Sunday, April 30, 2017

Selfie is boring marketing!

Nowadays, especially if one is watching IPL, the ads are full of mobile phone companies showing off their selfie characteristics and urging us to take selfies. I ask a simple question: what is it about a selfie that so much money has been poured into using it as a marketing gimmick? Personally, I do not see any value to it. One can very well watch oneself in a mirror so a selfie must be meant for other people. And other people would be tired of seeing your face day in and day out on the digital media. The face does not change every day. The expressions do but most of the people with selfies are not actors, they do not have to speak with their expressions. As for the background of the selfie, I believe natural surroundings or whatever the background is, are best clicked in isolation, let purity remain. So who came up with this grand selfie promotion idea, god knows!

It is a promotion of self-love shown in different forms. With Ranveer Singh, the moonlight selfie is in the garb of true love. Even the moon is not spared. Only yesterday I was looking at the lovely crescent shaped moon. Let there be love in the moonlight, what is the need to take a selfie and show it to the world. Then there is the Deepika Padukone ad with friends. She is just laughing with her friends smiling over. Will you buy a mobile for doing that? A good time with friends is as precious as a lotus in a dirty pond. Better than crunching together for space to get all the people in the picture why not ask a passerby to take a nice little one with your already existing mobile phone. All of us have done it at some point in time. Another ad is the one with Alia Bhat in it. It’s a strange one. And stranger is the sound. She is in this lighted room with a mike with a song ‘Welcome to Selfiestan’ with different versions of selfie being proposed to the buyer. It has a lot of views on youtube. This is the creation of a whole new world around us. Are we expected to take a selfie in whatever group we are! Waise hi life mein itni problems hai, ek achchi selfi leni ki problem upar se aur le le kya?
Marketing men, it seems sometimes lose their mind!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Left Right Left

It's like an imaginary town where there are two islands: left and right. Both of them have stood since centuries housing civilizations, growing, evolving as they think they have been. For them change is growth which of course is the bane of the human mind of every generation. Things change, in some framework its growth and evolution, in the other, it is not. An interesting thing to note is that both these islands started with the same initial conditions. But now they have reached a situation that they vie for each other’s blood.

It is impossible to document all the changes these islands have gone through. But every change has manifested in one island through a reaction or a protest in response to correct the havoc spread by the policies of the other island. Through centuries the battle lines have been drawn both physically as well as in the minds. Be it the French revolution or the fame of Kabir, U.S and U.K political parties or our very own BJP and CPI (Congress has been on the either side of center going with the times. Right now it is trying to find its position it seems). History has produced both crests and troughs of these entities for us to savior. But somewhere in our love for the extremes and the great, one need also to look at how much of these battles have been fought at the ground level. The crest and trough are all but extreme points in the wave that has traversed through the annals of time. Be it research papers, news items, family discussion or tea stall discussions at my village; these two forces battle each other. On a large scale, in the last century, a big battlefront has been the academic field of economics. Recently a new and fresh battleground has emerged, a battle front accessible to the common man where intense debates have been conducted at the ideological level. This is called Facebook and twitter.

It is easy to post on Facebook. In this battle, you do not need bows and arrows, guns, tanks or even pens. A slight provocation and sharing a news article or an opinion piece can lead your attack on the representatives of the ideologies. Be it Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal, Abhijeet or some writers of this country, no one is spared in this battle between the left or the right. Most of the times they are not even aware that they have been used on Facebook or twitter by people to showcase their own affinities.  

These battles on Facebook are free of cost sans the time one gives to them. Hence during election times, where the politicians are fighting to garner votes, my Facebook friends are busy posting articles that support or deride on the politician or the other. If there is a policy announcement or a conflict of interest, it is on Facebook too. Facebook is their Kurukshetra. And the best thing, they can do it sitting in their own offices. At the ground level, people wield trishuls and sickles. At the elite level, they wield posts and comments.

