Summary of My Weekly Readings – September 17th to 24th

Summary of My Weekly Readings – September 17th to 24th

‘The stories in our heads’

Link:http://m.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-stories-in-our-heads/article9119191.ece

The tug of war between market forces and cultural forces in our contemporary society has altered the way we look at our identities. ‘What we are?’ is essentially transforming into ‘What is that we can produce for the market?’ or ‘What is that we are capable of?’.  The author tries to establish a cause and effect relationship between neo-liberalism and meritocracy by proving that there is a discriminatory class dimension to the world created within the framework of meritocracy. Before coming to how and why he tries to establishes the link, let’s first find out what entails the world view of neo-liberalism.

Neo-liberalism envisions a world where an ideal individual is someone who can contribute the maximum amount of value in the minimum amount of time. An idea that one can attribute to Jeremy Bentham. In a world where forces of market sets the ground rules,  material prosperity is equated with success and a prerequisite in achieving a normal identity. However this proposition also prompts us to think how brutal world would be to those individuals who have tasted failure. The next time when we find ourselves talking to somebody whom we would normally classify as somebody with a disturbed identity, we need to remind ourselves that there is much more than what meets the eye.

The entrenched  class dimension that is perpetuated by meritocracy eliminates the possibility of building a society that is based on competitive solidarity.  Infinite number of people is competing for a finite amount of resources in a world that is better defined by balance sheets than higher human virtues. The author urges the world at large to reverse the pathologisation of  human emotions and behavior as a consequence of which qualities like shyness is shunted and ability to socialise and network is encouraged.

The Greek aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ by Socrates has never been more relevant.

 

Work Ethic and Lincoln

Work Ethic and Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s Tough-Love Letter to His Step-Brother About Laziness and Work Ethic

Brainpickings: Link

As an unemployed adult, I’ve no other option but to be depended on my parents for covering my bills. I’ve tried to imagine an extremely terrifying future where I would still be unemployed and be depended on my parents for my financials. In that scenario, will I let go off my self esteem and come in terms with my lack of inclination to find work or will be cursing myself every moment for letting myself and my parents down? These scenarios are the real life equivalent of your lead actor’s death midway through the movie. You may lose the motivation to watch and would want the movie to get it done with. If life was a movie, it is a scary thought.

Abraham Lincoln rises up to the occasion through a powerful letter for his step brother, who is likely to have felt the same as he lost will motivation to work and lead a purposeful life. To shed light on the harsher realities of life and inspire him to punch above his weight to overcome the same. A rocky-esque figure who helped him to pick him up, when he thought he lost everything. All of us may not be lucky enough to have a brother like Lincoln, but we all can strive to summon the inner Lincoln from the depth of our consciousness and help him to read aloud those words of wisdom, in the halls of our inner self. World is what we make of it!

Joy of Learning a New Language

Joy of Learning a New Language

I consider fortunate and privileged to have gotten the opportunity to travel to Japan and pursue my higher secondary studies on scholarship in a Japanese medium school. I was barely 15, then. I was less apprehensive about the unknown land and its culture but more skeptical about my abilities to learn the language. In no time, I was consumed by the paranoia wrapped accounts of people who have struggled with Japanese language and how it was important for a scholarship student to prove that he was a worthy selection. I along with my co-scholars from India (who were part of the same International Exchange Programme) were soon integrated into our hostels and the lifestyle that came with it.

Every foreign student was made to go through this rigorous language training process for about six months prior to joining Japanese medium classes in the same year competing with other Japanese students (who had Japanese as their mother tongue). Anybody who has had some exposure of how difficult Japanese language is, would not have given us a chance to pass the exams, let alone score high enough to be in top 5% of the class. My Indian friends did exceed everyone’s expectations at the end of two glorious years. They worked hard memorising every Kanji word (Japanese do not have alphabets instead they use a mix of Chinese pictorial characters and indigenous Japanese characters, which are endless in number) faced abuse from a hostile bunch of bullies, ate beef for breakfast which they are not used to, resisted the urge to take bath in the morning ( Morning baths were were prohibited by our hostel rules), hesitantly adopted a culture that encouraged open bathrooms and staying hungry when hostel rules did not permit anyone to have dinner after 7:00pm. In this juncture, I have to carefully isolate myself from staking claim to have gone through all these hardships since I was not as studious or academically driven as my peers and found ways of smuggling in a noodles packet for a later night dinner every now and then.😀

As I look back now, it got me thinking. What would have happened in between that 16-somethings achieve the impossible? What would have prompted them to venture into achieving an unknown target? What would have prompted my friends not to go gentle into that good night? (Reference). I believe that it could be a mix of true grit, hard work and the immense belief in one’s abilities. All of my co-scholarship holders from India graduated with distinction and some of them even went on to clear various levels of Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which is highly regarded in the academic circles. It was closest to the what one would describe as the triumph of human spirit, as they held their heads high in times of adversity and chose to fight their ways through when nothing was going in their favour. My respect for our group increases multifold when one comes to know that there were times when our not so friendly Japanese native classmates used to abuse us in our faces but we had no option but to maintain poker face and keep our heads down since the colloquial Japanese usage was too hard for us to comprehend.

