Showing posts from May, 2005

Listmania And Of Harmful Books

The list of most harmful books makes interesting reading. One wishes the list makers would have provided a rationale for the choice and rankings as well. I have read five of the honorable mentions and only two of the top ten reducing the total harm done to me via books.

One of these infamous books made it to the best selling books of all time. Not so surprising given that notoriety and influence sometimes go together. In this second list I have read two of ten and not the one that is common to both lists. Then there are the lists by genre by the establishment of which many names are familiar and beloved as well.

When the hoi polloi gets into the fray as in Amazon's Listmania or elsewhere the results are random and completely unpredictable. More often than not I have not read the books that get such honorable mention. I have often used the wisdom of the crowds to guide me to fresh pastures in reading to be most pleasantly surprised.

Neuro Marketing

I am right there with the alarmists over neuromarketing

Seeing the transformation of India post television has been an experience unique to my generation. The variegated indigenous cultures were first homogenized by the government controlled networks and then fully supplanted by a foreign one when the skies were thrown opened. In degrees the people lost their local cultural identities and ached instead to be clones of shiny happy images that were constantly projected at them.

The assault to individual sensibilities that neuro marketing will enable would be like guerilla warfare. We would likely not be aware of what hit us until after the effect. The customized broadcast (or should that be narrowcast) of the future could make us act in ways that are profitable to purveyors of goods and services. to the exclusion of other considerations. Does that not fully de-humanize us ?

Adda At The Coop

The height of irony is when two displaced Calcuttans meet at The Coop in Harvard Square for adda over coffee instead of at Coffee House outside Presidency College. On the table behind ours were two men from Madras (my guess from their accent) discussing particle physics in sober earnest.
Our conversation veered dizzyingly from disastrous on-line dating experiences, literature, blogging, the frustrations that come with agent and publisher hunting to what it was for M as an Indian woman to be involved in politics and election campaigning in America.
J was trying to get the attention of the woman on next table buried deep in a book. Sometimes she'd look up and smile at J who would then redouble her efforts to win her over. My efforts to distract her with cheesecake proved futile.

Secret Postcards

There is a myriad of intriguing confessions in these secret postcards

There may be something voyeuristic about frequenting this blog ( I do). The urge to know secrets of strangers who in a connected world could well be the neighbor next door. That she could have a secret you would never possibly guess is surely cause for endless fascination - if the hit-counter on the site is any indication

But there is also the artistic element of the post cards. Some secrets turn into beautifully rendered graphic stories. This blog showcases a lot of secret talent as well. Who's to say that is any less important than it's unique theme itself. NYT finds this blog less confessional more collaborative art.

Smell Of Gardenia

I met D for the first time and he smelt faintly of gardenia. We are not close enough for me to know what it is called. The trajectory of smell tracked against relationships of significance has been rather unusual.
A smelt of a flower I did not recognize. We were both young then - in our early teens and gauche - it could well have been something from his mom's dresser. I am sure he smells very different now.
P smelt of himself mixed with a non-descript talc. He and I were just twenty then. I cannot associate his smell with anyone or anything else.The smell of K changed over the years. The earliest olfactory memory is austere and soapy. He went on to more sophisticated smells over time until finally settling with Acqua Di Gio.
R smelt of Wild Rain when we first met. I fell in love with that smell as I did with him - both equally improbable. Wild Rain on a perfect stranger can still bring back memories and nostalgia though I don't love the smell anymore.
H burst into my life like a t…

A Morning At Times Square

NYC and specially Times Square is replete with memories for me. There is something electric about the crowds complete with quirks that distinguish locals from wide-eyed visitors like myself. As I maneuver J on her stroller through the rising tide of morning commuters, I feel energized. Our first stop is at a coffee shop. J is scared of the big Labrador that a customer has tethered to the railing outside. Once inside, J asks for coffee and I tell her as always that she is too young for it. A banana nut muffin offered as compromise is grudgingly accepted.

J sits by the window absorbing the rapidly shifting scenery of the busy intersection. She has never been in the middle of a city quite as big in her life. We head out again and have no specific goal for the day. I want to walk, enjoy the sunshine and absorb NYC like it were a magic potion capable of seeping through sub-consciousness hoping J would be able to do the same - if she did not fall asleep.

