Trotting on your high horse?

Headed to Buckingham Palace? Chances are you’re more than likely not going anywhere near there. Then why this compulsion to speak the Queen’s English, eh?  Here’s what I think the issue is…

It’s an instant giveaway that although you’re a product of independent India, you haven’t quite broken away those shackles of your colonial past – even if you were born two generations later. See this invisible long chain… your parents’ thinking influenced your childhood. They in turn were a product of parents amid an entire generation who believed that speaking English with the appropriate vocabulary, specific diction, pronunciation – ‘a command of the language’ would get them in high places. What does ‘high places’ really translate into? It meant a better paid job, access to an ‘elite’ inner circle, a membership into a club reserved for those not just with the means, i.e. wealthy, but also with a certain ‘polished’ look and feel about them. In other words, knowing which spoon to ‘not slurp’ that mulligatawny soup with, which fork to jab the paper thin phulka roti, or dosa with… and which knife to stab the steak with. No… you can’t pretend to be shocked! This was hurtful… because it’s true…

Well, in a desperate effort to give their kids a head-start parents work even harder in urban metros, I hear, paying an arm and a leg to see their kids sail through an International Baccalaureate program offered by a school that may even be tens of kilometers away from their residence — which is hard on young kids. Ostensibly, there’s the  ultimate payoff i.e. easier access to an Ivy League School, or at least better chances of admission to a good university in the US; or even to Cambridge, Manchester, Stirling, Oxford in the UK; or even down under in Australia! Isn’t that true? On the other hand millions of kids and youth strive, struggle and must elbow their way to come out ahead through education at poorly-funded municipal schools (not ‘Public Schools’ since those in India are the elite schools), or ordinary primary, middle school and high schools that are  close to home. In rural areas, they have to walk miles and overcome challenges to get anywhere near a school.  And that’s another story. I’ve digressed.

What crossed my mind is the following. Remember Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam? 11th President of India? Ever listened to him speak, whether he addressed the nation, or in an interview on Knowledge at Wharton? He spoke in English, but with an accent that is construed as ‘thick’, not just in the western world, but among his own people – the ones from elite schools. Listen to him, and say you don’t think so… but wait, pay attention to the content and his line of thinking? Amazing…

The point is, with the spread of languages we are exposed to routinely, we are at such a huge advantage (as compared to those who speak only one language — English)! Even the Eastern Bloc folks learn English, but foremost each one speaks their own language, may be even a different dialect. We know that the Japanese, Chinese, in the Philippines, natives of numerous African nations, the French, Spanish, Greeks, Hungarians, Scandinavians, Portuguese… they all are proud of their respective languages. As Indians, to express ourself, if we don’t find an appropriate word in English, there’s always another language we can borrow from… I often do. Just dip into your ‘mother tongue’ – no, chances are English is not your mother tongue, even if your entire family speaks in English! The joy of sprinkling your everyday parlance with your native lingo is immense… it’s so satisfying. It’s like having a complete meal – tangy, salty, spicy, sweet, and oh, with even with some bitterness in the mix! It’s all made so very flavorful…

When I hear Indians say with a hint of pride, “Oh, I only speak English, and am unable to read or write in any other language”, it makes me sad. What if one day, our human race turns into a homogeneous society where everyone speaks and thinks in just one language… how boring will it get! Science, math, technology is all boiling down to zero and one (0,1, 0, 1, 0, 1…) If all the languages of this world are reduced to just one, society, I’m afraid may be reduced to zero. They world may feel, “Know thy English“, but all I would like to say is, “No, to thy English.” “Ride, no?” 😉
QE On Horse_archive_hourseandhound_CO_UK

On 11th June 2016, Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II… Her Majesty turns 90! 🙂
Photo Courtesy: Horse and Hound

Book Review: Directors’ Diaries. Author: Rakesh Anand Bakshi

Asking a film director the right questions is key. The doors opened. 🙂

Until you’ve written a book, published it, (and hopefully a few have read it) you are not an author. You’re not a film director until you have directed at least one film, it has been viewed by a spectrum of audiences and perhaps a few critics – if you’re both, worthy and fortunate (indifference and silence are worse). Rakesh Anand Bakshi has shared through his Directors’ Diaries, not just one story but he has brought to us the stories of 12 film directors from Indian Cinema. These men and women who walked the walk and talked the talk. Yes, that phrase may sound clichéed, but every film has not just its fictional story, but together, it also takes forward the collective hopes and aspirations of its entire cast and crew. The film’s director, through his/her focus & point of view transports the audience into another realm – all with the synergistic efforts of this entire team.