I don’t know if there is any better way of crushing one’s own false pride and ego than joining a language class. A good teacher and inspired student will have the potential to transform an ordinary class into a fine platform where they are likely to enjoy the little joys of life- a word learned, pronunciation corrected, being able to put together a grammatically correct sentence. I also realised humility is a virtue that dawns when one goes through humbling experience of learning a language. Everyone deserves to experience the same amount of joy that I felt, when I stitched together a bunch of Japanese words into a meaningful sentence for the very first time. Here is a video that reminded of me of those good old days.

I urge all those who are trying to learn a new language successfully or otherwise, to pat themselves on their backs and congratulate themselves for the effort they are taking.  Please understand there are people out there who understand your pain and appreciate the effort you are taking to become inevitable cogs of a cultural bridge.

Food Habits v. Swiggy v. Motorbike v. Uber/Ola

Food Habits v. Swiggy v. Motorbike v. Uber/Ola

Hypothesis: Possession of a motorbike will drastically alter the food habits of an individual as he would would be inclined to move away from a delivery based food consumption* to a more nutritious, controlled and timely consumption of food.

*Delivery based consumption = Orders placed on swiggy and dine out consumption using uber or ola

Purpose: As you may have guessed, this is an  inductive assumption based on my personal experiences over the last couple of months (Feb to June, 2016) carried out without the backing of any survey. It is done with the objective of welcoming similar views present online and perhaps help the readers to arrive at better life decisions.

It’s been close to a month since my close friend and roommate Deepak Venkateswaran stepped up to bring his bike from native place mainly for the pursuit of green food pastures and gastronomic high that comes with it. Needless to say, it made an instant impact in our lives. Reduction of travel time, drastic improvement in food choices (we don’t have an option to cook, since our apartment has no kitchen attached to it) being the obvious improvements. Amongst all these changes in our lives, two seemingly obvious but very interesting ones stood out for it may find implications and reflections at a larger level.

First observation being the fact that ever since the introduction of our motorbike, it became clear that we could go to the supermarket anytime within the working hours bracket and purchase stuff as opposed to making a long journey to the nearby supermarket on foot in the pre-bike times. The part of hesitancy can be attributed the seemingly insignificant and highly perishable nature of the products purchased such as fruits, veggies like cucumber, cereals like corn, multi-nutrient pulses and milk. The fact that these products painfully purchased after a long walk to the supermarket may not survive the next day owning the lack of a refrigerator at our place. This prompted us to choose less healthy diet such as oil rich dosa, street food, butter-rich curries etc over above mentioned items. We are now back to being enthusiastic about buying healthy products and trying out new ones (green tea) that we were before. The recent discovery of Bigbasket in Hyderabad also helped us in moving closer to a healthy lifestyle.

I and Deepak have always been avid foodies and the two services which have been of immense help in this regard has been Uber, Ola and Swiggy. These three services have helped us explore previously hidden parts of the city and cast around to the most delicious eateries of the city. This brings me to the observation which is the visible reduction in the number of swiggy orders we made post-bike times when compared to average swiggy orders pre-bike times.This also goes on to prove that unemployed people supported by parents or people who are on a shoestring budget are dependent on swiggy solely because  of the lack of transportation. This is a cheerful sign for the motorbike manufacturing and marketing industry and simultaneously an added pressure on the already congested and polluted roads of the city.  The psyche behind this transformation of our food choices can be attributed to the following:

