of thoughts in ebb and flow

Joy is just a phone-call away

“I can guess who you were talking to on the phone” my husband said, “without hearing the exact words” In response to my raised eyebrow he ventured a “ That was xyz right? Your friend from childhood right? Right?”

He was too. Right. “Your tone of voice changes, your entire demeanour does.” I reflected. Yes, it does doesn’t it? With every person or set of persons we have a different equation. That reflects on our behaviour. Even on a phone call!whatsapp-image-2016-09-30-at-1-44-10-pm

But this `from childhood’ has a far more noticeable effect. Especially if you lost connect with them as you grew up and even now talk to them only intermittently. When you do talk to each other you fall back, effortlessly, into the rhythm of those earlier days. You relate to them the way you left it back then. The banter, the leg-pulling, the liberties you take…. it is like copy-paste-zoom-forward-in-time. All the life that happened in between melts away and you reclaim the you-that-was for a brief moment.

It is refreshing, it is invigorating. It reminds you of your hopes, your dreams, makes you look at today with the energy you had yesterday. Here’s to old friends! Want to pick up that phone today?


Just watched John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight episode on journalism. It talks about important stories, Spotlight-style investigative journalism being increasingly under threat.

He mentions a number of blows the industry is reeling under. Profitability becoming prime-focus leading to `popular’ replacing `important’ is one. Another is the reluctance of customers to pay for news. Yet another is the increasing media ownership by politicians/business houses leading to conflict of interest in content. (Memorable quote from the episode: We must pay for journalism or we will pay for it).

He talks about the situation in the US. But, hey, we seem headed the same way in India.

“I tell our journalists to get on Twitter and Facebook, because then they experience the gap between what they think is a good story and what people are reading”

“Sometimes, we will have to release something that is short and quick and exciting with one photograph attached. It may be superficial, but that is what works.

We are moving from pure news toward entertainment, short-form content, and fun videos. The definition of news has changed completely.”

So says Vineet Jain, Managing Director of BCCL (i.e.Times Group), India’s largest media conglomerate, in an interview to Strategy+Business titled `Vineet Jain on Leading India’s Media Into The Future’. BCCL, the article  points out,  owns the largest-selling English daily in the world – The Times Of India, the world’s second largest circulation business newspaper – The Economic Times, a clutch of FM radio stations, magazines and popular TV channels.

Gulp. I am worried about this new definition of news and the future he is leading media into.

That a number of Indian newspapers and TV channels are owned by politicians is not news any more. It is also well-known that Indian business houses have controlling stakes in a number of significant media properties. This is not to say that owners will always exert undue influence over the content. But it is naïve to believe there will be no conflict of interest at all.

Newspapers report that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has decided to shut down several regional news units of All India Radio including ones in Pune, Allahabad, Bhuj, Dharwad, Coimbatore, Dharwad, Dibrugarh and Indore. Staff rationalisation, those in the know speculate.

The three-times-a-day news round up by Akashwani Pune is the source of much local and regional news in Maharashtra and I expect it has wide listenership. I expect it is the same with the other regional news stations on the closure list.

If the Government does not support a news channel that caters to regional markets who will step in? Should we leave it to market forces alone? Market forces that are moving away from pure news to news-tertainment? To media owned by political parties or business houses? What will happen to plurality of opinion, marginalised voices or dissenting ones?

Then again, if the experience of Dhiraj Singh, formerly Executive Director (Programming) of Lok Sabha TV, is any indication, then being a Government-run channel does not guarantee independence of operations. Read this article in The Outlook for what he has to say.

Where do we go from here?  Take every news we consume with a pinch of salt, nay, the whole salt shaker? Live knowing full well that all we read, see and hear on media is the half-truth or perhaps not the truth at all? Know that the stories that need telling may never see the light of day?

Gulp. Gulp.

Is there anything we can do?



Amazon: Earth un-centric?

Amazon says it seeks to be the earth’s most customer-centric company. I am a customer..today. But I am not sure I will continue to be one for much longer. Because …


Amazon – can you move towards being earth-centric too? Please?

Do you buy from Amazon? Does this bother you?

I walked into my building with the days errands done. There was the usual little stop and chat-a-while as I ran into neighbours. Some banter later I made my way home. A vague sense of unease lingered. Amongst the little group was a neighbour who had recently been on the wrong side of the law. The newspapers and the grapevine had filled us in on their shady dealings in much detail.  There had been much shock, surprise and disgust expressed in private conversations about this.

Yet, a few moments ago our conversation had not missed a beat as they joined in while passing by. No awkward silences, no strained hellos. Was it a charade staged for politeness? Well. It did not appear so to me. There was no subterranean `we know what you did and we think it was wrong’ thread at all. And I was left with this niggling sense of unease.