In the next few hours we went past the…

Mobile Conundrums

Any one who has suffered loud cell phone conversations in public places would know to appreciate a devise like the Babble

Hopefully some geek will take this to the logical next level and generate white noise from the babble. It's great news that you will not be subjected to the excruciating details of X's break-up with Y and what her sister's mother-in-law had to say on the subject and can get away with some kind of humming sound. However, peace and quiet in the public place would be infinitely more desirable

I few days ago I had a weird cell phone user experience. I was getting into work when a man walked up and said with warmth very uncharacteristic for a co-worker "Where have you been ?" I was positive I did not know him and gave him a perplexed look followed by an "Excuse Me ?" It was all within a few seconds. He had moved ahead.
He turned back, pointed to his miniature ear-pods and by way of apology said " Sorry, I am on the phone" Talk abou…

Improved Driving Directions

For the driving directions challenged such as myself Google Earth would be just what the doctor ordered. I have been lost in new cities so completely that I seemed more likely to end up in the next state than at my destination a tantalizing ten blocks away. Direction-challenged-ness I'm sure is fairly common why else could there be GPS navigators in rental cars and directions through SMS

When someone asks me for directions to my place I do very well until I have to decide whether they would have to turn left or right relative to the direction from where they are coming from. Awkwardness could get no worse than when someone calls me from an intersection asking "Now what, left or right ?" and me saying "I'm not sure. But make a left see if you go past an Exxon and a BofA - they you're in the right direction" I cringe inwardly knowing the logical next question could be which side of the street the aforementioned landmarks would be seen. I have to admit not …

Age Reversals

My friend E once told me that she had an early over-dose of motherhood with raising four younger siblings after their mother died. Having been an adult before her time, E now seeks to escape into youthful exuberance even as she nears fifty.

She has never wanted any children of her own though she loves to be around those of others. There is a certain to logic to living life backwards when fate randomizes its phases with such abandon.

As I read Garrison's Keillor's account of belated fatherhood I wonder if E is not missing a magic that she may still have had in her to enjoy. Babies have such a wonderful way of arresting the age of their parents almost reversing it at times.

Lights in Fabric

Last weekend J and I were over at a friend's farm just outside the city. It was an afternoon of many firsts for J. She saw a horse for the first time, rode on a John Deere, watched a bon-fire and got chased by a friendly Daschund.

By the time the citronella candles were lit and we sat down to dinner, J was exhausted from the excess of novel experiences and wanted to go home. Our hostess gave her and the other kids glow necklaces. The merry bonfire, candles and phosphorent glow necklaces on the playing children made a beautiful picture of flickering lights in the gathering darkness.

When we got home, J's necklaces made an unusual night lamp. I wondered how long the light would last. It was not long. They had dimmed considerably by the next night. Now it is no more than colored strands of plastic. Seeing the glow necklaces I wondered if it were possible to use something like it for real illumination.

Almost on cue to my thoughts I stumble on something even more remarkable than what…

Choice Fatigue

This interesting post how increasingly impossible to sample all that is culturally vogue covers almost the whole ambit of choice fatigue except the RSS feed subscription phenomenon. What is the logical limit to feeds for an individual until they know everything that they care to know about. Maybe the answer to that question is to turn to Siloism from wanton Eclecticism. Even that may prove hard to keep pace with.

Fifty Page Rule

I don't proceed past page fifty of the most acclaimed book if it does not connect with me. This is apparently the rule followed by professional book readers - I had no idea I had it right down to the number. A change of profession may well be in order.
A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words.Gravity's Rainbow is one of many books that I have not been able to make past the fifty page mark. Even with someone having illustrated every page of the book to elucidate does not make it any different for me. That one book could elicit such intense response from some and none from others is genuinely amazing.
Yet is possible to strike a common chord that resonates with readers at far ends of the spectrum. That to me would be an enduring masterpiece - a timeless classic.

