Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Troll to Control

Given the current political environment, I am not at all surprised at the belligerent attacks being made on Rahul Gandhi for his comments, that attempt to draw Indian parallels, with the beginnings of Coco-Cola and Mac Donalds. However, RaGa is on point here.

Fact is that many trolling him have barely any idea of the origins of both! But then, who cares about underlying facts in these days of over-the-top drum-beating to make a point, even it meant overseeing the truth for what it is. 

As someone who’s studied both these brands at B-School, case for case, I should know. It is common knowledge that Coca-Cola began its journey selling at a soda fountain (the ‘shikanjiwalla’ equivalent) while Mac Donald’s had its humble beginnings at an airport food-stand (the ‘dhaba’ equivalent)

Interestingly, this whole shenanigan of portraying RaGa as a “dolt” , also brings to fore another keen observation about Human  Behaviour - perception (fed by ideology - right or wrong immaterial) drives acceptance and impacts credibility. 

And once that has been established in the mind, facts barely seem to matter anymore; the focus then on shifts to selectively viewing events from a lens that only validates this perception, leaving little if no scope for making change.

Perception is a dangerous beast, only because once created, it organically assumes life and a character of its own - for better or for worse - allowing its victims only enough room to play to its written script. 

Interestingly, from an Indian political standpoint, we seem to have gotten that behavioural algorithm bang-on alright.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Is Socio-Capitalism the way forward?

My economic leanings aside, here’s a brilliant dissemination on why Socialism isn’t the panacea to equality and poverty alleviation and yet Capitalism isn’t the answer to Socialism as it does not fairly address the equality principle.

The conversation also explains the exploitative links between socialism and crony capitalism - one eventually leading to the other - an example we’re only too well acquainted with in India, some parts of Europe and most parts of LatAm. 

How then do we protect capitalist principles while also nurturing an environment that maximizes opportunity for all?  Should we as a society seek equal access or equal outcomes? 

Pure capitalism is heartless and leaves too many behind unequally favouring a prized few, while overregulated markets and industries stifle productivity and growth for the majority. 
What the world is increasing beginning to seek is a sense of ‘fair-play’ balance between the two or who knows, maybe a new economic order altogether! 

Make some time to watch this clip at length. It’s compelling! And I must say, her accent only adds to the quality and impact of her delivery. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

B for Britannia, Bawa, Bombay...

Britannia used to be one Parsi Cafรจ (not that Bombay has many more of them left now, barring my other favourite - Jimmy Boy) I used to frequent in my college and journalism days. I have vivid memories of heated and impassioned discussions with my Editor on the copy and the features that needed to be filed for the week ahead, over my raspberry soda, chicken dhansak and paatrani maach (exactly in that order too!). Infact my very first feature on  ‘Being Parsi from Cusrow Baug’ also got finalised and to a large extent drafted over detailed discussions at the dining tables there! 

Meherwan uncle - the affable and endearingly likeable owner - as I’d fondly call him, would watch patiently from the sidelines and offer us  his perspective as he’d discern the goings-on of “city happenings” in his quintessential sagacious bawa style, whenever it was that we went there - which was quite often!

At Britannia, we never had to formally order our food; food just the way we liked it - extra kebab and a few additional dashes of ginger-garlic in the Beri pulao, an additional generous spoonful of burnt caramel over the custard - just landed on our table and in the course-order we liked it (dessert first!) under the hawk-eyed supervision of Meherwan uncle.

It came as a shock to recieve a whatsapp update from a friend late last night that he had passed away. May his soul RIP.  His passing away, to my mind, is also a symbolic passing away of all things “Bombay” to me. Nostalgia is never quite going to be what it used to be anymore!

Khoda hafiz Meherwan uncle. To good times wherever you be...

Updating a YouTube video of him and the Cafรจ he ‘lived’ and loved, that went on to become a veritable landmark of food connoisseurs in Bombay.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Anna-ther memory of a time long gone...

I survived 8 am Physics classes and other science lectures that pulled on until lunch time, ‘Reference-Library’ research (without which no self-respecting Xavierite was deemed worthy to ‘earn’ their degree) and the daily grind of weary 4 hour practical sessions - on my feet - in the Chemistry, Bio-chemistry laboratories, all thanks to the endless cups of refreshing filter-kapi this man used to patiently brew to my liking daily - and serve it in my very own kullad - over 3 years. 

   My staying awake through the late afternoon Honors classes in summer were in no small measure all due to the ice-cold ginger-pudhina-lemon sherbet made by him.

       No Malhar, IMG Jan-Fest or SSL (Social Service League) meetings were complete without a garma-garam chai ka pyaala from his canteen, delivered pronto upon calling.

