Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Grownups turning into toddlers in Indian high rises

[This is a ridiculous diagnosis]

Beware! A ghastly disease is on rise these days. It turns a perfectly capable adult into a challenged toddler who needs assistance.

Who is at risk?

It is sweeping across glass towers, big cars and countless cabins in city offices across India. Specifically, perfectly capable adults who start earning 7 figure salaries tend to be at high risk of turning into a differently-abled toddler. So the initial observations allude to it being a classist disease.

Recent studies have revealed that, being wealthy is not the only determinant - it affects people who tend to make irrational choices - such as purchase of INR 35,000 for a laptop bag when one can buy another that is just as good for around INR 1,000.
The irrationality alludes to it being a mental disease rather than a physical disability.


They seem perfectly capable, healthy even, but are unable to do the most basic human action ever - of carrying one's own bags/ dishes/ wipes.

People who tend to own expensive bags are rendered disabled to hold/ lift/ carry these bags themselves. 
People who can (and do) gorge on the contents of the tiered and heavy tiffins/ take-outs can't seem somehow to hold the same weight in their own hands. So essentially the stomach muscle is working fine, but hand and brain muscle is not.
People who can't order at the canteen and wait for their turn like normal human beings. They must be fed like little toddlers in their crib - their cabin. They can't walk to their food like adults, the food must be brought to them.
They are incapable of walking up from their seat to fetch water/ coffee.
They need assistance all the time. So the easiest symptom to spot is the presence of another human being around them. The person is often employed by the disease ridden individual. The person is called a driver sometimes, a peon at other times or a maid at home.
The need for such assistance is economically feasible and socially acceptable largely in third world countries, characterised by overwhelming poverty and a minority of oblivious and privileged narcissists.


It is too early to decode, but initial guesses of scientists suggest an interesting hypothesis.
Apparently the cause of this behavior is a little smarmy worm that enters the host's ears through empty praise they hear of their coterie. The smarmy worm then makes it's way into the host's head. It then starts singing loud praises with a background score of applause and orgasms 24x7. The brain of the host comes unhinged by this incessant assault on the host's concept of self. It unmoors his identity from that of people around him. The host turns into a faithful of the deity called self. The host now sees only himself/herself as real, everyone else as merely support cast in the film scripted by the smarmy worm projected inside the empty head of the host. As the smarmy worm eat away the brain, the shrinking brain effectively turns the clock back on the brain development, reverting to the default of 3 year old. and hence the toddler like behavior.

The cure

The only know cure for this condition is to send an antidote worm through the other ear of the host. This worm carries with it a much louder speaker system - in stereo and a 3D visual projection system. It drowns out the sounds and visions of the smarmy worm. It instead super imposes ideas of Noam Chomsky, Buddha, Ivan Illich, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Ambedkar and many more. It doesn't matter if ideas are conflicting or not, interesting or not, comprehensible or not... what matters is the plurality of thoughts and its people. After all, a thought has imprints of thousands of grimy minds on it. and by accepting plurality of thoughts, you accept the existence of a plurality of people.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Walk about - II

I have been living in Gurgaon for the last 5 years. 5 years! in Gurgaon! I never thought I would end up staying this long here. In my head, it always was just a transit camp - to earn money to fund travel to Himalayas, come back and refill, go back and chill.. repeat until one figures out a way to break out of the cycle.
For the first 2 odd years that reflected in my lifestyle - My house was small and barely functional, a temporary base camp to return to 'home' in the hills. That 'home' was among strangers in the farthest corners and alleys of small villages in the hills. The home was not peopled really. It had no walls. It was the crisp cool air of the hills, the majesty of Himalaya, the clarity of sun's rays, the hot vapours rising from the ginger tea and the never ending walks in the forests, up the hills, down the valleys and through gullies and alleys of small villages and towns. When I was alone, that's what home was for me: A living breathing intimate experience with nature. And that is what is missing in Gurgaon. Completely.