How is this going to pan out in the future? We all know about the vagaries of time. How time has shortened in every field, be it sports (T20) or education (3 months executive programs). The time for these battles has and will shorten. Earlier people used to communicate and argue through letters. Now they write two or three lines and argue through posts and tweets. Like they are free to write letters, they are free to post anything of their choice. But unlike letters which are personal, the posts are a public good to be consumed by anybody who is a friend and logs in. Hence someday one just stares wide-eyed on the Facebook wall because every post is either a left or right opinion of some big thing happening. Like a lotus in dirty waters, one searches for that one post to click or like in the midst of all the quarrel going around. And we don’t even realize we are a part of history, since the time those islands were formed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ek macchhar aadmi ko...

If I would have made the movie Men In Black it would have been mosquitoes instead of cockroaches. And if I had the forgiveness of a saint, all the mosquitoes that have bitten me would have been forgiven. Alas, I end up writing a blog protesting against their violence. They have been after me with a vengeance. It’s as if I killed their king and all the mosquito kingdom is up for revenge. Or else my blood tastes sweet and the news has spread in the mosquito kingdom.

Recently we have come to a locality where mosquitoes reside with us. Sometimes I think we have encroached on their land like mining mafias encroach tribal areas and face their anger. A peculiar thing about mosquitoes here is that they always want to suck blood. From the toes to ankles, to the fingers to the forehead they pass making irritating whispers close to the ears. But they never run away or get satiated. God knows how much thirst is there inside their bodies.
They are good friends with each other. If one comes, others follow suit. And they attack your body strategically. No two mosquitoes suck blood from the same part. They place themselves on different parts of your body ready to suck that red liquid which our body forms so laboriously.
Sometimes I think mosquitoes are better than our politicians even though both of them are in the business of sucking blood. Politicians are dishonest, manipulative and most importantly they are well shielded. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are honest in their vileness, attack in the open and can be killed with bare hands.
One wonders about the irritating sound they make to our ears. Evolution should have done the opposite. Like the flower attracts the bee, the mosquito should be attracted to our body. the least we could have had was a sweet melodious flutter. The mere sound shows that as per evolution humans and mosquitoes are not made for each other.
There was an advertisement long back where a machine swallows up mosquitoes with an equally irritating gulp. The machine looked like a frog preying on any mosquito which fettered close by. I am reminded of the Supreme court of India which can do the same for the politicians. But we just have one of it whereas we need many.
If anyone is benefited from these insects, it is the mosquito repellent companies. Wonder if the mosquitoes can be provided the address of the owners and asked to shift base or at least pay them temporary visits.

Killing a mosquito is another moral dilemma. Can one kill a living being even though the being is sucking one’s blood? I would have at least more than a dozen mosquitoes in my life. It’s a result of a sudden anger on noticing one among their species sitting somewhere on your skin. If the mosquito is attentive one ends up dancing rather than killing! And if you are a fan of Hindi films, you end up a eunuch. Remember Nana Patekar mouthing a dialogue: ‘Ek machchar aadmi ko hizra bana deta hai’
(One mosquito makes a man a eunuch)

Friday, April 07, 2017

Shyam Mastana

Shyam has a problem. He is schizophrenic. And he does not know it. In this mind, there are voices and interactions that have nothing to do with reality. They are a manifestation of his own self. Yet he wrongly believes that those voices exist for real. And communicates with them. In his imaginary world, they have given him a name: Mastana. Hence Shyam Mastana.

Every person has good and bad elements in them, Shyam too. On the outside, he is a quiet person but inside his mind, he is a Mastana, a romantic in love who heard many a curse from the people who mattered to him. The name Mastana was given to him by his love with whom he had no connection what so ever in real life for last many years. She was his school colleague who left the school and went to a different city. Unfortunately, even in his mind, she is in love with someone else, but ready to be with him for a few days only out of pity.
Shyam is socially withdrawn and speaks very little in real life. Inside his mind as well he keeps as quiet as possible. But the people with him want him to speak out of all the evil done to him over the years of which there is absolutely no record. The pressing matter of today was whether he was good enough to get his love even though personally he maintained that he had fallen out of it. None of the people inside which included his boss, his love and few others of the same social group would take his excuse of falling out. They wanted him to win her over whereas she ridiculed him in all the ways possible. Like the complications love develops in real life, it developed complications in his imaginary world as well. Shyam Mastana had to do something to win her over. Otherwise, the ridicule in his imaginary world would get him into trouble.
He wrote a poem for her. She showed momentary happiness but then recoiled to her previous demand of gadi, bangla and sona. Shyam was a middle-class boy and sadly not very ambitious. He clearly told her that money does not matter in love. It mattered for her, she made it very clear. Others in his imaginary world were with her.
To be in such a situation is not good for Shyam. He gives hours talking to these people and listening to what they have to say at expense of his work and leisure. Sometimes there are jokes as well which makes him laugh but mostly serious matters are discussed. In those discussions, he tries to show his erudite knowledge and others do appreciate him. But generally, it's his ass which is on fire.

