Crucial Curation

Those who have followed this blog for a while, know of my love-hate relationship with social media. I have been on and off social networks — as if I was punishing the networks — when I got upset with the nature of conversation and interaction that people on the network were having.

The network is inert.

Lately, without wanting to do so, I have been away from the networks. [To be clear, I do not consider WordPress as one of them]. It’s almost impossible to be on a network without taking sides. And if you do not take a side, variants of history’s accusations are hurled at you from all sides. Taking sides is worse; the enslavement is unbearable.

While this phenomenon is obvious and in-your-face on digital social networks, it is not limited to them. Shoot first and ask questions later is becoming the norm. Everyone wants to be the quickest draw in the West. And the East. And the North and the South. Amit referred to it as a left-right mud-slinging contest in a recent Twitter thread. It’s not. It’s fact-slinging. Apparently different types of facts. Alternative facts. Your facts. My facts. True facts. Baseless facts. Useless facts. (Yes, I have read people use these pairs).

We are fast losing the ability to discern between opinions, suggestions, ideas, rhetoric, humour even. All these, and more are being abstracted as statements, open for the rest of us to vilify, mock, abuse, and in general – demean. We do not have the time to pause and refer to context. And even if we had the time, where is the context? In less than three minutes we send eight tweets on seven different themes. How does a reader get the context? When does the reader get context?

There is also the question of the platform. Take Twitter, because I have mentioned it a couple of times now. Most of us readily blame the platform for this phenomenon.

The platform is inert.

It has no means or the capacity or the intelligence to expose us any more than what we publish to the platform. The one thing that it has enabled — is give voice to everyone. In these times when voice is free, there’s a dash to be heard. Me, me, me! But no one listens, because everyone is busy talking. And one thing is clear: mostly, people are angry. And it seems like old anger, one which was voiceless so far. And it has become ugly and rotten.

Unlike the different types of facts, that we believe in, we don’t believe that there are multiple truths. We do not have the patience for any truth to reveal itself. Fleeting gratification appeals to our ever shortening attention spans.

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Jama Masjid, Kalburgai (Gulbarga)

Jama Masjid, Kalburgai (Gulbarga)

All is not lost however, as apocalyptic this post may sound: as long as you curate.

There are many people who are spreading joy (not by mis-attributed feel-good hackneyed cheesy-quotes on mushy-stock-images) but, by just being themselves, sharing life experiences. These are statements in the true sense. They carry with them, no attributes of opinions, suggestions, and such. There is no compulsion to engage. In this case, the consumption is the engagement.

That’s where curation becomes crucial.

This is not to say that we become unaware as citizens and humans. What’s wrong must be righted.

In the real-world. Not on Twitter.

A Vintage Moment

Not this one. This is just a moment in time; now.

Window Frame

In due course, it will be a vintage moment. When something wonderful was thought of and created, even if it was just in the tightly confined vast mindspace unlimited possibility.

209 pages

This book that I am reading. A mass market paperback. It’s called “What is History?” by Edward Hallett Carr. I started reading it on 10th October, this year; am on page 112, now. That seems like an achievement to me. So, as is my nature, I posted this update on Goodreads, and it showed up on my Facebook feed. (Not magically; I’ve given Goodreads permission to publish on Facebook on my behalf.)

Of all the people who saw that post, it was picked up by my English teacher from school, and she commented, “Atul, keep up the speed.”

Disclaimer: She is my favourite teacher of all times and I am her favourite student of all times. (Irrespective of the thousands of kids she taught after I completed high school. A few of these thousand kids may have been good, but I am her favourite, I am sure. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I didn’t make it to Editor of the school magazine, in my last year. Those were purely technical issues.)

More than twenty-five years later, she keeps tabs on what read and write. On my previous post, she said, “Well tried.” That was a message, if I ever got one. That’s who and how she is; she always pushes you forward.

You are never as good (or bad) as what you just accomplished, you are as good as what you can achieve.

Perhaps, that was her mantra for all of us. Perhaps that’s why I am not as lost as I think I would have been, otherwise.

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Back to the book.

This book is about Historiography. Unlike most facile stuff that I once used to read, it’s not an easy read. Here’s a sample:

This is the real indictment of those who seek to erect a super-historical standard or criterion in the light of which judgement is passed on historical events or situations—whether that standard derives from some divine authority postulated by the theologians, or from a static Reason or Nature postulated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. It is not that shortcomings occur in the application of the standard, or defects in the standard itself. It is that the attempt to erect such a standard is unhistorical and contradicts the very essence of history. [E. H. Carr, What is History?]

As is obvious, such a paragraph takes time (for me, at least). The idea in itself is quite simple and straightforward. The manner in which it is presented seeks that the reader be involved with heart, soul, and mind.

So, yes, I’ll complete this book. Soon enough, for it’s the kind that needs to be savoured.

And that’s the speed. Thank you Ma’am!

A Beautiful Story

I’d like to write a beautiful story. I am unable, however.

Because there isn’t one available. In contemporary strife and disharmony, the beautiful stories are lost. It’s not that there aren’t beautiful stories. There are, many of them. They are just smeared by swatches of current ugliness. So, we don’t see these beautiful stories for what they are. We refer to the ugly smudges.

Boatman - 3

From the stink and sludge of the faecal remains of an unnecessary and useless debate, we will have to rescue the beautiful stories; lest the smears become their identity and they sink to the bottom of the sink.