Mothers' Renaissance

It warms my heart unaccountably to know that culture cramming is the not parenting nirvana and that J may thrive even without trips to the museum every weekend. I must be one guilty mom to seek statistical affirmation for my actions when I know only too well how one study can be quickly unseated by another.

It is possible that I will find out twenty years too late that I did J incalculable harm by not signing her up for all manner of enrichment programs from age two. That instead of jumping on to the Mommy bandwagon to fight the war against pop culture excess and trying to insulate J from it all, I should have done something quite different.

My friend K has a thirteen year old who is a virtuoso video game player - she is proud of his speed and prowess and often tells me J could benefit from a gameboy. I am not convinced that J's three year old motor and cognitive skills need to be jolted out of somnolence just yet - but then that is me. Mothers are due for a renaissance for more rea…

Utopia Meets Real Life

Utopia of our times can be range from magically turning gratuitous globs of unsorted garbage to mulch (caveats abound and detractors counter the claims and say all is not well with garbage-mulch) and using robots to raise children.

The stark simplicity of the life-straw is far more real to me because I have seen too many of those who can "benefit by having the possibility of clean water with this pipe filter". Even if not a hundred percent failsafe, the fact that such design and innovation stems from concern for the disenfranchised is very heart-warming.

Uncommon Ground

Apparently rappers and bloggers have much in common - just another bit of freakonomics at work. Who would have though school teachers and sumo wrestlers could and indeed do have in common. That such amazing parallels can be found in unusual combinations is fascinating simply because it points to a latent unity among creatures and their myriad of circumstances.

Of Custom Scrapbooks

My friend D is a freelance designer when she's not working her boring day job. She is particularly gifted at scrap-booking and gets orders from people who don't have the time left to imagine. While D perpetuates their memories beautifully she can't obviously capture the subtleties of personal emotions. She is one of the many service providers that help outsource our modern lives.

My first acquaintance with the scrapbook came about when I was about ten years old. It belonged to "Grandpa" next door. It was an used cloth bound notebook on which he had pasted newspaper clippings, picture postcards, stamps, letters and photographs. It was a collection of treasured memories for fifty years.

Grandpa was always happy to answer my questions, his face lit up with joy at the pleasurable old memories. It was not long before I started my own scrap book and writing a journal. I loved the way Grandpa had created a time capsule of his life and wanted to do the same for mine. He sh…

In Passing At Work

Yesterday a friend was complaining about how office politics wears him off and I suggested he find humor in it. There is often a sense of childish insecurity that fuels turf wars and back-stabbing that is deserving of pity not heartache. Even if there is a serious adult cause for acrimony, the way it plays out in the end degenerates to juvenility. When adults bicker like tots and do not realize how foolish they are being, a detached observer can find reason to be amused. They key though is detachment from the environment. Perception comes from distance.

Reading these interesting conversations snippets that one blogger has been collecting over time, makes me think if there is not potential for something similar at the workplace. It will turn out to be quite amusing.

Aged Champagne

I am no wine connoisseur and can scarcely tell the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly. When J was born, R (my ex) bought this bottle of Moet Chandon to celebrate the occasion. Just when he was about to uncork, I thought it might be a good idea to preserve this 2001 for a significant milestone in J's life. We were both thinking graduation but wondered if champagnes aged well or could even be kept that long.

However, we stored it away. That bottle of champagne has traveled across continents over the years and is like a talisman for me. R and I have long since parted ways making it a living relic of an antiquated past. Everything that was true of the time when we bought is no longer true. The definition of a significant milestone has changed too. When the right man comes to stay in my life and R has her first real birthday ensconced by a loving family would be the occasion to celebrate with vintage bubbly. I am happy to know that champagne ages well too. I am sure mine …

Of Broken Home And Other Myths

Myths around single-parenting obviously color the perceptions of normal i.e. married people. While I've often been given a two thumbs up for parenting by other single mothers not so by married women bar a few exceptions. The stereotype of "broken home" is the most hurtful to the single mother.

I would have to resoundingly second this mother. In the television series, "Grace Under Fire," a recent episode showed Grace, a single mom, protesting hotly, "My home is not a broken home. When I got a divorce, I fixed it!"

