The Cost of Twitter

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As dedicated bloggers, we have to ask ourselves this question. I know, for sure, I have to ask this question to myself. And while I know the answer is above, I still have to ask myself this question. Did a tool become a medium? Am I mistaking a medium for a tool?

I imagine myself shouting myself hoarse in a bazaar where the preoccupation is about the price of dead fish. Do ideas die in the cacophony of the slur of oneupmanship?

Conversations matter less, in some worlds. What matters, matters less than what matters less. 

Of Mars

India has successfully launched a Mars Mission. Search Google for “MOM” (Mars Orbiter Mission) or “Mangalyaan”, if you do not know what’s going on.

I am proud about the effort of the scientists at ISRO (India’s Space Agency). I do not understand much of the science about it (apart from what is commonsensical). My sense of pride is more national and ISRO-specific, than anything else. Since the success of launching the Orbiter in the Martian orbit, there have been many responses — mostly positive and celebratory. Some, without doubt, cynical.

I have nothing to say to the cynics. Free country and all that.

Yet, at the time when the Orbiter was out of range for 20-odd minutes, not knowing if it was successful, if your heart did not race, you have missed an experience. Imagination has much to do with the reality of our lives. And without any milestones that help mark our imagination, our journeys will be truncated. We will have no markers that guide us to the unmarked futures of where we think we can be.

In my head, this successful space adventure is less about space and science. It is more about the ability of what we are capable of. What did ISRO demonstrate? A low-cost venture? An experimental odyssey? A capability demonstration? Well, all the above, and much more. They demonstrated grit and determination.

One of the most endearing aspect of this launch was the camaraderie between two space agencies on the opposite sides of the world. NASA and ISRO. Progress is the mechanism of push and pull. Scientists will want to push it forward; everyone else will pull it back. And here, the scientist is not the Ph. D. working at ISRO, it is you and me.

We have to extract more from the successful launch of the MOM than the successful launch itself. My meaning won’t make sense to you perhaps, so find out what it means for you.

With due respect I salute all the folks who were involved in the MOM and congratulate them for this wondrous accomplishment. It is unfortunate that the real heroes and heroines are nameless people in labs; yet, to each one of you, I bow with sincere gratitude and respect.

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Shibboleth - 1

There’s a lot of not-so-nice-things that happen in this country. That’s reality. It is unfortunate that, when there is a corruption scam, all the news channels seek out all the unsavoury folks for a news bite. Negative reporting = sensationalism. The reporters of these channels now find no excitement in a wondrous event. “What if it fails” was on the top agenda. An achievement that belonged to a scientific institution was usurped by politicians invited by the news channels. That’s how deep their negativity is rooted. Rather than be a source of pride; there were debates of credit. The DNA of our news agencies has been infected by the minus-virus. They are unable to see anything positive or nice. In the garb of objective reporting; they are depressing a powerful nation.

If any politician wants to know why a country of more than a billion automatically thinks of them as villian, there is no better time.

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The next time, I say “Jaya he” (a phrase in India’s national anthem); it will also include you, my dear scientists. 

Likes, No More

I’ve decided to disable the likes on posts.

I’ll keep the star rating on, and of course I’ll keep comments open. But I am disabling the Like feature on my blog. Starting from this one.

There’s an abstraction about liking which I am unable to fathom. Other than a feel-good factor, it amounts to nothing. Some of the likes come from fellow-bloggers; and I know a few of them in-real-life. They are quite honest, and when they don’t like a post, they don’t “like” it. When they like (or dislike) a post, they comment on it. And I am always grateful for the comment; while the mood of the comment may be positive, neutral, negative, or tangential, it provides me a perspective of what my readers experience. It doesn’t affect what I write; it broadens my understanding of the people who read what I write.

Write me an Epitaph

Disabling the “like” feature is not a comment bait. I don’t intend for or expect more comments to come by this feature. I discovered that I end up visiting every blog that likes a post, and find that most of them are thematic professional bloggers. And those, I am not interested in. The like has become a currency that I do not feel like trading in.

If Facebook had a means of not notifying me for every like of a photo or a status message, I’d enable it. Like most words that have become vague and have come to mean something else because of overuse in a context, “Liking” has become come less to mean liking and more to mean “I noticed your post.” or “Hi, come over and see my blog.”

I refuse to be a member of this transaction industry.

A writer, however needs feedback. The star rating will stay, so I know what people think about it, and the comments remain for more involved conversation.

I hope you like, what I’ve done to the blog.

Following the TimeTable

I went to school. I went to college. I received as good an education that the prevailing system could offer at the time. I owe my education to my parents, without doubt. I am 40-something and I continue to have calculus nightmares; integration flavoured are worse than the differentiation flavoured. They are nightmares, irrespective. Not all my dreams are nightmares. Some are sweet. Those are often about what I learnt from my father and my mother.

