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!

Thoughts?

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. πŸ–πŸ»πŸ˜ͺ

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

1948-2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Idly-ing time...

Town never ceases to surprise me everytime I visit. It's the one ever beautiful part of Bombay that has been relatively untouched and unscathed by the fugly hands of that deaf and blind ogre called 'Development'.    

Bombay can grow and expand in as many directions as it wishes to but, the 'feeling' that is 'Bombay' can only be experienced as you visit and soak in the ambience of South Bombay. From Renaissance to Gothic architecture to cobblestoned pathways that meander into streets throwing up happy unexpected surprises, this part of the city is a treat to the senses.

Imagine my glee therefore - after all these years of having studied and colleged here - at finding a quaint Mangalorean eatery, I never knew existed in 'Swagath Refreshments' on Gunbow St., Fort! The best ullandu dosai and rasam vadai evah! πŸ˜‹
   Never the one to particularly speak highly of the sambhar and coconut chutney dished out by these Udupi's, I must confess Swagath's aromatic piping hot drumstick-pumpkin sambhar and tangy coconut chutney garnished with the udad dal, red-chilly and mustard had me greedily hungering  for more. It only helped that the friendly waiters happily indulged me. πŸ˜„
  The impeccably prepared degree coffee ☕️ too reminded me of the ones served back at Murugan Idli, Madras. Burp!

It takes a lot for me to say this BUT say it I will - this place is EVEN better than my all time favourite - Matunga's Madras Cafè. Try it...you'll come back for more. I sure am!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rained Out!

The deluge caused by torrential rains, in Mumbai last evening, brought out how trying times provide opportunities to bring out latent leadership traits in people. Yesterday was all about 'what happens when opportunity creates shared purpose'!

When people are propelled by a collective sense of purpose - as they were yesterday - there's no telling what can be achieved.

I believe a collective sense of purpose works on the upside when coupled with empathy. It creates a bond so strong that few obstacles, if any at all, can withstand the force.

That downpour last evening  ended up eroding years of societal and religious divides in a matter of minutes as people came together from all walks of life to ensure that this 'maximum city' functioned as it should - efficiently! And all because they believed in the identity of 'The Mumbaikar'. It gave them a sense of purpose, a comforting hope. Who you were didn't matter as much as what you did, to address the crisis. And being recognised for what you did wasn't as important as was making a difference in how you did it. That's Leadership at its core. Period. And Mumbai, my lovely, just see how you showed it to all who cared to see! ☺️

So many nameless faces,
...as many helping hands,
recognition that barely mattered
And none of it was planned!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mentor Me!



“Ajay is a talented boy, but padhaai mein uska bilkul dhyaan nahi hain. He enjoys playing football and wants to be a footballer. But he needs to get through school first and finish his basic education.” And with these words began my journey as Ajay’s mentor. It’s been ten months now since then and Ajay and I have now become friends who meet every weekend discussing a gamut of interest areas ranging from Messi to the milky-way.

A reserved teen, Ajay, when I first met him through Mentor-Me India’s (MMI) mentoring initiative, was difficult to communicate with and, wary of my efforts in trying to reach out to him. Communication, I was told, was going to be one of the big challenges I would encounter in my mentoring journey with him. Add to that the swinging temperaments of a moody 16 year old whose view point of the world swayed along a callibrated scale that ranged from consuming passion to abject indifference, with skepticism playing the balancing act across the two extremities!

I knew it was going to be an uphill task when I signed-up with MMI; and the demand on my time is not what I’m referring to. Nothing quite prepares you in your journey as a mentor, as much as the experience of going through that journey itself. You may prepare all you want but make peace you will eventually with the fact that you’ll never quite be prepared. And so much as I would strategise and plan activities to break ice and befriend my mentee Ajay, he’d seem one-up on me, everytime, in derailing all of those with an agenda that’d convince me he was out to teach me a thing or two about dealing with ambiguity and, convince me that there was no such thing as coming planned for our encounters. That learning still continues!

I am now wiser in knowing that relationships – of this kind or any other for that matter – are organic. You could wish for them to be this way or the other and plan accordingly; fact is no amount of wishing and planning will get you anywhere. You’ve got to be at it and in it to experience what it has to offer and then take guided calls to manoeuvre it in the interest of the involved stakeholders. And nothing teaches you that better than an experience like this (marriage of-course is the other!)
 