We now have a lovely home in one of the greenest places in the city. It finally feels like 'home', largely due to Amrita's love and her homeprettification.

But I still miss out on the pleasure of walking around. Gurgaon is terribly polluted. My office is barely 3-4 km from my home. Ideally, I would have walked to the office everyday. But that is simply impossible in Gurgaon. If I decide to walk, I will have to fight the oppressively hot and abrasive dust that is as aggressive as the people of Gurgaon. I will have to fight these very people too, who would much rather mow a pedestrian down than slow down. I will have to fight the bikers who take special fancy towards riding on walkways (for the 2% of roads where they do exist) rather than the roads. My lungs will have to fight the exhausts of the diesel pajeros and jugaad-autos and past-their-expiry-date buses. My ears will have to fight the incessant honking and screeching and yelling. My eyes will have to fight the sight of a decaying, decadent Indian dystopia.
I would much rather not fight. I am a peace loving person you see. I do not fight, unless I must fight. And the 'must' fights can't be had everyday.
And hence I end up losing everyday a simple walk.

What is a city if it can't afford its citizen's a decent walk? NCR has bloody turned itself into a dystopian 'mad max'-esque car park.
Every good city is 'walkable': One can walk through it for work or leisure.
Why else do people love European cities? Would they be even half as lovely, if one couldn't walk through them? Berlin is so amazing because of its streets and the public spaces. In the 3 days that I was there, I walked daily for atleast 8-10 hours through its many stra├čes. I witnessed a roadside theatre, a political procession, a cyclist's meet, dancers, historical structures, quirky cafes... It was alive with its people stoking the city's heart with energy. 
Kemijarvi, a small town in Arctic, on the other hand is a very different kind of lovely. It is beautiful with that typical silence and stillness of Finland's open spaces - its lakes, its parks and even its city centers. Finland has a certain beautiful rhythm to it in the summer - with people out walking their nordic walks in the afternoon by the lakes, in the parks and even by the train tracks.
Obviously, smaller towns and villages are more livable and walkable. I would love to return to Tsagkarada in Greece or Rothenburg in Germany for example. The walk in places like these have a deeper charm to them. Rothenburg has the cobbled pathways through history - it makes you feel like a traveler, a voyeur peeping into an alternate time - walking at a junction of past and present. Streets in Vrindavan might be dirty with overflowing garbage, but it still retains a certain sense of awe - homes, people even cows bathed in spiritual rituals. It has it's own rhythm that slows down in small gullies and picks up speed at intersections and markets. 
Dhankar in Spiti is unlike anything you would have ever experienced. The first sight of Dhankar will unhinge your sense of reality. 'Which part of Solar system is this?' 'Am I dreaming?' The first walk around the town might induce vertigo. As you walk by the lake, you would wonder which way is up and which way is down - perhaps a hole in the mountain is betraying a sky of the secret world inside it. Even a simple green pea from the local farm might induce orgasms or hallucinations. (You must taste a fresh green pea from Dhankar once in a lifetime. You must.)

Oh, how wonderful is life and we are wasting it by not walking through it. One must walk to truly taste life. And walk with curiosity. The curious walker has better odds at witnessing reality and the cracks in reality. When you walk you appreciate existence because you may get to witness the frayed edges of existence. When you walk you locate yourself among 'us'. Walking pacifies the frenzied soul, it unbuttons the jacketed human. Walking untangles the complication of everydayness. Walking is what humans are made for, and we end up wasting our lives away seated in chairs 24x7. 

One must walk about to truly live. 