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I have an unfounded great love for the Indian Railway. It is another thing that I haven’t been on a train for over a decade. One reason is that a decade ago, I bought my first car. Another, is that smoking is now banned on trains. So, if it is drivable distance, I drive, else, I fly. Many years ago, my fascination for trains was inculcated and cultivated by my father.

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Every four years, the bank that he worked for, offered an LFC – Leave Fare Concession. It was a perk he received from the bank that compensated in full, for all travel to a destination and back, within certain limits. As far as I can recall, we never went to single destination and returned; we always took one route to the destination and returned by another. That way, we visited more places.

0299: Rail Track

My sister and I looked forward to this four-year event as soon as our summer holidays commenced. My father would go to the local ITDC office and get the brochures for various places. When I try and remember those brochures now, they were very pastel-coloured documents. However, that didn’t dull our excitement. We both used to read every brochure back to back. Not every brochure was a destination; but we read all of them, all the same. After the general direction of the destination was decided (which was his call) the brochures were sorted according to the routes. Then came the two critical books.

Trains At A Glance, and the All India Railway Timetable.

My father used to tell us of our destination and ask us to pick non-overlapping routes to get to the destination and return. He gave us vague guidelines about how to use the timetable, and asked us to plot the to-and-fro routes. The All India Railway Timetable was a thick book with coloured pages and came with a foldable in-book map of the railway map. We could query him about available “holiday homes” and ask him Qs of the codes used in the time-table. When I think of that drawing-room of ours, all four of us sprawled on the floor with brochures, maps, and timetable, I suspect that he had already planned out our LFC. (It may have been an acronym of a perk; for us, it was an event). When I think back, I suspect, he gave us the resources for planning so that both of us would know how to plan and use those resources. When either of us offered a plan he presented challenges to us. But we have only a day there. But we have no place to stay there. What if we took a bus instead? And we had to rework the plan. Eventually, my sister and I came up with the plan that he (already) knew would work (He obviously knew more about constraints, logistics and such). At the end of it, however, both of us were very proud that we had designed the plan.

Today things have become much easier. we can enter the name of a location and get trains, those days we had to scour through an alphabetic list of location to get a Station code. Then we had to find the appropriate train tables. Check what class of travel was available on that train and confirm it with our father, if we were eligible for that class. Then, we had to check arrival and departure timings. Ensure that we are not cutting things short. My father used to refer to this as “keeping a cushion.” Buffer is the common term for this now, among other words. I don’t know how many of you encountered the word “vestibule” or “pentograph” in your school. I never did. But I know these words because my father taught us these words in real-time. He never stopped at teaching us the use of railway time tables.

The ability to read a printed railway timetable may seem like a useless skill now. And I’d agree. It is. Yet, it is not a defunct skill. Planning, with available data, is relevant even today. The form, format of the data may have changed. The basic skills remain the same.

For the life of me, I cannot solve a calculus problem, but if you want help designing an optimal route, I am your guy. Like most of you, my real education started at home, and what I could not learn in a structured education system, I learnt from my parents and my sister. Not sine theta and cos theta. Life skills. And I am ever grateful to them for that. By this, I don’t intend to diminish what I have learnt from my teachers. But, I will say this: I learnt more from them than the syllabus they covered. The impact that my teachers have had on me, has been beyond the curriculum. It has been tremendous; it has been significant.

What’s this post about?

My father? Indian Railways? Learning? Teachers? Family? My childhood?

I don’t know, dear reader. But I will tell you this. I recently read an article about railways and timetables. And that article provoked this post. All I can tell you, there is gratitude in my entire being, but…

If you can comprehend what this post is about, let me know.

 

 

(To Everything there’s a Season) Burn! Burn! Burn!

From the day he got burned, to the day he settled (I suspect it is in Ireland), I have been a big fan of Burn Notice. I’ll pause writing for a while, while ya’ll snigger and such.

Pause.

Pause.

Done.

You could have stopped reading this post at the first or the second Pause. But here you are. For all practical reasons it seems that there will be no Season 8. I don’t know if you have followed or are following the serial; if you haven’t this may be a spoiler. So if you did not stop reading at the first or the second pause, stop now.

The last couple of episodes have been very thought-provoking. They have teased and often prodded my ideas about belonging, loyalty, true-love, engulfing darkness, and a death-wish. The emphasis on escape is beyond physical escape. The prisons of our mind are far worse than the emotionless iron bars of a cell.

6172: Buddha

I don’t care to elaborate on each of these ideas linearly to describe what they meant to me. That would be very academic and boring at the same time. Not everything that is academic is boring. Not everything boring is academic.

Suffice it to say, even an otherwise-non-award-winning-(popular-awards-i.e.) can make you think about things. It can ask you questions that you have never asked before. It can make your jaw drop; when it shows something that is happening with you. Or something that you have imagined for yourself in your lonely corners.