       No hang-out in the Woods was complete without digging hungrily into his trademark tasty Burmese cheese-toast and the variety of fresh fruit juices he used to freshly make and serve us. Us - his always ‘short-or-out-of-money’ regulars. ๐Ÿ˜

         Sambhar-Vadai Wednesday’s or sajjigรจ (Upma) Friday’s were always a hit back then wherein we’d all flock into the mess and scramble for tables - the boys from the hostel winning hands down, as they’d beat the rest of us to it in their boxers or pyjamas.

Uday anna, was not just another canteen operator for anyone who studied at St. Xavier’s; Warm, kind-hearted, generous and always smiling no matter what time of the day you met him, anna was a landmark institution at Xavier’s in himself! The fact that he had memory recalling who you were long after you graduated from college and welcomed you back, whenever you visited - with a tea/coffee - on the house - made him that much more endearing; it made going back to college so much more memorable and personal! 

Xavier’s will never quite be the same without the cheery presence of this wonderful man who fed thousands of students over the decades. I for one am going to miss him the next time I’m on campus, as much as the many others who’ve known him and visit as often. 

Wishing you well Uday anna in your future endeavours and may you always bring warm cheer and give that big-big smile to all whom you meet. 

P.S: As for the signature Burmese cheese-toast and my cuppa’ kapi, I’m visiting campus this Saturday the 28th for the final goodbye to anna. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Data Bites

Increasing instances of integrity pertaining to social media data privacy (the just uncovered Cambridge Analytica breach) and its safeguard make me wonder more often than not what prompts people to put up sensitive or intimate information about themselves on social platforms to begin with.

The medium is called ‘social’ for a reason! Don’t put up material or data that you believe could be compromised and, or, used against you

Also, isn’t personal data being harvested across platforms - be that your online purchase behaviour, consumer insights/ consumer behaviour based on your credit/debit card spending patterns, Organisation performance and behaviour, clinical trials, medical history et. al.? How do you stop all of that?

Fact is - fortunately or unfortunately - all technological progress comes at a price. That price today is ‘real-time data-exchange’. Data is the new bullion - and we’ve got to accept that, if we want to continue riding on this ever rising wave of progress.

Our understanding of ethics will eventually undergo a shift to accommodate this new world reality. I/ we may not like how this plays out, but do I/ we have a choice really? And THAT is the scary bit!


Monday, March 19, 2018

Lights, Lens, Action!

From subtly influencing to convincingly coercing me to explore a whole new dimension of myself,  these two are chiefly responsible for getting me to awaken to the world of documentary film-making. And boy, what an incredible experience it has turned out to be!

 Conducting lectures is one thing, but in the process becoming a student yourself over workshops, real-time dialogue and immersive reflection over some amazing (world) documentary films with students and some of the leading documentary film-makers from across the world, is quite something else altogether. 

The fact that the stage for this act was set in picturesque #Naukuchital, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in Kumaon, made it even more surreal. 

Film-making is truely a wonderfully liberating experience - a one that changes how you view and experience yourself within and, therefore the world around you.

And now, I go back home in ways I know I’ll never quite be the same again.

Aatma Namaste!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Strand-ed for life!

A part of me will die with the closing of this iconic book store, in a way that I will never be able to really express in the how and the why. When something that you grew up with is taken away or fades out into the silvery fog of a forever dawn, life as you knew it is never quite the same again.

The StrandBookStall has always been more than just a book-stall for me, as it has for the so many other book lovers of this city. A sanctuary of serendipitous finds - books as well as people - in the crowded by-lanes of P.M. road, VT, South Bombay, the place afforded avid readers a platform for engaging interactions with other bibliophiles and animated conversations with the ever gracious and smiling late owner, Padmashree T.N. Shanbhag as he’d make gentle probes on your thoughts about societal issues and the dying reading habit with the current generation. Blessed with an elephantine memory, he would recollect names and faces and even remember what you picked up on your last visit there. Just that experience made visiting Strand even more endearing and homely.

The place had a special appeal to it – the books - a mix of bestsellers and rare titles were always available at discounted rates. Customers like me were drawn to the diverse book collection, carefully curated by Shanbhag uncle.

That tantalising smell of books - both fresh and mellowing with age, the raw feel of those crisp yellow-brown pages in the gaps between your fingers in the dated section, in the corner on the upper level mezzanine, the enveloping musty air of erudition as you discussed and exchanged notes on reading-lists with other book lovers and, the ever smiling Shanbhag uncle from across his desk as he bid you bye and encouraged you to come back soon - all that I will miss and, miss terribly at that!

The end of an era it is as I find myself Strand-ed for life!

Good bye Strand. ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿป๐Ÿ˜ช

Strand Book Stall 15-C, Dhannur Building, Sir P.M. Road, Borabazar Precinct, Fort, Bombay.