We shall not gather beauty from ugliness, nor intellect from a slow temperament, nor fiery passion from disciplined apathy, but in all things shall reap as we sow, and must sow the wind before we can reap the whirlwind. ~ Sri Aurobindo, in “Early Cultural Writings”

And that gives us hope; for the ugliness in which these beautiful stories lie with extended arms, is artifice; one swipe of our hands and we will see the beauty and embrace it forever. And it will be our own, forever.

All we will need is a gentle long wash & shower in cold water.

There is hope, yet.

A Broken Narrative

Few of my friends know of a certain profile picture I use on Facebook, which indicates that I am away. Every once in a while I test if I can be away from Facebook (and therefore Twitter and other such networks). October was my away month — by my standards. I used Facebook sparsely. I’ll be back on the 1st of November. The last three or four times I did this away exercise, it was more of a test of my addiction, so to speak. While October started with the same purpose; the revelations were interesting to say the least.

The narrative of everything has changed.

There isn’t — according to the way I see it — anything that we can say, that will not be crushed out or hammered in by some ism that someone else follows. Opinions do not have spaces anymore. Jokes have no space. Most people I see, are angry and belligerent. Mostly, deep down, they are defensive – but outwardly they are angry and belligerent. Those that aren’t angry are on a trip, some trip, which offers them a false sense of happiness.

When ideological camps never intersect, where is that common space for us to speak and hear? What is our meeting ground? Not to make a statement; just to speak, to listen to each other. In the race to be heard, no one is listening.

I am not lamenting social change. I have lived my adult life, with and without mobile phones, e.g., and I am aware of the boons and curses of how society responds to changes it did not expect. In these times of (mostly) nonsensical back-and-forth, I struggle to find a place of my own.

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Within that struggle, I have discovered a small place. It’s nice. Comfortable. Mine. It’s not mine, yet. But I’d like it to be mine. And it has the potential to be mine. In times of predictable spaces, determined by isms, I am fortunate to have found one that allows for isms, but is not dictated by an ism.

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I am participating in Movember, yet again, this year. (That’s the day I return to Facebook) It has been over half-a-decade of Movembering; I have yet to find an organisation that works for men’s health, in India. If you know of one – do let me know. Nevertheless, It seems, I will be a permanent Movember Member; inspired in no less measure thanks to The Bum.

2016-01-01 17.04.50: Orchha

It’s the festival of lights, here, in India. In my head, there is a philosophical connotation to the festival. To tell you the truth, it is a festival of light and sound. Traditionally, philosophically, and spiritually. Not anymore. Either by armchair activism or sheer usurpation. Those that purportedly attack and those that apparently protect — both have it wrong. Festivals are resilient enough that they can survive attacks. Festivals are strong enough that they do not need protection. I wish I do not live long enough to have to wish “Happy Holidays” for a festival that you celebrate, even if I do not celebrate it. When a festivity is reduced to a holiday – that is when we have lost everything. We should be worried about sameness, assuming we will live long enough to sense it.

My apologies for this line of thinking on such a wonderful festive day. I leave you not with thoughts to discover the light within but just be good. In your own way. Do something nice. I will.

Happy Diwali!

Not Everybody’s Sport: #Kabaddi; Unlike #Tennis

Needless to say, India won the Kabaddi World Cup.

Needless, only because those who follow the sport know it. For the rest of – that’s news (Assuming it matters)

I have been somewhat vocal on Twitter about the various events of the Kabaddi World Cup while I was watching it. I ensured one thing: I always included the #2016KabaddiWorldCup tag in all my tweets. I know, many of the folks who follow me on Twitter may not be interested in Kabaddi. Using that # tag in my tweets allows my followers to mute the hash tag, and allow them to follow me for the other tweets that they like and could be interested in.

Why don’t tennis or (most) cricket followers do it? Most of the folks who I follow on twitter are cricket or tennis fans. They tweet about updates, thoughts, and ideas all the time — without any # tag. Apparently #Tennis and #Cricket is something that we all follow?

I got this DM recently on Twitter:

“Ah, I’d muted you when you were tweeting much about Kabaddi.”

Again, needless to say, my friend could have muted the hashtag. #ProKabaddi. But he muted me. He must have thought I am a tennis fan. For no tennis fan ever qualifies his or her tweet. It’s tennis terrorism, almost.

Follow me or unfollow me, it doesn’t matter. I will always give you a choice to mute tweets which you do not want to see.

Decency.

 

 

Happy Teachers’ Day

In my work, I often see the angst that has now become the mainstay of any conversation or discussion about education. The world as we know it, is changing rapidly and almost everything is under the social microscope. Every thing is being dissected by those who know something of a thing, as well as those who do not know about a thing. Alike.

In this rapidly changing world, all professions and vocations are being evaluated and questioned. Teaching is no exception. Except in one way. For almost all professions, it is the profession which is being looked at, not so much the professionals. When it comes to teaching, it is the teachers where the focus falls. It has become personal. For reasons I have not yet understood. I do understand, however, that it’s the wrong approach that we are taking.

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For all of us who have had the good fortune to have had good teachers, we know that these folks did good by us in spite of the hurdles they faced. The problems of the system existed then, as they do, now. Only the context has changed. And even today, teachers are working in spite of the problems. I know this because I see the love and respect for teachers by the young ones around me.

The situation is not as bad as we are made to believe it is. It only looks worse because those telling us how bad it is, are only looking at the situation and doing very little (other than telling us how bad it is). And I’d like to salute those teachers today, who are doing something for our teachers. They are the reason we will have even better teachers tomorrow.

To all my teachers — in school and college, at home and my workplace, young and small. Those who intended to teach me and those who didn’t; who got called teachers and those that didn’t.

Happy Teachers’ Day!