Now, if you wanted to be a film actor, editor, a cinematographer, a story/screenplay writer, or even another crew member working with film directors, this book is for you. If you just enjoy reading stories about real people, here are 12 who may inspire you. For some of the directors, their journeys were distinctly uncertain, for some it was a gradual progression towards a hazy goal. But for each of them, the ride towards their dream was long, never a straight line; it was strewn with unforeseen events, or serendipity shrouded at times in disappointments. They made films that are purely entertaining, or even deep and thought provoking. But who, or what inspired these 12 successful film directors to venture into cinema? I haven’t finished reading all 12 stories, but even after reading seven, I felt compelled to post this review. I look forward to reading this author’s next book, because through this all, his personal passion and understanding of the landscape are visible. Four stars for Directors’ Diaries — three for the author’s sheer effort; + fourth for the research, putting it all together, and giving it a coherent structure.The 5th star I will reserve, because isn’t there always room for improvement? 🙂

(Also posted under Amazon Reviews)

This Blog is worth… how many $$$$?

Ever done a search for your own blog? I did… just yesterday. I tried, in vain, to find the log in button on this page, so later I Googled for wordpress login along with user name. What do you know? There was a site that stated what this blog is worth. I was aghast! Not by the $$$$ number displayed, but by the idea that some random no-name company is using some vague algorithm (algorithm being a rather fancy term for something basic we learned in middle school – “the step by step procedure to calculate e.g. to solve an equation, etc.”) to determine the value of my thoughts and the written words.

Now, can anyone explain to me – step by step – why anyone should attempt to calculate the worth of my personal diary – my web log? What business is it of anyone but myself, as to what the value of what I jot down here is. Do I go out to estimate the value of some random house on this planet? I don’t need to unless I’m in the buyer-seller market for real estate, and interested in buying or gauging the worth of my own house. Or am I out searching for information on what the true worth of that company is – the one that’s trying to put a $$$ value on my blog?

This is the problem… why can’t folks just mind their own business? Have I assigned anyone the task of estimating this blog’s worth? No, I have not., and I can bet that most of us have not done so. One can understand that companies, corporations, non-profits, others who receive funding from others to run their business (apart from their own monies in the venture) need to estimate the goodwill, or brand value to put it on their annual reports as their asset/s. Just in case they wish to liquidate them, or have intentions of selling their business, or perhaps need more financing to expand or manage their current business. I have none of these intentions!

When businesses attempt to gauge the value of someone’s assets, when they have not been assigned to do so, it should be deemed as encroaching on someone’s privacy. I have my own reasons to write, blog, fill the space here – whether it’s trite, useful, serious, helpful, nonsense, humorous…  is not anybody’s concern, but my own… as long as I’m not encroaching on anyone else, or anyone’s privacy. How many visitors this blog has, how many likes, how many followers, how many…,  how many…, how many…! How many times and for how long will we be subjected to this marketing madness or social media mania of gauging popularity? Does everything have to be converted to indices, measurement and minutae for even further dissection? So companies, please stop your nonsense of determining “What is your personal blog worth”!

Had trouble finding followers?

That’s the trouble… why do we even think of this as trouble. Are we Pied Pipers driving the art of writing to its death?

Those who truly think independently, don’t quite care about a fan following. The real independent thinkers and philosophers wrote their ideas or expressed them. Because they made sense we read about such people, read their books, or follow their ideas, believe in their philosophies, or ponder over their thoughts.

