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

On books and realness

Optimized-shelf copy

The books on the bookshelf. Each with a story to tell – when I bought them, where, and why. Some of them are gifts. There is a tangible sense of our history (theirs and mine) and collective mortality when I run my hand across their spines, and flip through their pages. Sometimes they also contain the stories of unknown others. Many of my earliest memories are book -related – trips to Paico, Amar Chitra Katha purchased at railway stations, and so on. Some of the reasons why, despite not being the calibre of reader (and collector) JP Rangaswami is, I can still easily relate to why he is not buying a Kindle. Because I’ve had a love affair with books ever since I can remember as well.  More

All I have to do is dream…

Yes. Quite liked the movie – Inception. Mostly because I found the concept  (dream incubation, lucid dreaming) interesting and because it forced me to pay attention. Sometimes, movies like that can be refreshing. Of course, it helped that the visuals were very watchable too, and the last shot added to the charm.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, not to worry, the post only refers to it in terms of concept. At a very basic level, its about planting an idea (Inception) inside a person’s head. Only, he shouldn’t know it was planted by someone else, he should think it’s his idea.  In a world where a lot of people anyway falsely claim an idea as their own, you might wonder why this is interesting, but  ignore that for now. :) Meanwhile, since the person needs to think its his idea, a basic version of the idea is planted in a dream state, in the subconscious.

Like the movie maker has said about the end, its whatever you want it to be, so here goes. The other reason I liked the movie was because of the ‘life subtext” – the part that makes comparisons to The Matrix inevitable. I thought many acts of ‘Inception’ happen to us too, over a period of time – sometimes done by others, sometimes by ourselves – conditioning. And since we don’t really contemplate why we choose to do a certain thing/in a certain way, we end up thinking that what we’re doing is what we really want.

Half my life
Is in books’ written pages
Lived and learned from fools and
From sages
You know it’s true
All the things come back to you

And just like how in the movie, the ‘projections’ (things and people used by a dream-architect to populate the dream world) turn hostile when the person detects an external presence in their sub conscious, in life, the problem starts when we suddenly realise the existence of the conditioning, and realise that perhaps, much time has been spent on chasing an ‘inception’.

Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn

And yet, some would say that their lives have been made better by pursuing that one idea. So how do we really know? In the movie, the people who carry out ‘inception’ and the lower forms of the art (extraction) have a totem that helps them distinguish dreams from reality. I wonder if we have something comparable, but then, I wonder, if life would be as interesting as it is if I did have a spinning top or a rolling dice to give me a better grip on reality. :)

until next time, deception :)

Lyrics: Dream On, Aerosmith.


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