  1. As individuals who are availing cab services at peak hours of traffic (read, traffic jams and surge pricing) which incidentally overlaps with most of our dinner/lunch time, we are likely to shell out a considerable proportion of our budget for travel since fare is calculated on the time taken to travel, one is forced to make full use of the money paid to choose a relatively fancier eatery over a normal place which offers healthier food choices. This process of thought can be effectively summarised into a situation where one is likely to say, “We have decided to come all the way here spending quite an amount of money, let’s choose a good place and make the most out of it”. It might also prompt a person to eat in large quantities over small ones since the likelihood of him visiting that is less likely in the near future.
  2. With respect to swiggy, we’ve been a huge fan of their service barring the newly introduced concept of surge pricing and faulty app functioning which occasionally display closed restaurants as open ones leading to a lot of confusion. This being said, swiggy can only do with the kind of restaurants which are already in place. The odds of a restaurant offering a healthy choice food after filtering out fried and oil/butter rich curries are very less, being present in a student’s inhabited area is very less. In addition to the same, the fact that one has to pay an additional amount as delivery charges if the order is below two hundred rupees is likely to adopt a ‘Let’s make the most of it’ approach, leading to the consumption of food in large quantities.

It is quite understandable that Uber, Ola and swiggy wouldn’t be too pleased with these insights which by no means is an indirect form of consumer complaint or attempt to malign their efforts. Consider this as a small nudge on their market research department to get up and use the potential of data analytics to the maximise their efficiency and to help them go through a reality check.

This is definitely a thumbs up for the motor vehicle companies as their market demographics are still favourable and will continue to grow as more and more hungry bachelors are likely to flock to cities like Hyderabad which lay claim to a proud heritage of food choices. It is also an encouraging signs for supermarket to come up with healthy food products which are less perishable and can be easily consumed by people who do not have the facilities to cook (nutrient rich yogurt, affordable fruit baskets, dried, salted and ready to eat fish etc.)

I’d love to know what you think of my hypothesis and please do share if you’ve had similar observations in the comment section.

NB: Ever since we got the bike, we’ve been on a tight fitness regime too, running  4-5km on a daily basis. Not sure, if our messiah bike has anything to do with it, but certainly an incidental gain for a healthier future.

 

Article Review – Saadat Hasan Manto: ‘He anticipated where Pakistan would go’

Article Review – Saadat Hasan Manto: ‘He anticipated where Pakistan would go’

Saadat Hasan Manto: ‘He anticipated where Pakistan would go’

The Guardian: Link

How many of us can confidently say that we perceive the underprivileged amongst with compassion and mercy, knowing that somewhere down the line we might be hiding our failures as a responsible citizen in the cloak of self serving hypocrisy? S.H Manto’s style of storytelling revolves around the complex moral situations that we are trapped in. He is considered as the primary chronicler of India-Pakistan partition, an appealing work in its most honest and gruelling form possible. He is able to carve his own identity even in narrating historical events in addition to writing exploring non-conformist pastures of fiction. He views partition from a humanist school of thought and finds himself astonished at the news of best friends and neighbours killing each other over something as imaginary as borders and religion. Foreseeing and predicting what would become of Pakistan in 35 years of time, he underscores a visionary literati is as good as political pundit or astute economist in terms of their contribution to nation building.

The biggest contribution of literary geniuses like Manto is that they opened up windows to young readers and writers of the developed world that the one needs to overcome the rigid classification of past and present while attempting a work of fiction. Even a subject matter of the present be worthwhile of being the subject of fiction without being apologetic for doing it.  His glorious legacy is passed on to people like Haneef Mohammed, who has been under the scanner of extremist forces for writing political satires. Let’s wish that his soul embedded in purgatory fire, keep filtering polite hypocrisies and lies for allowing the impolite but honest narrations come up to the surface, keep itself ablaze for keeping these treacherous paths visible for millions to come.

Summary of My Weekly Readings

Summary of My Weekly Readings

Think Less, Think Better

The New York Times: Link

Commentary – Why India has a big problem, and it’s got to do with small cities

Commentary – Why India has a big problem, and it’s got to do with small cities

A commentary on the article – ‘Why India has a big problem, and it’s got to do with small cities’ appeared on Economic Times written by By Ruchir Sharma.

URL: Original Article Link

Recent b238_astudies have shown that 4 of the big metro cities of India shoulder 17% of Indian population. This provides evidence to the ongoing trend of rural migration but the question still remains whether standard of living of the migrants has improved as the result of the same. The article draws the attention of the reader to China’s developmental model through which cities like Shenzhen were able to rise with the help better infrastructural investment and transportational links. The author notes that only 2 cities in India could make the transformation from quarter-million city to one million city when compared to 17 such cities in US. No doubt this would reduce the population pressure on mega cities like New York and Washington. To sum it up, the author is calling for increased investment in second tier cities like Bhopal, Kochi etc which can handle a share of migrants who otherwise would have settled in megacities in search of jobs.