’s ‘Main bhi Madonna’ (i still remember the Magnasound casette cover :D) to mentions of Nonie and Mamta Kulkarni, it draws upon tiny incidents of those forgotten days.

Many of you may not be able to associate at all with those three people mentioned above, for me, they bring back an era, their importance is relative. I even wondered whether, in future, we will have nostalgia townships, like we have the amusement parks now. The 70s, 80s, 90s re-created in terms of people, music, movies, fashion and all the elements of pop culture that can be attributed to an era. So, when you have those nostalgia pangs, you can call a few friends and take a vacation to bring back a period in your life. :)

A common theme struck me as I ‘moved’ through the book’s pages. Mishra mentions Murshidabad looking towards Calcutta in hope, for job prospects and a better life in general. In many people’s perception, Kolkata is perhaps the worst of the metros on those terms. He writes about the ‘immense cultural vacuum of North india’, and ‘looking towards Bengal for instruction’, and the decline of Allahabad and Benaras. But I realised that for me, those two places were perhaps teeming with culture and history. Again, in Murshidabad, he talks to a person who considers the Babri Masjid as just another mosque, while a nation still burns at regular intervals – the repercussions of an act long ago. The common theme is the relative nature of these things – they means different things to different people, all relative versions of the same thing equally real, when considered from each point of view.

I remember thinking about progress during my Andaman visit. I saw it in its current state, and can visualise it in the years to come, as tourism becomes a larger factor in the scheme of things, and the changes it will invariably bring in, into a way of life. To quote from the book we’ve been discussing

Civilisation, however, is on the move, and as E.M.Cioran remarks, nothing more characterises the civilised man than the zeal to impose his discontents on those so far exempt from them.

When the tourist money flows into the system, it will help the locals afford many things that they perhaps didn’t have access to. But even those who do not wish to change might be sucked into this new way of life because it would be a question of survival. Were they better off and happier before all this happens to them? I don’t know, because after all, even happiness is so relative now.

Objectivity –  based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices, and not the result of any judgments made by a conscious entity. But everything is relative. Things not seen from one’s own perspective don’t seem to matter, and objectivity’s definition would suggest “no one’s perspective”. Maybe that’s why we don’t care for it much anymore?

until next time, time, space and relativism