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The Art, the artist & the price tag

February 6, 2017

Art deserves its due. Every artist struggles to create art – be it a painting, a photograph, a piece of dress or a pot. I completely agree with that.

My tastes lie towards more earthy, hand made products rather than the factory-produced nonsense. And I agree that the effort an artist has put in deserves a good price. A labour of love for a home of love.

In recent times, there has been a vast array of products that are sold on ecommerce sites – either under the banner of ethnic stuff or as ‘by the artisan, for the artisan’. And these products are priced so high that it makes me wonder who on earth is making all this money. Does an earthenware pot truly cost 2 grand? Does a terracota coffee mug cost one grand a piece?

I’ve grown up surrounded by such beautiful things. Handwoven rugs, kalamari paintings, a zari-embroidered pillow cover,  a terracota vase. These were, once, poor man’s decorations.

Today, these are ‘kitsch’ and are sold at outrageous prices. Because they are currently considered cool. I cannot wait for the days when these are not cool again and prices go back to normal. When I can walk into a local store and buy the things I like without having to sell a kidney.

While art does deserve it due, it shouldn’t be unreachable to the common man.

The Media & Our Portrayal

February 6, 2017

It has been nearly half a decade since I was in a place where I interacted with several people from countries and cultures. Such interactions are always interesting, even if you do not agree with everything you learn.

In recent times, there’s been a general dissatisfaction over the way things are portrayed in the media. I understand, as a former reporter, that “news” is something that is current and notable for its cause alone. But there is a horrible distillation of “news”, which essentially comes down to what is controversial and what is sensational. While some of the news that is spoken about has to be highlighted, it ends up being a one-side story all too often. The other side is rarely highlighted.

One such instance came to light in the recent meeting. I was chatting with a woman from Zimbabwe and I asked her to tell me something about her country that we wouldn’t know from reading news stories. She wrinkled her nose and said “There’s so much! Everyone only writes about how Zimbabwe is a horrible place with so much violence. But we’ve a beautiful city, and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.”

Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is supposedly more stunning than Niagara Falls, which gets a lot of PR and talk.

I had heard about it once upon a time, but honestly, I wouldn’t have recalled it without her mentioning it.

Our conversation continued, and she expressed surprise that I was wearing a dress. She had been worried about India, with much of the international coverage focussing on the horrible rapes in the country. Well, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. But from the sounds of it, India had been portrayed as a horrible country for women. That women were being raped everywhere, and a woman couldn’t walk in the streets in broad daylight alone.

We cannot deny that is entirely untrue. There are enough stories going around about this. Then again, the perception created is of a country that’s similar to the Middle East, with archaic laws. Where are the stories about the progress in India? Where are the stories about our vast growth and developments?

For a country with a population of over a billion, some of the advancements we’ve made are quite commendable. For a population that’s essentially as diverse as the world, some of the laws we’ve changed are definitely noteworthy.

I’m not going on a India-praising spree. I know the shortcomings of our country. But in recent times, some of the comments of international media are getting annoying.

We launch a space program, and they say why aren’t we spending more on removing poverty. We sign a climate agreement, and people ask about trade agreements.

I’m really glad that people from various countries came to India and saw the reality of the country.

The Zimbabwe woman’s parting statement was “India isn’t really any worse off than my country. I’m not sure why media makes it out to be a nightmare, then again, they write about my country as a violent one as well.”

So essentially going back to the question I had when I chose to quit reporting: Who do we believe?

Running from the Digital World

August 16, 2016

Did you know that your eyes can constantly see the tip of your nose (or more!)? They just learn to ignore it.

We all are aware that our activities are being monitored online. We can see samples of it everyday – the ads that we online, the “add friend” that pops up on Facebook… but like our eyes ignore the nose, we ignore these little things. Sometimes, we install ad blockers, we click on the ‘do not send my data’ or ‘delete my data’ and believe that we are secure.

Recently, while cleaning up my computer, I installed a few tools that analysed the amount of data that was going out from my computer.

Google Chrome showed massive activity. It was sending several packets of information to sites, which on a quick search turned out to be a ‘security’ company. The interesting part about this was I had no sites open at that point. Just Chrome and an empty tab. I shut down Chrome and there were some sporadic things still being sent.

