Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Selfie City

With the grand inclusion of the word into the Oxford dictionary, the authority on all things English, selfies have become as commonplace in the digital world as the beetle juice stains in all Indian public places. Yes, I'm not a fan. Why though? Why don't I like to turn my phone camera the other way around and direct it towards my own radiant visage you ask? I will break my answer down into three parts. Firstly, it's really inconvenient. I don't have hands that stretch like one of The Incredibles, to give me a decent vantage point for a well-composed picture. Most selfies tend to end up looking like enlarged, distorted nose dominated mugshots. And if they're taken in a mirror, then they seem amazingly narcissistic. 

Which brings me to my second point. Flooding the digital media world with your own pictures, taken by you, in various 'fun' situations is a form of socially sanctioned narcissism.
Lastly, the selfie, contrary to the coinage of the word, is little about yourself, as it is about the way that you want to be perceived and recognized by others. In a weird twisted sort of way, we put ourself in the spotlight, in a carefully manufactured setting, such that others can view us at that chosen moment. It defines us, by putting a visual in the mind of others, exactly the way we want it to happen.
Maybe it's mostly harmless, and I being the cynic-in-residence, might be overly critical of it's implications and consequences.

Still, it can't stop me from hating every situation when I'm asked to provide one, or look at my social network feed and see the plethora of people photos, all holding the phone in their hands and collectively posing the same question,"Who's the fairest of them all?"




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The nature of place

Whenever we meet someone new, the customary ," Where are you from?" question is bound to arise. My usual answer is Lucknow, the place where I was born and finished my schooling from. But ever since, I've lived a nomadic existence and loved it. It's almost like I want to belong from no one particular place, so that I can call any place home. Bits and pieces of my thoughts , beliefs likes and dislikes have been born in all the cities I have lived in. How does one define where they belong from then? Why is it that people expect a definitive answer to that question? I guess, our hometowns are a point where we can start conversations with, connect with others over the memories they have, attached to a specific location. 
But more than anything else, I find that I relate to people who love being from 'everywhere'. Who are passionate about breaking down and rebuilding life over and over again, in new places, as fresh experiences are their biggest drug.Maybe I'm addicted to movement and need to slow down a little. Who knows. I very aware of the sad and beautiful fact that try as we might, our lives are too short to experience all the awesomeness that the world has to offer.Still, the acceptance doesn't dull my enthusiasm to experiment and explore.It's the journey that matters, in the end, so why not try and make it as eventful and exciting as possible?

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Elevators are such interesting places. You can almost hear your own thoughts ringing in the silence. Feet become terribly absorbing entities and one waits for the ride to be over with eyes peeled to the only source of visual change that is considered appropriate for staring: the LED board with numbers and arrows.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dilli wali life


Moving to a new city has it's share of perks and pitfalls.This time around I have decided to brave the heart of the North Indian hinterland, rajdhaani Dilli. Comparisons to other places where I have spent most of my life are ready to spring to the forefront of my mind, especially since I'm moving from Bombay (I refuse to call it Mumbai)which has been part of an eternal megacity (Delhi vs Bombay) debate.

Delhi feels like a big city. The metro is a-mazing. I can't imagine what life would have been like, living in this sprawling metropolis, where distances are so much greater than Bombay, before the metro era. Announcements inside the metro include a plea to refrain from sitting on the floor of the train. My mind goes back to the plea in Bombay, to not travel on the roof of the train, as it may result in an unpleasant and untimely demise of the commuter. What a change.

The women's compartment here is marked by a very distinct sign board of pink with white flowers as a background for a flowy sort of font that says "women only". It's an eyesore. In a city with remarkably well designed signage, clean, crisp and very well maintained; this is just out of place. Wouldn't a woman symbol have sufficed, I wonder? More troublesome is the thought that most women might not feel this twinge of indignation at this kind of visual stereotyping. Or maybe i'm just crazy.
Feminist musings aside, I hope this signage changes soon. Just remove the flowers maybe...and change the font. I can make my peace with pink. 
(Another completely disconnected thought : The women here are remarkably well dressed.Ah the travails of trying to fit in..Sigh.)

Photo credit: http://anuradhagoyal.blogspot.com/

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I spent the first weekend here house hunting in Noida. But I was determined to get some time off from the mundane task to get the new city feel. So off to Connaught Place we went. A lunch and some window shopping later, we headed towards Indira Gandhi National centre for the arts. What a place. It has a sprawling campus( I'm not accustomed to this display of space and magnitude after the time spent in the tiny bylanes of Bandra). The North-Eastern art festival was on and folksy soft rock sounds floated towards us as we traversed to the CV Mess, where we wanted to see an exhibit of Indian audio visual archives. The magnitude of material to browse through in the interactive kiosks was staggering. Old recordings, video, photos of celebrated Indian musicians, artists, poets and dancers. In the hour I spent there, even as the realisation of my extremely limited knowledge of Indian art/music/dance/literature slowly dawned upon me, I saw how empty the place was. As we signed out of the exhibit, we saw the number of people who had visited this awesome wealth and repository of culture. It didn't reach 3 figures. 

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Momos! Finally a street food that I love, that I craved for in Bombay and is so readily available to me here.Also the aloo ki tikki, which is best had in north india. I could never wrap my head around the ragda chat and golgappas filled with warm matar while I was there.This is the food I know and I grew up on. Ratatouille moment happened. 
The weather is pleasing(for now). I'll keep a bottle of brandy in my closet for the coming months. The Delhi winter is coming. Bring it on.






Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Turning back time

The word "retro" derives from the Latin prefix retro, meaning "backwards, or in past times" – particularly as seen in the words retrograde, implying a movement toward the past instead of a progress toward the future, and retrospective, referring to a nostalgic(or critical) eye toward the past. 
The recent resurgence of all things 'retro' has me questioning the nature of the media, as well as what it says about the media consumers today. What is it about looking back into the past that seems so comfortable to us? Is it a very subliminal need to engage in processes and objects that have stories attached to them, the stories that we grew up listening to? Or is it a frustration born out of the sheer ease and ubiquity of most of today's digital technology?

According to this article, cassettes are the new(read old) media that are being considered cool again. The way we consume media, to be very honest, has changed very slightly in the past 5-6 years. We have shifted from the computer screen, to a phone/tablet/ipod screen, bringing with it a new factor of portability, but a whole new system has not emerged. If I were to try creating a mixtape, today, it would require a considerable amount of time and effort. ( I don't own a tape deck anymore) This perceived value of the object in terms of the effort and time required to create it becomes much greater than the physical object itself and will probably lend a hand into making the listening experience novel too. 

It is scary sometimes, to wonder what a world will be like, when all the media that we consume and love, is hidden away on our personal devices. These choices define us in so many ways. If I step into a stranger's house, and see a book shelf, lined with works from the authors I most respect and revere, it's sure to contribute towards our conversation. Records, Cassettes and CD's work the same way for music. Only that music doesn't exist on those formats anymore.
( I think it would be slightly creepy if one were to pick up a stranger's iPod and start shuffling through the music they own.)

I guess the point here if that the effects of media losing their tangibility are diverse and unpredictable. If I were to imagine a dystopian future, it would include people who were wired to consume media alone, on their personal devices.Sharing would recede into the background. The only entity who would truly know us, our choices and our tastes in media would be a faceless,nameless Big Brother; keeping  records of our likes and dislikes, majorly for the purpose of enticing us to buy something that they know we will appreciate. Or should appreciate.

I know books seem to be going the music way, losing their physical form slowly and existing only on a device. People say that art is free and disassociated from the form of the object that holds it. I disagree. I don't think I will ever feel that rush in my veins when I open a minty fresh book for the first time;  if the text is 'downloaded' as a 'file' on my tablet, one that I cannot smell, touch and make dog ears in.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

When prose is poetry

" It’s only when the heart begins to beat wildly and without pattern — when it begins to realize its boundlessness — that its newly adamant pulse bangs on the walls of its cage and is bruised by its enclosure.To feel the heart pound is only the beginning. Next is to feel the hurt — the tearing of the psyche — the prelude of entry into the place one has always feared. One fears that place because of being drawn to it, loving it, and wanting to be taught by it. Without the need to be taught, who would feel the psyche rip?…. Without the bruise, who would know where the walls are? "

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cricket, holidays and memories


I was watching the movie adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's popular novel ' 3 Mistakes of my life' - kai Po Che the other night. I haven't read the book, because I think the author sort of lost the plot after 'Five Point Someone' and seems to try and do more of the same thing every time he comes up with a new release. Frankly, it's not great writing, but it seems to be perfect for the simplistic formulaic plots of Bollywood movies.

Kai Po Che was a good watch, nothing extraordinary or new, but entertaining nevertheless.Other than the plot though, which circled around the lives of 3 friends, the biggest draw of the movie for the Indian audience was its cricket-centric setting. It made me think of the times when I used to watch the sport, as religiously and with the same fervor that my brother and father did.

I remember sitting in my old house in Lucknow, glued to the TV screen and following every minute of so many One Day matches.Loo breaks had to coincide with the finish of the 6-ball over and radios were kept on standby just in case the electricity-supply decided to play spoilsport. All sorts of superstitions were followed, from the mildly absurd to the ridiculously bizarre and movement was judiciously limited when Sachin Tendulkar came to the crease. Celebrations after a win had a very specific dance ritual which involved a group huddle and jumping /skipping in a retarded fashion till the post match ceremony came back on air.

Cricket was fun then. As with most things in life, the sport and its arena has become too commercial over time. Trying to woo new viewers and glamorize the game has resulted in a cricket match becoming more like a Karan Johar magnum opus, a potboiler replete with dancing girls et all. The 20/20 format, and more specifically the IPL have made the game a shadow of what it was before; and it seems to have lost its soul somewhere along the way.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ramblings for a Sunday morning


Much has been written, re-written and spoken about the ‘design process’ and the interpretations, discussions and opinions about it are as diverse as they are long-winded and non-conclusive. I think we as designers love that intellectual grey-area, the space between two opposing poles that holds so much possibility and choice. It is the reason why nothing in our profession is well-defined or written in stone. This induces everybody to be a part of the discourse around the subject and feel significant in their own little ways, like me, when I'm writing this piece.

From the time I stepped into the design world as a student, a good 7 years ago, I have been led to believe that everything that we do should have  streamlined process, each step leading into the other, seamlessly integrating into a final solution which is supported on an unyielding foundation of research, logic and precedent studies.

My conditioning has been such that if something comes easily to me, just popping into my head after I read a brief, I disregard it for I know it’s lacking in any sort of rational reasoning thought or study. But increasingly I have felt that some of the better things I have done, happened by accident, or when I just decided to go with the flow. It’s the age old conflict between intuition and rationale, between the left and right brain, or whatever other polar opposites one can think of.

So is it a case of me being overtly critical of anything I do, or design just isn't meant to be learnt at all? Considering that there is no “right” way to do things, a system in place which one can fall back on, how can experience ever be helpful? Every single time one is involved in a project, it might take a course so radically dissimilar than the previous one, that you have to learn and deliver on the go. Make mistakes each time, and not be afraid of them. Be a student of the subject forever, open to thoughts, processes and opinions that change and shift form like an amorphous multi-faceted being, living and evolving continuously.

Ironical as it may sound., it is this shift in perspectives, this constant questioning and analysis of what I do and why I do it that makes me believe in the validity of my choice.