Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pay per clique

Dear Mr. Vir Sanghvi,

This issue is nearly five days old and I am opining now because I feel the need to. What's strange is, when I first read your post about how the bloggers are the bad people of the Internet, I wondered why you were bringing up an issue that was roughly five years old. Nobody complains about bloggers anymore. For some strange reason, you seem to have just discovered them.

Don't get me wrong, I am barely a blogger, but I read a lot of them, and I will tell you why. For that, I'll have to go back to my origins --

Like in any educated middle-class household, as a part of my education, I was forced to watch the news and read the newspaper, to inculcate a love for current affairs, opinion and language. In the evenings, we were forced to sit in front of the TV as Salma Sultan and Rini Khanna (née Simon) told us what happened in the world that day, with a certain amount of indifference. Once a week, on Friday nights, I was allowed to stay up late and watch Prannoy Roy on "The World this Week" (Loy Mendonza's title track gives me gooseflesh.) Back then, Hindi was Hindi, and English was english, we were told to respect language. For analysis, we had to read the newspaper or magazines..

All this reading came with the strong belief that the people who were writing in the newspapers were qualified to comment and were the best people to do so. That they wouldn't write just to please us (or please anyone, for that matter). Having never seen their faces, and content with those little caricatures (by RK Laxman) accompanying their pieces, we put our blind faith in these could've-been-pseudonymous writers. To be honest, to me, Jug Suraiya never felt like a real name, but it didn't matter. I liked reading what he wrote.
Similarly, when movie reviewer gave a movie his "stars", we assumed that his judgment was right, because he knew what he was talking about. Even if we liked a movie he didn't, we assumed we'd missed something. We would perhaps not even admit that we liked it. In fact, for a long long time, I barely blogged because I always assumed my opinions were wrong.

Times have since changed. (Times has since changed too. Heh.) In the papers, instead of Mukul Sharma's Mindsport, we have "news" about Konkona Sen Sharma's latest party appearance. On Live TV, for current affairs, we have a journo shouting at us from outside the gates of the Bigg Boss household. In studio, for opinions, the moderator is shouting at the panel of analysts, all in some undecipherable mishmash of a language. Hell, now the media people are even shouting on twitter. Amidst all this, we, the then middle class, now haunt silent spaces to find good opinions and good writing. We find this noise to be unbearable and it seems easier for us to ask our friends for what they think. I don't remember when was the last time I read a "valid" movie review. These days I just ask a couple of my friends, read a couple of blogs -- people whose taste matches mine. Even if I don't agree with them, I read it for all the wit and good writing. I also take it as my responsibility to tell them of my opinion, sans fear. I usually put in some effort to articulate my thoughts. You could call it clique formation, you could call it forming a network of people you can trust.

It works fine for me as a reader, but why does it upset you?

I don't know what your exact grouse is, but it seems to be one of these: that the bloggers don't take your opinions seriously, or that that the bloggers are not qualified to opine, or that you are no longer the elite, or that we've found our friends who don't talk "at" us, and we prefer taking a weighted average of their opinions.

This was our little party. We hung out here, in our crowded little dark rooms, happy by ourselves. You seem to have entered the place right now, breaking the fourth wall, and are upset at us for having a party.


PS: Am not sure if Mindsport is still published. Can someone please tell me?
PPS: Other better posts on this topic: Manu, Lekhni and this for all the revie-wit: Manu, again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twinkle of my sky

You know I've been thinking a lot about death. Three drafted, one published, and one published-and-retracted post later, my brain is still trying to make peace with the mechanics of loss. My brain still tries to get the early mover advantage on grief. I think it's a phase thing. You know how 25-year-olds discuss getting married, 30-year-olds discuss midnight feeds, and 40-year-olds discuss clogged arteries? My parents are losing their peers, and I can't offer them comfort that their friends went and became stars in the sky.


I realized yesterday, I had forgotten how to look at the moon. I had forgotten how the moon looked. Crescent, half, full, spotted, pimpled, you know the phases. Sometimes there is no reason to look at the sky. Sometimes there is no reason to spot the Orion or the Big Dipper. Sometimes there is no reason to draw the line to the Pole star. Sometimes there is no reason to wish on the lone star.

I realized yesterday that the night sky had stopped being black. It had stopped being the metaphor for a maiden's hair. Instead, it had turned into this nightmarish shade of ink blue. It looked faded. The salt and pepper was gone. It looked like all the stars had been forgotten, and hence they went undercover. Ah, the blinding city life, the bright lights have taken the twinkle away.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art...