Then, there was the infamous Windows 10. Windows takes a few years to perfect their products, which is strange considering their bandwidth. Windows 10 tells you that to ensure your security there are certain things they want you to use. I could probably delve into what exactly is being sent out, but hell! knowing the way things work, I know they are tracking quite a few key things.

I decided to veer away from the popular tools – Chrome etc and switch to something that was good but not as popular. Strangely, though the browser has been around for decades, several sites do not support it. I’ve to install different components for this. The one good thing though was I was not automatically signed into every Google product I did – and Google pushed hard. Some sites threw me out, even though I tried to login. Some sites put up a pop up every few minutes tell me to sign in via Facebook or Google+ ‘For a better experience’.

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We are conditioned to tap on ‘Sign in with Facebook / Google’ for any site. It makes life less irritable and it is one less password to remember. But all of these things add up to your user behaviour. The sites and Facebook show you news that they think you prefer.. so if you’ve clicked on two links about Shah Rukh Khan being detained at the airport, they show you similar links about celebrities. They do not show you more links about racial profiling and the terrorist watch programs at the airports. Nope, you are very subtly directed to read more about the celebs and leave things like violation of privacy behind.

You read about Leonardo DiCaprio making a statement about the environment. The next they show you is a link about his girlfriend or him sunbathing somewhere. They don’t show you links about global warming and what our industries are doing.

The ‘curated’ content or ‘personalized’ experience these sites are touting, including the social media platform will keep you in a cage. Is this intentional? Conspiracy Theorists and some others believe so. Or it could just be the ‘algorithm’. The result, however, remains the same. You remain in a cage that you are not even aware about. You are the protagonist of your own Truman Show.

Most people, including me, do not realise how easy it is to shape their influences. You read what your friends share. You read what your newsfeed says. You read what is ‘suggested’ and rarely venture beyond that. So some issues come to the forefront – the death of a Dalit student, the rape of a 12-year old, cow slaughter. Important topics, no doubt. But what about the other stories that you are not reading about? That barely surface from this nonsense and are buried because they did not get enough likes… simply because it was not written about well enough or simply did not contain enough gore to make it interesting.

And what if, and we go into the conspiracy theory mode here, one day the government decides that there’s too much trouble being caused by a particular topic and they want to trend something else to take away the attention? Do you think this hasn’t happened? Do you think this won’t happen? After all, we are all sheep and we follow the herd. So you are happy reading about SRK’s detention, random arguments about local languages and arguments about pellet guns, while elsewhere, something more serious is happening. And we’ll never know about it… because the only person who wrote about it on a blog has gone quiet and the blog disappeared.

Superwoman

June 29, 2016

Once you are past the age of 30, your Facebook feed invariably consists of baby posts and mommies posting about their adorable munchkins or how tough it is to be a mommy. There are those one-off posts from women who do not want to have babies, and are feeling pressurised by society to have kids.

Strangely, most of the women are sharing posts about how tough it is to have it all and how they don’t want their child to grow up being a ‘latchkey’ child.

The term ‘latchkey child’ apparently originated in 1942, but in India, I first heard it at the age of 18 when someone called me a ‘latchkey child’. And here I was thinking it was pretty cool to come home, open the door myself and decompress after school, and that my mother thought I was responsible enough not to burn the house down in the few hours I was at home by myself.

I loved coming back to an empty home, with the knowledge that others will be home soon. The house is quiet, nobody is asking you annoying questions about how your day went and you can just sit and stare at a blank wall and let all the stress of the day go away before the others come home.

I’d be mostly out of home in half an hour, playing with friends, so my mother had the same privilege of coming home and not having to tend to a child immediately, after a stressful day. She’d sort herself out with her stuff and was probably a lot calmer.

Looking back, I had absolutely no issues being a ‘latchkey child’ and would not want to change that for all the money in the world. It taught me how to be alone and keep myself occupied. I did not burn the house down. I did not even flood the house. I learnt how to sleep alone. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or cockroaches and lizards.

So when I hear about all the fuss and worry about mothers wondering how to let their kids alone, I wonder if it is more guilt on their part than about the child. With the numerous technology tools today, it is easy to monitor the child at home. And thankfully, being in India, you always have neighbours to look out for the child. Massive apartment complexes have enough security that you do not have to worry about your child running out on the street.