When women stay on in a bad marriage to save face in society they do their offspring more harm than they do to themselves. It takes nerve to go solo with a child. A woman who does that is deserving of credit even if only for her courage.

She mends a chink instead of letting it turn into an abysmal chasm that would in the end consume her and hers. Unfortunately some cracks can be fixed coming out and not while staying in.

Silent Babel

A silent Tower of Babel seems to be in the making in the world of continuous computing. With pervasion of technology one's sense of self gets determined more and more by intelligent aggregation of perceptions about the individual - the data about us by us could be our undoing. Constant tele-prompting has potential to stunt our capacity for spontaneity and independent thought. We could find ourselves turning into a collage of images - unreal and illusory.

"The continuous computing information field is sensitive to your physical body; it's convenient and portable and can even monitor your biological functions. It allows you to extend yourself and your unique identity into the infosphere, for example in the form of digital photos and videos and instant messages.
It is especially cognizant of your associations -- family, friends, and the organizations you belong to, through always-on communications channels, group collaboration tools, and the like. It is aware of your location

The Edge Of Things

A manual winder for a cell-phone gives a new meaning to "truly" wireless. This is interesting use of low-tech to power the very high tech. However, when the trusty commode starts to bristle electronic sensors and worse, personal hygiene turns into a somewhat of a cause celebre.

This brings to mind lines from Robert Browning's poem - Bishop Blougram's Apology
Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist, demirep
That loves and saves her soul in new French books--
We watch while these in equilibrium keep
The giddy line midway: one step aside,
They're classed and done with.

Immigrant Nostalgia

In her interview to PIF magazine the poet Naomi Shahib Nye said in the context of travel writing

"Sometimes while traveling in Mexico or India or any elsewhere, I feel that luminous sense of being invisible as a traveler, having no long, historical ties, simply being a drifting eye..but after awhile, I grow tired of that feeling and want to be somewhere where the trees are my personal friends again."

The first generation immigrant who is filled with longing for the land of birth after decades abroad probably feels much the same. Except theirs is a displacement and not a journey and trees that were friends once may not be there to welcome them upon their return.

It is just this kind of nostalgia that the Carribean poet Olive Senior talks about in her poem - "Blue Foot Traveller"

That world no longer exists.
Yet from the architecture of longing
you continue to construct a bountiful edifice.

This is not exile.
You can return any day to the place that you came from
though the p…

Innovation Versus Blamestorming

Innovation to keep jobs home scores significantly over blamestorming. The drivers for higher cost of goods of services in America are addressed at tangent even if work-arounds are not explored. There is abundant room for innovation in that area.

Salary compartors provide the basic numbers that get crunched in outsourcing contracts. What it costs to hire ten resources with a certain skill-set home versus offshore drives many decisions. What remains unexplored is - Why is there such a significant difference and what individuals and corporations (that would be a stretch) can one do to close the gap.

A few random ideas come to mind based on real-life experiences of having survived in cities in India and the US on various income levels over the last ten years.

In America, the big hits to the paycheck in come from a few sources. Rent/mortgage, daycare (if applicable), car-loan/insurance (add gas, toll and parking charges if that is significant), medical insurance, utilities in slightly differi…

Material and Values

Madonna may have spawned generations of "Material Girls" with a little help from their parents. An elementary school teacher trying to stem the tide may not be quite enough.

J's three year old friends at daycare wear brand name clothes and some even wear make up ! Surely Mom had to help with the perfectly applied eye-shadow. That a woman would think it necessary to embellish a face so innocent is baffling to me. If J asks to wear some I tell her "You are beautiful even without make-up. God makes all little girls just perfect." She seems very pleased to hear that.

Being a child's role model is challenging in today's world. Powerful yet subliminal lessons are learnt from a trip to the mall, watching a TV commercial or parents' social interactions and spending patterns. These could be in direct contradiction to the values the teacher is trying to instill. With the signal to noise ratio being so low it is difficult for a child to discern any useful messag…

Eliminating Grayscale

As I read this beautifully written account by a man whose mother once dated a serial killer, a chill ran down my spine. I thought about the perspective of the woman herself - the minutiae of being in love and traveling with a man on a killing spree, the transforming power of this relationship, the ghosts that stayed back long past the man himself.