Here's an idea - Rate cities by their 'walkability' - how convenient and pleasurable is it to walk in that town? 
From a 0 for Gurgaon to 2 for Mumbai to 4 for Nasik to 7 for Berlin. Which city is your 10?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Don't let peddlers of hate turn you into a tool

JNU students are not stealing money from public banks. The powerful but immoral business men and their cronies in the nation's bureaucracy are.
Beef eaters are not stealing your food; subsidizing for the politicians and driving farmers to kill themselves. The culprit are the flawed policies of the apathetic government shaped in no small measure by lobbying corporate and business-politician nexus.
The 'Muslims'/ 'Hindus'/ 'Flying Spaghetti Monster worshippers' are not attacking your dignity as a human being. It is the capitalist power centers who would not let you organise and rise as equals. It perpetuates inequality and dreams of 'making it big', a lottery rigged from the start.
The 'Anti-nationals' are only really anti-stupor. They are not endangering your survival. Your existence is being endangered by blind corporates and corrupt bureaucrats who subvert moral responsibilities, and who prioritise profit over human life.
Jats/ Dalits/ OBCs are not stealing your livelihood. The culprit is the government which prioritizes vote bank politics over building a decent educational infrastructure and access to skill developmental platforms.

When you see any politician, media personality blaming a people, blaming each other, blaming you, blaming weak scapegoats for state failure, you should know you are being sold hatred. you are being fooled. you are being turned into a tool. an expendable vote giving tool.

Don't be a tool. Be better than that. Recognise the merchants of hate and banish them from your life.  Recognise your interests and fight for them.

The only true struggle is that of the powerless against the unjust powerful. Any other struggle is merely a smokescreen where you are a 'bali ka bakra'. Don't be. Fight with eyes wide open. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Life is a swamp

21st century humanity is the century of living in 'bad faith'. And if humanity survives through it, it will only do so by fighting its bad faith. So what exactly is this bad faith that I am talking about?

I. What is 'Bad Faith'?
Well, it quite simply is the web of lies we build around ourselves to avoid having to make hard choices. Bad faith is when you resist change or you refuse to accept the responsibility of responding to change or initiating change. It is a cocoon made of lies that keeps painful truth outside. It manifests every time we are forced to wade through an uncomfortable or even mildly critical question/ decision. It is a refusal to react/ act. It is a refusal to live consciously.

So the next time someone points out your mistake and instead of acknowledging them or trying to understand why those mistakes were being pointed out, you fill your heart and mind with resentment and anger towards the messenger, you  are reacting in bad faith. You are choosing not to correct your mistake. You are pushing the choice onto other person to change.

Or if instead of reacting to inefficiencies or mistakes of others, you react to your expectation of them, then you are reacting in bad faith.You are choosing to not take charge of the situation. You are scuttling the responsibility onto your past.

Or if you let abstract ideas of nationality, caste or religious affiliation define your behaviour towards strangers, then you are living in bad faith.  If you react to people's affiliation instead of their actions, you are living in bad faith.  You are choosing to dehumanise the other. You are cowardly refusing to be responsible for your own dignity.

II. Matter of skin thickness
None of us are strong enough to experience truth in its entirety. Everyone has his/her's own set of lies that she must tell herself to make it through her life. We all have our insecurities, our fears, our weaknesses, our cognitive limitations. It is a matter of degree. Some have a thick skin, either born with the gift of reason and self-awareness. Some others earn it through experience. While most of us just go on blindly with a thin skin, raw nerves, wary of new experiences - opportunities to unravel the true nature of our existence.

III. The essential truth about bad faith
Life essentially is lived through actions and reactions to/ for other people. Our lives are in relation to other people. And most of us (which includes the others) would be severely incapable of living with full consciousness of the truth or even prioritized appraisal of truths/ lies. And to expect otherwise from people is to live in bad faith. And it is these others living in bad faith who are impacting our lives daily in one way or another.
What this means is, life cannot ever be  a smooth operation. It is not an arrow flying through vacuum towards its target. Life will not be reasonable. Life will remain uncertain at all times.You will have to deal with idiots and wise-asses all the time. There is no escape. You will have to deal with mistakes of others and catastrophes that are irreparable. There is no recourse. LIFE IS A SWAMP. And the only option for us is to accept it, assess it objectively and deal with it. Sure there will be opportunities that you can make. Be grateful for those. and get on with it.