Being a working mom can be challenging, no doubt. I can only imagine the guilt you would feel for enjoying yourself when your child is home with the father or other family members. Perhaps you feel guilty about enjoying your work and wanting to go back to work. One of the Sex & The City Episodes is one of the few popular media to cover this logically… about a woman wanting to go back to work after having a baby. Fathers do. Perhaps they don’t have a choice, even if they wanted to spend the whole day with the child.

So why do women question themselves when they have another interest other than the baby?

What Happened to Good Writing?

June 26, 2016
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Lazy Sunday Evening. I decided to dig up some of the old blogs I used to follow and see what they were up to in the last five years. Funnily enough, more than half of them do not exist anymore. And the others, they’ve either moved on to being ‘professional’ bloggers or have changed entirely.

The former group of blogs is flooded with sponsored post or obviously sponsored posts but they’ve been paid extra not to mention it. It is all about products – books, phones, baby diapers, make up and clothes – written about because they are paid to.

What happened to good writing? What happened to intelligent content? Who reads this plague of what looks like Sunday newspaper catalogues?

Perhaps professional blogging isn’t the nicest thing that happened to writing.

Funny Short – 2

June 11, 2016

Dinner should be something fun. Everyone talks about how cooking for one person is so lame and boring and all that, but I totally love it! Of course, most days I end up ordering in because I’m out late or working, or you know, at home on a weekend when all you want to do is binge watch That 70s Show or The Walking Dead.

 

But when you have the time, you should really feed yourself. There was some chicken. Probably from last week, but it was frozen, so that’s good. Perhaps some onions, potatoes.. No, I lent the potatoes to that pretty girl on the second floor. No tomatoes either. Used that to make up some weird drink.

 

I put out the chicken to thaw and headed to the market. I needed the basics. Tomatoes, maybe some green stuff. Chillies. And then some sauces. Damn, I should have checked a receipe at home. I began scrolling through receipes, standing in the middle of the market. Better than going home and figuring out that I didn’t have something right.

 

I would have headed straight home, but I was trying to figure out the differences between Apple Cider Vinegar and normal vinegar when I ran into the uncle from the third floor. He was just picking up frozen food, because he was home alone. You gotta pity a guy staying alone, so I had a couple of beers home. He gave me a frozen pizza to take home. I diced up the chicken and grilled it with the pizza. Pretty nice meal, washed down with a beer.

 

Should do this more often.

Funny Shorts – 1

June 11, 2016

I’ve been going through a bit of a writer’s block. It is a weird thing where I can’t seem to be able to write more than 4-5 paragraphs. So I decided I’ll make the most of it and write some funny, satiricial, stupid, silly stuff. That’s what writing should be about right? Having fun? Here goes the first one… Btw, if someone can think of a better title for this, please suggest!

So I decided to walk up the stairs for my health. It was 4 floors, approximately about 25 steps between each floor. Exercise is good for the body and the soul, they said. When I reached the door, I plugged in my music, put my bag crossways and started walking up. The first floor was good. Gave me a lot of inspiration and confidence about how fit I was. The smoking, the drinking, the junk food, no exercise… imagine, how much better I would be if I actually tried to be a little healthy. Or should I? I mean I am in good condition already.

I ran into the stinky guy on the first floor, so I spent a few minutes chatting with him. I mean, I don’t know much about him other than the fact that he seems to own only a couple of t shirts and always gives out this really stale air about him. But he said hey and I felt compelled to explain to him why I was taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Then he said something about his parrot, and his pipe leaking. When he said he always took the stairs, I figured it was time to move on. You live on the first floor. It would be stupid of you not to take the stairs, I thought. Wasted 10 minutes of my time.

I climbed the second floor pretty easily as well. And I would have continued straight to the third, if I didn’t feel compelled to stop at her door and check if gas connection finally came. She had just moved in to the building, and I was just being a nice neighbour. There was no point going up to my place and then coming back down. Or calling her. Or texting her, right? She’d think I was flirting.

Then the third floor. And then the fourth floor. I was a little out of breath by the time I got to my floor. But dude! I just climbed four floors. Anyone would be a little out of breath. This seems like a good idea. I’ll do it every week!

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