So while I now mentally go about figuring how to make my interactions with Ajay a lot more engaging through fun and learning, I have also learnt how to curate plans on the go when he chooses to take the lead in structuring how he’d like to spend the session. It makes me happy to see him do this because to my mind, this is proof of the needle having moved on the behavioural compass along the axis of time. Ajay today is seemingly more confident and communicative than he was ten months ago. While he still wants to be a footballer, he now also realises that he likes studying (he’s been a first class student even with all of that last minute studying) and that a good academic foundation besides the quality of his game, will help him bag the necessary scholarships for a career as a sportsman.

And while I’d like to believe I’ve had some role to play in this transformational journey of his through our regular mentoring interactions over the year , I believe he is mentoring me more that I could have imagined mentoring him through the process. He continues to teach me an invaluable lesson – all children and youth deserve to be treated as individuals in their own right with unique identities of their own. I’m humbly learning that you may not agree with all of their opinions or world views but listen to them you must, show them respect, you must! Doing this has helped catalyse the buy-in process and built my credibility with Ajay. Importantly it has taught me, as much as it has him, to value and work on real-time feedback, besides promoting healthy debate for acceptance and exchange of divergent ideas. Nothing facilitates tolerance and builds healthy respect between individuals as much as this exposure.

Experiences such as these have made me realise while we all have our own journeys to make, no two journeys are ever, if at all, the same. And so there can never really be one best approach to addressing a situation because best in itself is relative.

Thank you MMI for reinforcing this learning through the opportunity you’ve provided!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Soap & Lather...

After a long while, I must confess, I have found myself addicted to a television soap. The last time I felt so excited about watching a television series was way back in the good ole' Doordarshan days of the 80's and early 90's - before satellite television announced its arrival on Indian shores.

Script writing for Indian television has undergone a drastic change since then. Infact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to state that scripts these days are ludicrous in their very concept.  The strength about writing for television is in its inherent ability to get through to a cross-section of people to assimilate and absorb information differently, provoking, if not encouraging them, to respond and react in ways that maybe even they didn't know they were capable of. It is a powerful way of bringing in societal change through reflection, without any impositions. Sadly, Indian television has failed us all on this premise.

Imagine my surprise then at serependitiously catching a  gripping Turkish series play on Indian television at prime time! For a series that has its origins in a book, the Turkish serial, Fatmagul is quite a treat to watch. A refreshing storyline, the plot brings together a host of issues ranging from socio-cultural differences impacting human relationships on the one side to an ever increasing economic divide and its implications on collective consciousness, ethics on the other. And all of this pirouetted around a rape, raising disturbing questions, some of which may not even have answers!

The plot is gripping and the performances are immensely engaging to the point that it makes me feel like a bystander watching the story play out in real-time, experiencing the motions of it all along the journey from one episode to another. I particularly like the way roles have been chalked out to give sufficient latitude of expression for individual performances without overpowering the treatment of or compromising the storyline; This to the extent that even the ominous background score and scenic locales are used like rivets to anchor the plot from the sidelines without obstructing the story as it unfolds or take away from the performances.

The acting is rich and subtly highlights nuances in expression that only go on to make the performances even more believable and convincing as the story comes alive in the viewers mind.

Happy days are here again - on television, with international serials like these and their ilk being aired for Indian audiences who crave for meaningful visual content that appeals (as against appalls, given the saas-bahu drama we otherwise get to see unfold on our screens) to their cerebral sensibilities. Truely, as far as quality of Indian television goes, there are (imported) soaps and then there's (desi) lather!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Incandescence

Thank you 2016 for all the experiences and learnings you brought along -  from balancing work-life priorities to pushing myself to try out newer experiences, for teaching me to realise that while the destination will eventually be reached, the magic is in the journey and staying the course, you've shown it all.

I can only hope that the year to come helps me leverage these experiences and learnings on my onward journey.

I wish you all a year of memorable journeys too - both into and outside of yourselves.
More love, peace and good health to you all.

Atma Namaste!