Writing can be triggered by something you saw, read, or experienced… anything could serve as a stimulus. The idea about having platforms like wordpress, or twitter or blogspot or even facebook… if each of us did our own thing, write our own ‘think’, create content that we actually believe in, it would be so much more fun than just circulating ‘forwards’ from hotmail to gmail, or worse, re-posting it as your own content (aka plagiarizing).

How much of all that we read, or is written is truly meaningful? What I write today on my blog (web log i.e. my diary) here, will the words sound dated five years from today, or five months away, or say in five days? Recall, blogs first started out as digital diaries that you could revisit someday. These diaries were personal, not items and writings that others could pry into. If someone laid even a little finger on it, leave alone leaf through its pages, the diarist would be hopping mad. But a page in a diary gives a glimpse of the person who wrote the words. It may give a hint into a person’s character. What interests me are human relations, how the mind thinks… why it thinks the way it does, what transpired in the person’s life to bring about such thoughts? You can weave an entire story… stories are telling. We will forget products but if there was a story around it, we tend to remember it more.

Today, though, many of us tend to clamor for a large fan following. Just the other day, I recall either tweeting (or blogging) about why anyone should care how many followers I have on Twitter, or how many tweets I posted… or for that matter should it matter to anyone but myself how many folks I follow? What does matter is whether or not my content, words, tweets, chirps hold meaning, have some interesting take or twist on a subject that I read, or found interesting. e.g. on Twitter, I’d be more eager to see a tab that displays counts of re-tweets, or favorite-d strings of 140 characters. But all we do is post link after link without giving our take on it, without expressing our views or what it was that piqued our interest, or held your attention if even for just a moment. We’re in such a grand rush to move to the next subject… all in a hurry, rushing to nowhere in particular.

So here’s what I believe… you can create your own content, or you can curate content that others have created. Yeah, someone will likely turn around and say this is jargon, old hat, content curation is a term used for years now. But my point is, even if it’s been used for years, have we all learned how to do it? Whether as companies, or as individuals, how succinctly can we summarize what we read and present it in a coherent, or more interesting manner, or more pertinently, can we add our two cents to it?

Every platform that is built – either as an app or web tool – is sort of latched on to by marketing departments to promote their brands, products etc. What started off as a space for ‘you, me  and us types of individuals’ now turns into an overcrowded platform used by professional corporate bloggers, content providers, content curators. There’s just so much information out there about everything and nothing. If there’s any particular topic or subject of interest, sift through it to find what interests you, present your views, and create a fabric that appears interesting when you look at it as a whole. If it is linear it won’t be quite interesting, but add dimension, give it depth, add color, bring in elements to enhance the entire picture. But as in any picture or photograph, if there’s a singular focus it will appeal to many. Some may like the picture for the color, others may enjoy it for its texture, but most will enjoy it as a whole, unable to quite pinpoint what it was they liked about it, nevertheless they do like it. Well, in a nutshell, that’s what I think is the purpose of content creation, and content curation.

Who skips the sex scenes… while e-Reading?

What someone enjoys as bedtime reading, or what twisted tale a storyteller wishes to spin, matters little to me. But out there, like Peeping Tom, loads of companies are snooping on you to note whether you’re a diehard romantic, or whether racy violence is your page-turner. Do you speed-read, or is pausing after every paragraph your scene. Whether you play, re-play, or ponder over the written word… or perhaps pause to grab that bag of popcorn. (Pardon me, but that last bit of popcorn was a stretch of my imagination!)

Now, do reviews on Amazon tell the real story of how many folks truly enjoyed a book, or do start ups have a better handle on the true facts about real reader interest in all fiction. A new war seems to be looming, one that’s more than likely to draw writers away from their desks or out of the wood-works, to battle on virtual grounds. Data, collected by tracking reader habits, and made available by companies, may steer astute writers towards domains that seem to sustain reader interest. Those who enjoy writing may have put pen to paper, or clicked away on a typewriter, or keyboard… for the sheer pleasure of writing. Deep within, most writers seeks readers, yearn for their feedback, their appreciation and if that’s a critical essay, could one ask for more? (No, not everyone is Naipaul.)