Doing work is not easy. They are always with him. Sometimes they do not want him to work, other times they ask him questions about his work. Shyam, in this mild tone, requests them to give a break. It is only very few times that they give it to him. Shyam thinks that they can do their own work because they have adjusted well to this system and are good friends with each other. He is the odd one out. But he is trying his best to gel with them. They too, like him, have no idea how to get away from each other. Hence, for Shyam, all of them are connected through their minds even though the truth is that it is only Shyam’s mind which is playing tricks. Mastana, after all, he is!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

What if Marina Abramovic were in India

Recently I heard of an artist of Serbia by the name of Marina Abramovic who did unique social experiments. She once laid out 72 articles on a table and asked people to use it on her. Three years back she sat up on a chair in a gallery in New York where people at random could sit and talk to her. There was a similar social experiment in England where she would meet people in an art gallery.

She has been hated and loved during these moments of liberty she provides to the audience. A razor has been used on her, her clothes have been torn and people have cried in front of her as well. Naked emotions are what she conjures in people. And we get to see it as well.
What if Marina Abramovic were in India? Let’s say in Banaras. One thing I am very sure would have happened. She would have either been worshipped or asked to worship. Idols, coconut, flowers, and vermillion would have been placed before her. Women would not have trodden close to her, at least those who come from the middle-class background. I doubt if her clothes would have been torn and if they had been, she would have a saffron shawl to cover her up. Gangajal would be a permanent presence close to her. And the sadhus would have stared at her unable to fathom what kind of a sadhana she was doing being a woman!
Let’s say she was in Mumbai. Fashionistas would have surrounded her for a while. The cream of the city would be there to visit given the kind of celebrity status she has gained now. But accompanying them would also be the common man to have a glimpse of a lady who is bold enough to sit and talk to anybody who comes to her. The common man would have bewildered or lured at her body, something so pertinent in the male in India. They would either have been bored or kept a mental note of ecstasy on seeing this woman. A question which comes to mind is if anybody would have cried. I think if middle-class Indian women reach her without their men, they would cry out viscously in front of her. They have internal wounds, something that would burst out open on seeing a strong woman like her.
Delhi would be taken over by powerful people who would come and watch and who knows, looking at the popularity of the artist given her an offer. Something of a quid pro quo arrangement which I am sure she would have rejected. But Delhi will make her famous because people would talk about it. Her acclaim would not only spread worldwide but also in India. Who knows of multiple offers from other places that would fall on her lap.
Finally, let’s take her to Patna. My guess is the art galleries would have been empty except for school and college going students. People tend to stay away from events like these; they are too involved in handling their own affairs. Patna has its own brand of celebrities and artists and they may have paid a visit. Given the bad name the state enjoys one does get tempted to say that evil may be done to her in the city. But my experience of being with that place is that she will be safe and secure. The only thing which remains to be seen is whether the poor can make a contact with her. Repressed emotions will flow if it happens.

Let's bring her to this country someday. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Bholenath and Game theory (Prof. SD's diary I)

Note: The piece below is a part of my next novel. It's the first diary entry of an Economics professor who is a pioneer in game theory. Any comments will be surely appreciated.
Bholenath is the greatest game theorist. He looks at every interconnection present in this world. We can never fully understand these interconnections. We are endogenous to it. Any idea we throw in will in effect change us. The concept of endogeneity thwarts any human mind to generalize a concept or a theorem without assumptions. That is why I never disbelieved in Bholenath. There has to be an exogenous observer who sees things but does not change. It remains in question how much he can influence what’s going around. It would be great writing a research paper with him.