Today, I read about the `King of Good Times’ Vijay Mallya’s forthcoming 60th birthday party plans. Exclusive event. Enrique Iglesias and Sonu Nigam shows. 500-600 select crème-de-la-crème invitees. This, in the backdrop of his business being declared `willful defaulter’ by the largest public sector bank in the country. This, while he is being investigated by the CBI for a Rs 900 Cr. loan default to another bank. That he is the toast-of-the-town still, that being invited to this party is viewed as a privilege, that the party-goers do not feel a twinge of conscience ……

The niggling sense of unease rises up in me ..again

Do responsible members of a community have a role to play in nurturing a law-abiding society? Isn’t social acceptance a powerful tool we can use to encourage desirable behaviours in the group? And discourage undesirable ones?

Sure, law will take its course. But till then are we to wine and dine and make merry without a care? Perhaps I am being naive. Perhaps we should let `innocent unless proved guilty’ be the benchmark. Perhaps we should continue to not be disturbed by the daily assault on values until the court deems it worthy of attention. Perhaps we deserve the moral bankruptcy we are heading towards. Or are we there already?

Evening once more. I sit at the park bench. Happy screams of children rent the air. One little boy sits alone beside me. “Why are you not playing with the others?” I ask. “They are not allowing me to play” he says morosely. I call the kids over and ask why so. “ He used bad words and broke our bat when he got out last time” they said. “I won’t do it again. Mother promise” he says. And they run off to play together.

Where did we lose our way?

Much has been written about organised retail and how it has been a game-changer. Or not. Depending on which stakeholder the writer is focusing on. As I did my shopping the other day I realised that for me it has been a BIGG stress-buster. Not in the sense of retail therapy but simply how easy it has made things for me.

Say I am out to buy vegetables. Earlier, I would go to the street which has a high concentration of sabzi-wallahs. I would walk down the entire length of stalls noting who had what from my purchase list. Then I would run a little linear programming process in my mind to arrive at the minimum number of vendors such that the list was completed, quality was maximised and price was, hopefully, minimised.

Having arrived at what to buy and from who,  I would then join the meleé around that vendor and try to catch his/her eye and veg sellerask for the price of the chosen vegetable; then I would pretend to be shocked and try to push the price down with statements like “अरे पिछले हफ्ते तोह ….” or “वहाँ तोह इससे काम में मिल रहा है ” or “यह तोह fresh  नहीं लग रहा फिर भी इतनी कींमत!” ..which is always a slippery slope for me because I never, ever, remember prices.  Nor do I know what the fresh version of the vegetable really looks like.

Running the risk of being ridiculed I would choose one of the statements that seemed best and make a weak attempt at appearing the knowledgeable purchaser. All this while I would keep an eye out for an opportune moment to snatch one of the plastic baskets that are always in short supply. Those ones you put your veggies into and give for weighing.

Then the process of bending/reaching/almost falling over the spread out baskets of produce to reach for the desired vegetable and once again, battling with other customers, to catch the vendors eye for getting it weighed and bagged.

Process repeated for as many veggies as I needed.

But the biggest, the mother of all challenges,is yet to come –  arriving at the total bill. I have a fairly easy-going relationship with numbers, especially the single-digit ones and am happy to do what is called `mental math’ with them. But the typical  Indian vegetable vendor math that involves two digit numbers called out in the local language, weights in multiples of quarter and half-quarter kilos and ten-twelve such line items?  My head swims. I usually pretend I have it all figured out and the final amount she demands is exactly the sum I had arrived at myself  :p

Then comes his छुट्टा नहीं है , let me add some chilliies/ curry leaves / ginger etc to round it up etc etc . Who knows if I am getting my money’s worth. “ठीक है ना ?” he asks. I have given up long ago. I nod dumbly. ठीक ही होगा .

Now to repeat the cycle with another vendor for the stuff that remains. Gr..o.oo..aan!

At the end of the trip I always feel like I have emerged from a battle – scarred and not sure if I had won or lost or even done okay. I clutch my emotionally high-cost veggie bag and unsure-if-correct-balance in it purse and head home.

Contrast this with the modern-day, organised retail outlet. No jangled nerves, no feeling of being a loser for not bargaining well. Just row upon row of items you can peacefully pick to the sound of music. And for the math-challenged like me, the bar coding, weighing and price-labeling machine are supreme inventions that deserve Nobel nominations. For that alone I am willing to live with the less-than-perfect quality of the produce and the abominable selection of songs that play in the background.

And no more handling cash and trying to figure out the right change! Plastic saves the day! All I need to exert to remember is the PIN for the card!!!!