At an infinitely less horrific scale many of us discover the worst about our once significant other upon the demise of the relationship. We find out that we were lied to, cheated upon, that there were undisclosed skeletons in the cupboard, that they were not who we thought they were.

This story is like an epic that magnifies the human condition a million times until it transcends the ordinary. By fusing all indeterminate shades to black or white, it renders human nature shockingly two dimensional, provoking intense unease.

Wounds From Favorite Poetry

I have read some poetry over and over again my love for it almost blind. There are poets of repute that I have never read, or read but have not resonated with.I have not sought out more beautiful poetry than what I already love. New loves have come by chance but it's like Sheryl Crow's song - "The First Cut Is The Deepest"

Robert Frost said "Its absurb to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken a mortal wound - that he will never get over it. That is to say, permanence in poetry as in love is percieved instantly. It hasn't to await the test of time"

Fragments from some my "mortal wounds" come back to me as I read that
"Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae" - Ernest Dowson

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the…

Grace By Death

Have to wonder if students being excused by bereavement will be a trend that will catch on elsewhere. After all, grace marks would be welcome equally world over.

There is something about the idea that is repelling if not abhorrent. Particularly the notion of tagging a number to a type of loss. Is there indeed a scale to measure relative mental anguish ? Equating four dead pets to a dead parent is ludicrious.

If ever there was a time for spirtual makeovers on reality TV, this seems to be it. That may be the way to prevent needless blood bath of guinea pigs and gold fish to edge one percent over the competition.

Avant Barmecide Feast

At the height of sartorial refinement the Emperor had no clothes. The moral of the story can be fairly nuanced but the obvious one is to warn against excesses of vanity and conceit. Reading about avant cusine brings to mind a couple of stories and for different reasons. The Emperor's New Clothes and Barmecide's Feast
"I experienced this flavor epiphany with a ball of pumpkin seed oil, a liquefied olive and pouches of softened butter that floated in a potato skin consomme. By remaining intact and independent, these pouches provided spikes of richness that would not have been possible if the butter had merely melted into the soup."In the future as avant cuisine challenges the imagination more, it may be possible to have satisfied hunger in the mind alone - the weight-watcher's dream come true. The menu would be about sights and smells. Emeril-like chefs would rhapsodize over essence of foie-gras, the air of mousse and other sensory delights that you will be served. …

Celebrity Face

When Arjun fell with a thud on my new neighbor's freshly planted flower-bed life-changing events were set in motion. We were in our early teens at the time. Mrs. Pai had been watering the plants that summer afternoon.She strode over purposefully and grabbed him by collar of his shirt. I recoiled reflexively fearing she would slap him next. From where I stood I could not see the expression on her face though grief, indignation and outrage or a combination thereof seemed likely.Just at the moment she set her eyes upon him, it happened. "By God, you look exactly like the young Dev Anand !!" she exclaimed her voice quivering with excitement. The pulverized plants and the question of his unauthorized presence in her garden were completely forgotten.I crept outside and was soon joined across the fence by Mr, Pai. Arjun looked rather bewildered at the turn of events. "My wife is a big fan of Dev Anand" Mr Pai said by way of explanation and apology for her transfixion …

Literature and J

After the 22nd reading of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in two weeks I am one exhausted Mommy. I enquire of my precious J, what makes this book so special. She tells me "The three bears are good and Goldilocks is not"

Clear as mud to me "Why don't I read you the Ginger Bread Boy story now ?" I entreat as she pushes her favorite book back on my lap and orders "Read it, Mommy" I latch on the Ginger Bread Boy with equal determination.

"Why don't you like that story ?" I ask "I don't" she replies. I don't want to ask leading questions and muddy the waters but she leaves me no choice at this point. I cannot take any more Goldilocks - I am past super-saturated.

"Who is good in the Ginger Bread Boy story ?" I ask "The little old man and the little old woman" she replies. We walk through the entire cast of characters and find no other heroes. The germ of a theory about J's literary sensibilities is shapi…

Enabling Fairytales

In fairytales of yore, Prince Charming showed up on his white horse and after some ado, he and the Princess lived happily ever after. Growing up was about first believing in such happenstances and then knowing better. Proxi-dating, may well change that.

