Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sacral Agenesis has hardly stopped Rose Siggins from leading a happy life. She is an extraordinary person indeed.

Surviving - Staying Alive and Well

This post, after doing its marginal rounds in various blogs, is now on the email circuit.

Thoughtfully written and largely true (though there are quite a few typos that you must ignore), IT Survivors - Staying Alive in a Software Job, raises some questions which one has been hearing a lot these past few years.

IT work culture in India is totally messed up and has now started harming the work culture of the nation as a whole.

Plush offices, fat salaries and latest gizmos can give you happiness only if you have a life in the first place.

The reason I feel this culture has emerged, is the servile attitude of the companies. Here's a tip for any company in the west planning to outsource to India. If you feel that a project can be completed in 6 weeks by 4 people, always demand that it be completed in 2 weeks by 3 people.

Has anyone in India ever worked on a project that wasn't "extremely critical"?

I think this whole long hours, servile attitude culture has two sides to it. One, Harshad's side, the point that companies need to stand up and shoo away this disastrous transformation in working lives. Two, the other side, where I'd like to perceive the working individual as an empowered person, capable of deciding what is harmful or not and more importantly, capable of saying no. Most people who work in a long hours setup where everything has a deadline of yesterday are quite aware of the fact that they are being overworked. However they think that it is a fair deal for the money that they are offered. There are loans that have already been taken, dreams of a materially better life that have already taken root in the mind, wishful fancies that have fostered the notion of an early and happy retirement with cartloads of cash to spare.

When souls are ready to be pledged, why wouldn't companies strike a bargain?

It is always about the money and its motions my dear.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Blogging, Commenting, Lurking

My friend (let us call him E) and I were catching up on stories a few days ago. Somewhere during the course of that conversation, we discussed blogs, bloggers and blog comments. He mentioned that a lot of people told him they found his posts too intelligent to comment on. They did not want to make fools of themselves and therefore, hesitated to click on the button. E, being a nice and friendly guy, was quite surprised. I treasure my comments as long as they do not try and sell bamboo curtains or cheap ink cartridges. So what if they just want to say 'nice post E'? I don't mind that at all Echo he added. Right, right. Nice has popular patrons and it is a nice word indeed. E's blog (which I shall not link to here because E will show up in my city soon and I do not want to be bashed up for gross exaggeration as soon as we meet) is a creative space and it is gratifying to have people click on the comment button and call your creative post nice even if they do not want to add anything more specific.

Having said that nice post is not such a bad line unless you see it a hundred times over, it is indeed difficult to thank all the nice people calling your post nice. So you may not respond to comments on your blog at all but you may encourage readers to return by posting great stuff day after day. What happens if you are the kind who posts short, crisp paragraphs with great links? And if you also have a huge readership, you may just put up a no comments policy and add an email link (with mailing rules) so that your audience can reach you if they have something relevant to say to you. If you are really the kind of person who can change the course of things, you will juggle a busy life and plenty of comments and still be loved by all. Or if you are a twenty something girl with an email link and comments enabled in your blog, you will get plenty of attention that you are not really looking for!

The point then is this: comments are a good thing until they become too much of a good thing. Comments that are posted with care add tremendous value to a post. They serve as good starting points for many new friendships, inspire satisfying discussions, motivate bloggers to continue their lonely nightly efforts on the computer, and make blogging a truly social activity.

So what becomes of the people who run away without commenting on E's blog? They are the Lurkers - the ones who keep coming back to his blog but never ever comment for fear of sounding stupid. The blogosphere, like the big bad world around us, is a scary place for people who are anxious in a social setting. On the one hand, the freedom to write what you think without trapping yourself and your readers in the curves and angles of your physical frame is a liberating feeling. On the other hand, the world of blogs is still a social world where the ones who talk the best are the ones who rule the roost. And the ones whose words roll into lumps in the throat are as anxious of sounding stupid without a face as they would with one.

Lurkers are far more common than you would give them credit for. They are the ones behind the numbers that make you grin in pleasure. They are also the ones who have a recognized medical problem. So the next time you hear that remark dear E, think of your site statistics and smile please.
A really neat food blog (thanks for the pointer Tilo) - nice categories, pleasing pictures, warm colours, interesting links to other food blogs, and an overall feeling of a mother's kitchen conversation.
Tsk, tsk...I like the Indian Express too. Let it be just a lazy sub-editor Almighty God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

'Limericking' in the lounge

the languor of a hazy afternoon,
the proximity of a pen,
the blankness on the reverse of a weight chart.

memories of old conversations
joyfully arrange themselves
in the lines of these limericks*.

* rhyme 'aabba' is mostly followed. I have been casual with the metre

There was this advice I always heard,
Show me the money, I'll show you the bird.
That's funny,
You don't need money,
Love attracts birds in my part of the world.

There was a girl, they called her wife
Her title sealed her days with strife.
She quit the rowdy game,
Took on her precious name,
Standing tall on her legs she said, It's my life.

That is the way it is they say,
Babies are necessary to be happy and gay.
Caught in the custom,
Of trusting age-old wisdom,

They don't see why she adds not to the population anyway.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Rehashing the lost sub-continent debate

While I have been dozing away on the sidelines, the lost sub-continent debate seems to have continued strongly. Tabish Khair's rejoinder was out last week and he says that questions about the Indian diaspora are irrelevant.

So let us just recap this story and get it into my thick head now.