One of my mother's students committed suicide. Dad informed me, adding, "The 3 idiots effect."
I didn't ask for any other information, because sometimes it is easier to deal with statistics than dealing with real people. However much we try and shroud it in euphemisms, "13 people died" is far easier on our tongue, on our mind, than saying "Ma's student passed away." However indifferent or concerned we pretend to be, it always seems closer home when it happens to someone we know.

I can't imagine the parents are going through. Ma feels as guilty perhaps, being the teacher, and I wouldn't blame her. She has always taken it as her responsibility to counsel all these kids about their adolescent problems with love, puberty, alcohol, career, studies. I wonder if there are many teachers who take as much effort as she does, to connect with the students. Needless to say, she is immensely popular with her brood. So with all the honesty they give her, I can imagine why she would feel guilty. If she had spotted signs early on, that what this kid was going through was more than what other kids are also going through, maybe a life could've been saved. It may just be that she finds it unethical being part of a so flawed education system where students/kids are humiliated in school and at home for not performing well. I don't know, I will have to ask her.

What is also interesting is how many people have connected the dots and drawn a line to the movie. We can't help it, it's the job of engineers and scientists to collect stats, and present it as a trend. Somewhere along a trace of that line, the individual and his problems get lost. As I said, sometimes it is easier to deal with statistics than dealing with real people. "Suicides are on the rise after 3 idiots"-- was anyone even collecting statistics before the movie was released? Was anyone even serious about them? Plus, I fail to understand why 3 idiots has collectively had such an impact, but not a movie like Rocket Singh. How does watching the movie create such a big impact? Why do kids suddenly identify with the character, and like him, to take the harsh (or easy?) way out of life's troubles?

Which brings me to the bigger question - is the blame really on the educational system or on the society in general? The way it seems to have evolved, everyone seems to want to raise a prodigy, you know, a multilingual blackbelted rockstar with an IQ of 175. Studies, exams, education are just a small part of this.

I was reading some posts here and there about how the government could help it with educational reforms etc. The policy is important, but this could also be the issue of mental health in general. I still believe that the onus for it lies closer home. We see our family, our friends, our neighbour's kids. It should be easier for normal people to see signs of depression or anxiety in people who are amongst us. It should be easier for us to accept these as a valid illnesses. It should be easier for us to accept that some people need help, and not be dismissive about it. The govt can only do as far as to create helplines and ease up question papers and collect stats, but unless there is a broader social change, an acceptance of the individual and his mental state, the problem will perhaps not go away.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Dirty Rock

Finding NiMo.

I slip underwater effortlessly and at that depth feel calm and peace that comes with being in control. And yet that control comes with an equal amount of dread -- something could go horribly horribly wrong. Every time you take that risk of doing something else, something different, apart from being on the couch, you take an unassisted step forward. Scary, yes, but the thrill makes up for it.

"Age is just a number" or "30s is the new 20s" -People who say that are really really old. Youth is wasted on the young, and yet, nothing's perhaps ever wasted if you've devoured every little bit of whatever was on your platter. I feel I have.

I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Of course, the butt's too big and the hair's too frizzy and I haven't still bought the Ferrari I swore I would. Frankly, I don't care. I don't feel the need to drastically alter myself because I know nothing's going to change much. I don't look over my shoulder for approval. I am way more confident than I ever imagined I would be.

Gone is the anger of the early twenties, or the slogfest of early-mid twenties, or the crisis of mid-twenties years or the sinking feeling of mid-late twenties or just the tic-tac-toe of "what's up with life" of really-late-twenties. There's a life to be lived, and I feel I am making the most of it.

To be fair to me, I never had a consistent list of what I wanted to achieve before I became this old. It's been switching every year. Earlier on, my to-do list was filled with silvery shiny things and checkboxes, now it's just the hope that I'd not be ashamed to have a pink haired day. Someday, someday!

So yeah, since I record gifts, this year, I bought myself a birthday card.

Friday, January 01, 2010

End of a yearn

  1. Quit job without having another
  2. Moved to a new house, and did it up.
  3. Wrote, a lot.
  4. Got my diving license.
  5. Sketched/drew/painted things I am proud of.
  6. Baked my first cake.
  7. Traveled, and a lot.
  8. Trekked to the Everest Base camp.
  9. Dived in the Great Barrier Reef.
  10. Didn't waste time on movies (rather, kept the resolution from feb).
And many others. Not bad, not bad at all.
Happy new year, y'all.