The only thing you can do is to ask yourself honestly - "Now what?" .Not why, no blame game... but 'Now What'.
"What can i do now in view of the shit I find myself in?" That is being alive fully. Accept, assess and deal with it.
Quote by, art by me

The global web of bad faith
From what little I understand of evolution, I don't see humans growing out of the cocoon of self-deception. Bad faith is a survival strategy. With the 21st century that strategy now plays out globally on a scale that will make the best human minds boggle. With lies that are 'too big to fail', and lies that have terribly long tail, the global web of bad faith has firmed up its grip on our lives. The only recourse is to fight it out. Enable the 'too big to fail' lies to fail. Enable the long tail and absent heads to be answerable at each end of its tentacles. Question it and react to it at all times.
The individual's survival strategy will not play out well for the collective of humanity. We will end up digging our graves if we don't start addressing the truth collectively.

Monday, February 29, 2016

How to abuse two dimensions at once

In advertising, we often come across this four legged spider called 'the perceptual map'. It is quite an interesting tool really. If done right, it is a very efficient visual representation of chosen facts (not the whole truth, but the part that helps win an argument. :P) The uglier mutations of this spider are the intuitive/ judgemental/ consensus maps. The difference is, while the prior is based on numbers, the later are approximate 'gut feelings' of people who sit often removed from reality.  Even then, these are useful, if only in finding new perspectives to see with.
We planners tend to use it quite often for its efficiency in meaning making and sharing of perspective. But lately even the clients have wizened up to it. But not entirely. Recently, we were briefed with a perceptual map that had four categories of the product at the four legs of the graph. That makes no sense. I can't share the actual figure of-course, but here's something similar (different category).
 It is the age of cross-over products. And you must convey the uniqueness of your cross over somehow. But this is not the best way to do it. seriously.

Shit that makes no sense.

Here's some handy tips to do these graphs right.

1. Oppositions: Humans understand things better with a frame of reference of opposites. An apple is edible for a human baby, as against a rubber ball (inedible). So here the concept of the opposition between edible and inedible things is absolute. The borders are drawn and they are distinguishable (mostly). So apple can sit at one end of the spectrum (definitely edible) with a rubber ball sitting at the other end (definitely inedible) with a piece of squid meat sitting somewhere in the middle. (depends. On the nationality of the mother/ father to start with.)
The perceptual maps work if you identify such oppositions to represent. So dig for the 'cultural tensions' if you must. For example, Contentious meal options v/s non-contentious meal options in India, where cow/ pig meat will sit in one extreme whereas a vada pav or a masala dosa will sit in the other.
Commuter bike is not conceptually the opposite of a racing bike. it is just a different kind of bike. So they can't sit on different ends in a conceptual map.

2. The two dimensions: The map is in two dimensions. One horizontal. One vertical. Each dimension represents a variable. And for the map to work, each dimension must stand for a unique, independent but related variable. In the example of bikes, all four legs belonged to a single variable. Hence it did not make any sense.
Secondly, if it is dependent variable, then it will simply create a predictable curve on the graph. Which might be good for a maths class, but it doesn't provide new insights to position your brand or surprising segments of consumers to target.

3. One universe of related variables: The two variable must belong to the same universe. There is no point in comparing countries to fruits. Not only should the variables belong to the same universe but they should be about a single thing/ concept. If  one variable is about the height of people in Vanuatu, then the other cannot be about skin color of New Zealanders. Neither is the heigh and skin color related to each other, nor is their a commonality between the universe. It might still make sense instead if height of people (short v/s tall) in vanuatu is put in perspective with the diet of people of vanuatu (malnourished v/s over eaters). That perhaps might throw up some insights.

Hmm.. may be you know more about this than I do. I am merely a peddler of perspective. Share yours.