  • August 13, 2005: William Dalrymple writes The lost sub-continent in the Guardian.
  • August 14, 2005: Kitabkhana picks up the thread and does a neat job of it.
  • August 20, 2005: Pankaj Mishra censures the article here.
  • August 21, 2005: Kitabkhana mentions Mishra's reaction and a number of interesting comments gather at that post.
  • August end - November 2005: Lots of blogs comment about it.
  • November 09, 2005: I rehash it here acknowledging the vague intuitive signals that tell me Tabish Khair is going to respond (ouch, that brickbat hurt!)
  • November 12, 2005: Tabish Khair did write!

So what are all of them saying anyway?

That writers who live in India and aspire to stardom are doomed?

That Indian writers cannot bother to write non-fiction?

That quality is scarce in the majority that writes?

That the Indian readers living in India are still not big enough a market for quality works to be appreciated?

That it does not matter whether you are Indian by origin or birth or migration and what matters is that India is your subject?

People seem to be saying yes to most of these questions in all those discussions indicated in the timeline. They are also saying, "Show me the money" and we shall show you more Indian Writers in the Indian scene.

So why are we not getting ready to take Indian Authors deep into the English textbooks and creating that big future market?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Indian Writing in English

A few months ago William Dalrymple, in his Observer article The lost sub-continent, wrote about Indian Writing & Indian Writers in English. He touched upon various elements like the popularity of Indian Writing post Roy's 1997 Booker win, the 'extraordinary degree to which, at least at its highest levels, it (Indian Writing in English) is now almost entirely written by the diaspora', the quietness of English-language literary life in India, and the odd absence of non-fiction works like 'biography, narrative history or serious literary non-fiction.'

In a particularly telling paragraph, he writes

The other odd absence from the English-language literary scene in India has been the startling lack of any biography, narrative history or indeed any serious literary non-fiction of any description. Earlier this year, Suketu Mehta published what is without doubt the best travel book published by an Indian author in recent years: Maximum City, his remarkable study of Bombay. But Mehta's achievement only highlights the absence of any real competition, for with the notable exceptions of Naipaul and Pankaj Mishra, and one book each by Seth and Ghosh, there are no other Indian travel writers.

The situation with history is even more dire. Although brilliant young Indian historians such as Sanjay Subramaniam produce many excellent specialist essays and learned academic studies, it is still impossible, for example, to go into a bookshop in Delhi and buy an up-to-date and accessible biography of any of India's pre-colonial rulers, even of the most obvious ones such as Akbar or Shah Jehan, the builder of the Taj Mahal. Why is it that much the most popular biography of Mrs Gandhi was by Katherine Frank, an American living in England, and the most authoritative study of Hindu nationalism by a Frenchman, Christophe Jaffrelot? Why are there no Indian authors writing this sort of thing better than us firangi interlopers?

How true. The number of serious works of non-fiction in English written by Indian Authors and easily accessible to mass readers is negligible. To take a particularly brash view, I wonder if the common accusation that Indians tend to stay at the surface level of things has anything to do with this shying away from works that require far more research than imagination.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Raincoming

The rain has returned in haughty splendour
as would a king:
Its mist-laden clouds
are like elephants in rut,
it has for its banner, lightning;
for its drum, the rumble of thunder
and is dear to lovers, darling.
-Rtusamhara II.1 (alphabet accents & line indentations omitted)

the cloud groans with effort,
unable to hoist up the earth,
lashing it with cords
made from streams of new rain,
falling without cease.
-Gathasaptasati V.36 (alphabet accents & line indentations omitted)

quoted from The Circle of Six Seasons - A Selection from Old Tamil, Prakrit and Sanskrit Poetry.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

As long as it follows

We all have our moments. I know that. Of course I do. But you have to admit that listening to the same song over 25 times without knowing why it was elevated to such a hallowed level in the altar of favourites is pretty frustrating. Okay I need to tell you more. My husband, the personal demi-god who beautifully guides my musical sensibilities, has been playing Fleetwood Mac's As Long As You Follow every single time we have travelled together these past few weeks. The moment the player is switched on, it lights up with track number 8 on the Greatest Hits and the repeat indicator sits bright in its tiny corner as well. So the longer our trip is, the more the number of times I need to keep following this song.

I like Fleetwood Mac myself. I really do. Everywhere is a favourite. And I like a number of other songs in their various albums too. But what beats me is why the demi-god has flipped for this song. It is no doubt a nice song. I enjoyed it the first few times I heard it. Especially since it came with such a seal of approval. But I am not so sure anymore.

I tried some petty things. Hiding the CD. Offering another great album. Buying a few new ones that we both could listen to. Alas! Nothing worked.

How long will this follow? It beats me. It will beat me as long as it follows. Tut-tut.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Books on the line

Virtual library wars eh?

Open Library aims to make out of print books available complete with tea splotches and age stains. The only thing missing will be the smell.

No cracks found in the debut of Google Print.

India's very own digital library.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fancy umbrellas with real cool extras are making a killing this monsoon. The garden umbrella triggered a flashback of many lazy Sunday mornings spent under its comforting shade, sipping cool lemonade and reading wonderful books. Oh those wonderful teens!

And hey my alma mater along with the British Council / British High Commission will host an Indo-UK seminar on future challenges in Engineering Education. This seminar will be part of the week long Education festival in Coimbatore from November 19 to 28, 2005.