He not only observes but maintains the equilibrium present on earth. There are innumerable interactions among humans present at any given time. There are so many games at play at once. The boundary for each game may be limited, but their subtle interactions cannot be ignored.
Sometimes solutions don’t seem plausible. We can never find an equilibrium to a given set up. But it is important to look at the boundaries and not assume that there is no solution. Maybe we have not taken that crucial element into consideration, maybe we have left it out, even though one must admit that extending the boundaries not only brings in a new perspective but also more questions. That is where the art of a modeller lies. He should know what to bring in and what to leave out of the boundary. He should be ready to question the certain and believe in the improbable. It looks as if I have to do the best modelling of my life to find a solution to this problem I have been facing for so many days now. The boundaries are hazy and nothing is clear. Parameters keep changing regularly. Someone is inside my head and I know for sure it is not me.
Solving for equilibrium looks so simple once you get a solution. A reader can read two-three pages and understand it. It is getting to the solution which is painful. At times when nothing makes sense, a trick of the trade move or discovery of the fallacy in the solution can bring in a ray of hope to the problem solver. What it simply means is that every problem is solvable, anybody with enough patience can solve a problem, and that no problem should be left unsolved. We must reach a solution by working to create the little pinhole in the dark room through which the ray of light can enter. In a separate problem sent to me by my good friend from Cornell University who won the Nobel Prize two years back, a small fallacy had created the issue. Once you clarify it, the path to the solution was as smooth as butter. While these kinds of problems can be solved by simplifying the assumptions and then working towards the solution, my real life problem does not seem to simplify at all. It seems I have laughed after so many days today. How do I suddenly end up hearing sounds after reaching the age of 60? Nobody seems to have an answer, not even game theory.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Rendezvous de Bokaro II

A sleepy town, what a metaphor for a town! The literal meaning would be a place which feels sleepy more often than not. What it means is a town where the inhabitants work more or less in a state of sleep that is at a slow and lost pace. Is my town with a wild name of Bokaro steel city sleepy?
When we were children, I don’t remember ever pondering over a question like this. Bokaro was my world having never been to a big city; the trip to my village being the idea of travel. My frame of reference being a village, Bokaro was never sleepy, in fact, a modern and active place to be in. Now my frame of reference has changed. Having had an active life in some very big institutions and cities, I don't feel my town to be the same.
In the evening one has to think hard of where to go. Earlier it would be at a friend's place or cricket with colony friends.  There is a surprising dearth of young men playing any sport on the fields. The walls of many buildings have decayed giving you the repulsive feeling of a bad marriage. In fact, I noticed the fountain outside the colony we used to live standing dry. Earlier it was perennially oozing out water for the travelers on the road who cleared on to the sides. A similar dryness may have descended over the town. About this on another blog someday. Let me get to the fundamental question.
In sleepy towns, time doesn’t run as fast as the metros. They do not have traffic jams. Bokaro never had one as far as I know. The local bus service is unnoticeable. Autowallas can say a no as well. One can stand in the middle of most roads and have a chat with someone who is bringing in milk from the milkman, a daily ritual of many in this town. Some scooters with old uncles riding them run slower than cycles even though the whole road is laid empty before them. The bookshop owner at the center market complains of no readership as if people have to get up from their sleep to visit the collection. The above do point to the town being sleepy.
It’s also important to consider the word town. In this respect Bokaro has all the amenities, the most recent one being opening of PVR cinema. What else do you need on an empty weekend! Education facilities are excellent; they are like the flowers which attract honey bees. Schools and coaching institutes are the crown of this place. After steel, they are the ones that give it a name.
Steel is what Bokaro is named after, sleep is what it is fighting. An important thing that comes to mind is Bokaro is no more my world. For a school going kid who is engaged in his life, this place would still be hustling and bustling with life even though the observations speak of the opposite.
For part 1 read here