<digression>

Paul often asks questions of bloggers: the popular ones, the ones who promote, the one’s who give advice. Who? Why? What? And such. There’s no such thing as popular bloggers. There are a few who market the content, there are a few who don’t. There may be some shades in between, but these are the only two types of bloggers who are there.

</digression>

What we feel is the ultimate reality. What we want to feel is the ultimate fallacy. Fantasy is great therapy, but like anything else, it is hazardous in high doses. (Notice the H-D-H-D alliteration) Smart, eh? A death-wish is not about death. It is about an exit. Many have it, but will never exercise it. Because they think of it as a mortal conclusion. Their what-if calculation is convoluted. And some folks spend an entire lifetime staring at an MS-Excel sheet doing what-if. Spend your time calculating or spend your time livin’. There is no other way. Call.

Our sense of belonging only to our selves.

Our loyalty is due only to our selves.

Our true love is only to our selves.

Our engulfing darkness belongs only our selves.

Our death-wish is about our exit from that which we do not care about. Death-wishes are not about dying; they are about killing: killing all that we can do without.

What’s you death-wish?

Slow Down

0466: Blur Walk

Open your Facebook timeline.

The Homepage, i.e. Scroll down. Hard. Fast. Scroll down so fast that your index finger may burn. Do watch everything as it scrolls and the top of your browser screen eats it up. Your bandwidth may limit the loading of the content and there may be jerks. When the scrolling is interrupted; see that particular update. Do you remember it?

But keep scrolling. Fast. Hard. As if your life depends on it.

Notice that blur? Perhaps that is what our lives have become.

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Slow down.

Faith’s Question

A post has brewed for more than a week now. When it took birth, the sense, it seemed, was of righteous anger. There was a festival in play which signifies happiness and joy, so I did not post. That sense of anger, over the seven days that I celebrated the festival quickly turned into disgust, then into orphaned sadness, and eventually got diluted over the days to placid resignation. The festival is still on; some celebrate it for ten days.

Somewhere between this journey of morphing feelings, I heard, in my head, the chorus of Paul Simon’s Proof looped in my head incessantly:

Faith
Faith is an island in the setting sun
But proof, yes
Proof is the bottom line for everyone. Proof

I was chanting the litany relevant to the occasion, yet this chorus enveloped my mind. Two voices were vying for attention at the same time. One that was coming out of my mouth wanting my mind and heart to feel it; and the other was playing in my head, hoping my mouth would recite it. Words are placeholders for meaning. When two very clear meanings fight, the mind-space becomes a mess.

Festivals are about being merry; I do not deny that. The lack of reverence that I was exposed to however,  caused that sequence of diluting of emotions within me. My faith and my beliefs are an inheritance and I am proud and grateful for that. Mostly, because they were never imposed on me, they were offered to me, for my consideration. I emphasise that phrase because I have borrowed it from a friend, Sagar Kolte, who has helped me understand what being grounded means; that italicised phrase is not mine; it’s his. But that is what I inherited: A context for consideration.

1010189: Ganapati Bappa Moraya!

My initial anger, which was dunked in a bucket to let go, came from the lack of reverence that I saw on the street on the eve of this festival. The Ganesh Chaturthi Festival has two contexts. One is personal; the original context of it — a practice to experience attachment, detachment, and selflessness. The other is social, which is rooted in the Indian Freedom Struggle. Both the contexts however have one thing in common: reverence. On the eve of the festival, I saw that there was utter ignorance of either of these contexts, coupled with utter lack of reverence.

I sheathed my anger at that instant and came home. I thought about Faith, that’s when the song by Paul looped infinitely in my head. At that instant, another song by him briefly asked a question of me:

There may come a time
When I will lose you
Lose you as I lose my sight
Days falling backward into velvet night
The open palm of desire
Wants everything

It wants everything. Further to Fly (Emphasis, mine)

There’s so much that churned in my head these seven days. As I rake in all that transpired in the week, I discover that there’s little that I collect; it escapes me like sand through fingers. Who am I to question how someone expresses their beliefs? Like me, others would have also considered what they believe, and act so.

What I originally meant to post has been immersed into oblivion. These are the vapours that remain of the original brewing. Perhaps indirectly, I have questioned the belief of others, which I intended to question directly. After the festival and the immersion, I have let go. I am blessed by what I have been allowed to consider.

I do know the meaning of what I do. I know the meaning, context, and the philosophy of every chant that I utter. And I have reason on my side even when I talk of something (irrational, though it may seem). Those reasons are mine, and mine only. It seems, I have made peace with them. It has taken me 42 years to know this: the nature of beliefs and my reasons of faith are non-negotiable and non-transactional. They are personal. Very personal.

So are yours.