Allowing concessions to modern times, it requires Prince and Princess to have bluetooth enabled phones and be within fifteen meters of each other. The rest will likely follow like a charm.

Speed would be of essence in this operation. A multitude of matches could pop up within the locus of a mobile individual. Attention spans would tend to be short and distractions abundant.

While help is at hand for the Prince to conduct a seduction at high speed (this link may not be safe for work), not so for the Princess, the would-be seducee. Evolution seems to have stalled at the rather primitive book of Rules.

Nonetheless, fairytales are back with a bang : "Imagine, you are crossing the street when the girl/boy of your dreams passes before you,…

Infinitely Over-lapped

Reading the last line in the news item on white collar job burnt out in America due to outsourcing hit a raw nerve

"We can be the ones who put in the overlap time," Gupta said. "These types of schedules are baked into India's DNA. We have to earn our money somehow."

Having played on both sides of the out-sourcing game I know the score. I have had team members in US show up past 10:00 a.m. EST with the Indian side waiting on them to start a status meeting. To add insult to injury these slackers are Indians who are aware of concerns that are implicit with a woman in India staying at work well past mid-night.

I have called the woman to make sure she had transportation arranged and that she would be safe going home at that late hour. I have felt a storm of guilt rage inside when I heard her say meekly "Yes, I will be fine" I happen to know that she lives with her in-laws and has a one-year old. I want to tell her I've been there done that and I know it&…

Eco and Kunzru

Years ago, I started to intersperse reading two to three books of different genres in parallel as an interesting diversion. Over time it has become a necessity. I no longer enjoy reading a book in isolation unless completely riveting. Then there is also the matter of time being scarce.The latest mix has been On Literature by Umberto Eco and The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru. Not a very fortunate combination as I was to realize soon.

Eco's book has a chapter Wilde: Paradox and Aphorism. Reading A Picture of Dorian Grey in my teens had left me mesmerized by Wilde. Lord Wotton's wanton aphorisms and paradoxes seem as witty as they did years ago. Eco's reversals lend them several new meanings.

"Sin is the only real color element left in modern life" is reversed to "Virtue is the only real color element left in modern life" by Eco.

The most intimate chapter in this book is the last one - How I write. Eco offers a fascinating insight into what goes into the creat…

Agile Mothering

I am a big fan of Agile. Numero Uno I have seen it work very well. It thrives on chaos which is the nature of the corporate beast. Systems and process that need perfect environments to work are more than likely to fail.

Business will not know their collective mind until after the product has been delivered. Requirements will evolve and devolve over time. Show-stoppers will turn nice-to-have and vice-versa and a successful program is one that changes gears without missing a beat.
Executive sponsor attention span for their pet projects is shorter than the proverbial gnat's. Without visible progress and results in the short-term that diminishes further. Budgets get hacked arbitrarily and without prior notice.

Elegant code and design exist more in theory and less in practice - there is never enough time to follow prescriptive best practices that get written about in white-papers and scholarly tomes. Contract programmers are a fickle lot - here today, gone today. Agile takes the bull by t…

For Me on Mother's Day

I wrote this on a mother's day when J and I had been far apart for a while and my heart ached beyond belief. I wished for togetherness and a wildflower for a gift. This year I have both. Ms W helped J and her class make flowers with finger paint and construction paper for Mother's Day. I feel utterly grateful for delayed gratification.

A Mother of Another Kind

A mother of another kind mea culpa,
I have forgotten the smile, the touch and the kiss that made my world go round
instead my heart is etched with many sudden memories
seared by despair and agony of a soul ripped in two.
That a time will come when I will hold you close to me again,
that we will go for a walk hand in hand on a bright summer day like today.
That on such a day you may be wearing a straw hat with a satin ribbon flapping in the wind
That you may stop to pick a wild flower and say "For you, Ma."

Such is the soft dream stuff - my "prana" my will to live.
Should a thrifty fairy to grant me two wishes in…

Craigslist Bangalore

A curious post under "Missed Connections" in Craigslist Bangalore left me rather bemused.