The modern retail environment has made shopping a breeze for the likes of me.  As a child I remember learning addition and subtraction and how to handle money on visits to the market with my mother. I remember repeating the process with my kid.

Soon we will have a whole generation that has no need to do mental arithmetic for simple daily tasks. Perhaps technology will slowly make sure they never need to do it. Perhaps that is not a bad thing. Perhaps.

We will slowly forget how to do 13 x 15 and we won’t have to remember what we have run out of because the fridge would have already made that list along with stuff that’s past its expiry date and still sitting inside it. And soon we may not need to even go to the modern retail store because the fridge would have already sent in the order for replenishment to the store. We won’t need to talk to humans at all. The machines would do all the talking .. to us and to each other.

Hmmmm…..  😦

I think I’ll go to the sabzi mandi this week.

Blend In Or Break Away

I know next to nothing about architecture. But am always ready to stand and gape. So I signed up for this easy-peasy course on understanding it. I loved that I got to ..no not stand, I did not actually go to these places (sniffle), but SIT at my desk and gape .. at some beautiful poetry arrested-in-motion

I loved some of them so much I am going to paste them here so I can spend some more time playing with them. Yaaay! Here goes …

Park Guel. Gaudi

Does it not dispel all dark thoughts from your mind and bring a burst of happy sunshine?? Smile, Smile.

Now this one has tranquility stamped all over it..

Falling Waters. Frank Wright

Falling Waters. Frank Wright

And these make me shut up. Not a mean feat.

Aliyev Centre-Zaha hadid

Heydar Aliyev Centre. Zaha Hadid

Niemeyer Centre

Niemeyer Cultural Centre. Oscar Niemeyer

Harp Bridge. Calatrava

Harp Bridge. Calatrava

I HAVE to show you this one ..again a Calatrava.

Turning Torso. Calatrava

Turning Torso. Calatrava

If you want to see it turning open an image of it in a size that doesn’t fit on your screen in it’s entirety. Then starting at the top move slowly down the page. Gasp.

And one more from him..I think he is my favourite architect..for now.

Sharq Crossing. Calatrava

Sharq Crossing. Calatrava

Seems like, in architecture, you can take one of two roads …blend/add on to the landscape around, which leads to a sense of peace and harmony OR create something that uses the landscape as a foil and leads away from it in breathtaking, awe-inspiring ways.

Both create something beautiful. Architecture that takes the middle path – banal.

Clang..clang,..cliche warning… All art mirrors life; is born of life. Reflects the continual choice we face – blend in or break away? Do either with purpose, conviction and commitment and we make a life of beauty. Else….ugliness. Inside and Outside.

I am on the horns of a dilemma… Hmm… that’s an interesting phrase. Wonder where it comes from. Was there a bull named dilemma and the rider is not sure whether to jump off while the going was good or… Sorry, I digress… as I was saying, I am on the horns of a dilemma.

Just a half-hour ago I was all clear-headed.. no horns.. no bulls… I was looking ahead with eager anticipation. I have days ahead that are full of ..nothing… no deadlines.. no travel..no nothing. Finally! I can renew acquaintance with the bookshelf, I said to myself. Yaaay!!

There’s Parva…. its eight-inch thickness had daunted a time-stressed me earlier. I can take it on now! Wait a minute.. I can first finish the India after Gandhi that I had abandoned. Nadine Gordimer.. Gosh.. I started that long ago. Oooh ..here’s Herriot.. ..why not set the mood with re-reading him. I pick each one out of the bookcase. My eyes fall upon the brand-new book on Service Design. I really ought to read that one 😦  But today is not an ‘ought to‘  kind of day, today is ‘want to‘! Perhaps tomorrow.

The pile beside me grows and grows. Idea! I will create an area in the bookshelf to keep all the ‘to-read’ books together. Yesss!

I spent the next hour selecting and de-selecting books to go onto the to-read now shelf. Lovely! All sitting next to each other.. so neat, so inviting. Kahneman jostling with Saki, fighting for space with Rumi. Perhaps I should arrange them by genre.. or should it be by book size …. or colour of the spine….

Aaargh! The morning has sped by …. what to read first..what to read first  .. I am on the horns of a dilemma…

Wait a minute. I know.. I will do what I saw at Blackstones. The oldest (?) bookstore in Oxford. They had this brilliant shelf for the `dilemmaed’ ( I know, I know that word does not exist. Don’t quibble.Believe me, it’s not the right time).

The books were all covered in brown paper with a verrry small hint on what was inside. And they said..Don’t judge a book by its cover. . Why not try our lucky dip?..


That’s what I will do! Tomorrow. Today I buy brown paper.


Tag Cloud