To the non-resident Indian I just saw this evening around 7:30 pm. sorry I didn't say hi. I'm the other NRI you saw this evening. I think we were both surprised. Are you working, living, visting?"

I used to live in Bangalore at a time when the hordes in Silicon Valley were selling homes, deserting their fancy cars in airport parking lots and scurrying homewards for jobs. NRIs abounded aplenty but I don't recollect them being branded with visible signs that called out to their displaced diaspora status. Interestingly,the young college kids looked like they would have blended in perfectly well with NYC or Chicago cityscapes. Not to say that they looked out of place in Bangalore either.

Have to wonder if lately that has changed and the government of India has mandated an 'N' tattooed on the forehead of "NRIs" in lieu of extended tax holidays , PIO card…

Sensory Immersion

Crowded public places can at times be devoid of character. Indistinctive cityscapes, people talking to their cell-phones, listening to music, the ebb and tide of traffic leave behind blurred rather than clear impressions of a place. Increasing our immersion in our surroundings by engaging multiple senses is an interesting notion in itself though the benefits (if any) are largely suspect.

We no longer remain a nameless, faceless anonymity in the milling crowds when we participate in voluntary surveillance like the loca project. The city does not remain without character when we allow it to create music based on our interactions with it.

"a system that creates electronic music based on sensing bodily and environmental factors. Mapping these to the real-time processing of concrete sounds, Sonic City generates a personal soundscape co-produced by physical movement, local activity, and urban ambiance. Encounters, events, architecture, (mis)behaviours - all become means of interacting wi…

Balanced Media Diet

With so much consumable media at our disposal it is only natural that media diet should become a subject of study. One PR exec's recent experiment with blog-only news diet parallels trying to survive on hors de oeuvres alone. At the other extreme trying to read every news paper in the world on-line seems to be the ultra-high carb alternative.

Until recently conventional wisdom dictated that TV should be watched in moderation or better still - not at all. Couch-potato was once synonymous with looser. Not any more. We are being told that TV can make you smarter

Couches outfitted with wheels are now traveling in what appears to be an extreme image make-over exercise.

So what would be a well balanced media-diet ? Help should be on it's way in the form of media dieticians. A perfect pro-am niche. Until then our minds will go through cyclic weight loss and gain as we trudge though the excesses of infotainment trying to contain our desire to know more, know a little about everything, ke…

Baby In Bath

I dread the online encounter post-mortem call to M that I seem to do on auto-pilot. Typically the call is made on a Saturday noon when J takes her nap and all the world is at peace. M knows right away what this is all about and has admitted to reaching for caffeine because my horror stories make her want to retch otherwise.

I get straight to the point " The man's handle was SpeedDaemon and I responded to his contact. Plead guilty to acting out of boredom and not acuity."

M sighs in exasperation and asks "Where the heck do you pick these zombies ?"

I reply vaguely " You know here and there" knowing that specifics will provoke M to recommence her Dating for Dummies Refresher Course By Phone. She has in the past provided me inspiration for the Dating Guide For Desi Dudettes. Educating is in her genes.

"The dude wrote an intelligent blurb, looked very respectable, works for the government. We exchanged e-mails. Has a daughter a little older than J. Seem…

Cryonic Afterlife

Demonstrating proof of after-life using the body's hydrochloric acid to power batteries seems quaint if not juvenile in comparison to actually planning on coming back from the dead. Both essentially long tail phenomena at this time, though the desire for immortality is as old mankind itself.

When cryonics goes commercial anyone who could afford the service could in theory take a shot at immortality. That would not exclude the twenty life-term serving serial killer either. The Terri Schavio conundrum of cryonic future could get a lot worse. The ethics of convicting a criminal eternally would be in question and as would be the jurisdiction of courts over an individual's right to immortality. Litigation is already turning spiritual in anticipation of work ahead.

It is as Langdon Winner says in his book Autonomous Technology"...A crucial turning point comes when one is able to acknowledge that modern techniques, much more than politics as conventionally understood, now legislat…

Two Poems By Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The theme of love is eternally recurrent in poetry and yet each poet gives it a new slant. When I read "Before You Came" by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, I am amazed that the obvious can be so compelling and be stated with such beautiful simplicity.

"Let Me Think" by Fiaz may be about the pain of alienation of one exiled. To me it seems the aftermath of a lover's refusal to heed a poet's entreaty "Now you are here again - stay with me. This time things will fall into place;" and in as such exiles the beloved from her heart. In the reader's imagination and state of mind two poems from far ends of a poet's oeuvre come to exist in perfect harmony like they were paired to convey a fuller, deeper meaning. Being able to read meanings other than one intended is perhaps the greatest pleasure of reading poetry.
Before You Came
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came things were just what they were:
the road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,
the limit of what could be …

Freedom and Women

Growing up in an Indian hick town with cosmopolitan pretensions was a mixed blessing. Everyone knew everyone so you had to watch your step. Good and bad news traveled at equal speed. A kid that did well in school became a local celebrity, the neighbor's uncle's mother-in-law knew his score in the last math test and made sure to inform everyone she knew. If a teen had a crush, the pressure from news mongering would uncrush it in short order - one less worry for the parents.

On the upside, you just had to walk twenty minutes from where you lived to sample almost every culture in India. Even in the dark ages pre-MTV, we did not have to play catch-up with style and fashion because women went home to metros they grew up in during holidays and brought back it back with them. I did not have a single friend that spoke the same language as I did at home.

For as long as I remember I never went anywhere un-escorted. All failing the trusty milkman would follow me on his bi-cycle with cans j…

The Third Date

Published in Serenelight

Shiv is fond of saying that he is left where magic realism meets Haiku and remembers having mentioned this to Joie. Consider, "My wife drives to the pharmacy for Advil. Dark is the night and in it she melts. Her side of the bed turns cold like death."He was meeting her for the third time, sitting in a shaded corner of Tia's Tapas Bar on Lover's Lane. The sky is brilliantly blue and the heat unforgiving. Her eyes follow the movement of his fingers as he spoons some of his Jalapeno Souffle on to her plate. If he has signaled intimacy she has noticed. "So did she never come back again ?" she asks twirling her straw in the drink. "No, never. It's like I said - she seemed to have melted in the night. Almost like those stories about alien abductions. Maybe she was one of them " He looks up and laughs heartily. "I could hold forth on the endlessly fascinating topic of what is to get it from an alien. Talking of which - sh…

Downstream Ripple Effects

When I read about Apollo Hospital being India's rising star in the horizon of medical-tourism, thoughts turn to my dear friend B who made a trip to India for medical treatment making a detour at some tourist hot-spots along the way. For months after her return she could not get over the beautiful drape and hues of the sari and the sticker shock of rock bottom medical service charges in top-flight Indian facilities.

Hers in an interesting story. Divorced at age fifty she continues to support an improvident ex-husband out of a sense of misplaced responsibility if not guilt. Her retirement went up in smoke when the bubble burst forcing her out of her sea-side cottage back into the corporate quagmire and yet she calls the most expensive florist in town to deliver orchids to her aunt on her birthday.

Among a lot of other things, B is a victim of the perma-parent trap. She truly believes that she needs to make the down payment on the home that her daughter and son-in-law want to buy, pay …

Psycho-geographer Buddha Walking

Instead of down-town streets of the modern world, where it originated, I imagine walking down the streets of an ancient city in India ( Varanasi comes to mind immediately) like a psycho-geographer would.

My meme is a simple "First right and Second Left". I see myself wandering unawares into temples, shops, ghats of the Ganges, court-yards and lives of unknown people. Mind mapping Vishwanath Gali could be a psycho-geographer's dreamcome true.

Let's say I take a photograph at each stop borrowing from the beautiful idea of degree confluence. I repeat my tour at various times of the day, over days months and years. Other walkers like me do the same. We have no stated objective besides repeating our patterned walk over and over again.

At the end of ten years should we consolidate all our data would order emerge from apparent chaos ? Perhaps it would turn out that on every third Tuesday, at ten past one in the afternoon there is a always a woman in purple at a singular coordi…