In an era of e-books and self-publishing, competition is not only from other authors in the genre, but is also from blog-writers, advertisers, endless Facebook time, tweet time, YouTube viewing, TedTalk, reality shows, extreme everything… to get that rush of adrenaline. With this continual battle to grab a moment of quality reader time, it’s time to morph a veritable passion for the pen and turn it into a killer sword. Your hard-bound novels are likely to be pirated to be made available on Scribd; your paperbacks may be sold in wholesale… a dime for a dozen. Dreaming of the Pulitzer, or are you of Pearl S. Buck caliber?  Beware, or at least be cognizant of the Oyster tracking your work, which follows readers, to determine which of the pages are skipped, or which make for a thriller. As readers, or authors… we will all be manipulated, one way or another. Now the question is, as a writer, will you survive by the skin of your teeth, or do you have that killer instinct that will allow you to thrive in the deep jungles of the vast Amazon?

The Wisdom Tree film… a spiritual journey that traverses farther yonder!

On a dark, stormy night, driving on an empty road in Northern California, Steve Hamilton, a self-conflicted quantum physicist meets with an implausibly bizarre car accident! Dr. Trisha Rao, a compassionate but unwavering neurologist attending to Steve’s injuries, and an anguished FBI Agent, Mike Parker, attempt to untangle this baffling accident. The mystery deepens as the trio stumbles upon clues rooted in fine art, music, mysticism, spirituality, and science. The confounding clues trigger a cascade of questions; before long, the troika foresees the inevitable — the human race is at risk! With twists in the plot, this sci-fi drama progresses to avert a looming catastrophe.  A haunting background score with ethereal vocals, integral to the story, lends to the timeless dimension of The Wisdom Tree film, essentially a fiction story.

The Wisdom Tree melds quantum physics with eastern mysticism in a riveting mystery that swirls around human desires and their latent fears. The knotted plot of this sci-fi drama tangles around an exquisite backdrop of fine art paintings, Indian classical music, and new age elements, alluding that the universe is multidimensional, strange, and harmonic; and, as some eastern spiritual traditions have long maintained, “All is One”. Amidst this harmonious confluence of colors, shapes, shadows, light, space, time, mystery, math, music, and the mystical, lurks a profound question, “Could this be true?”

Recently, did you watch the film première at AMC Metreon in San Francisco? Or, their next screening in Orinda, East Bay, California? Well, if mysticism, mystery, sci-fi, spirituality, art, music are your scene, you may not want to miss this film. Ever since its private screenings earlier in 2013 at Emory University, Atlanta, and at the Science and Non-Duality Conference, San Jose, audiences and invitees have been intrigued by this indie. Here’s the small catch… it isn’t mass-distributed. Hence, you may want to sign up to request a screening in your town. If this subject excites you, you may even want to volunteer and get your friends, family, like-minded folks near you at your Meet Ups or Groups to sign up. The sooner you all sign up, and the more number of folks express interest, the sooner it will be screened in a town near you. Well, I’ll make this easy… watch The Wisdom Tree film trailer. 😉

Oh, I almost forgot to mention… the ravishing Sheetal Sheth is in the key role as neurologist, and Patrick Alparone, a fine theater actor you may know of already, plays his first film role as quantum physicist. Check them out. There are many fine actors this film has drawn. The crew also includes some eminent Oscar winners and other award nominees. Personally, it all speaks well of Writer/Director Sunil Shah, and the co-producers of the film, Laura Techera Francia and Renu Vora. There are many names you may recognize. Visit their facebook page, or join their growing number of followers on twitter… indeed, they’re active.

SEO tools, or cheese tactics? Back Links, Cross links, Outbound Links…

As a blog reader, have you noticed that often you’re reading a particular post, and all of a sudden you find you’re somewhere else – either on another post written by the same blogger, or on an entirely different blog! Sometimes, you land on a totally different site. This happens not just in the blogosphere, but also on other social media sites. While this may be useful at times, more often than not it’s irksome… because whatever it is you were reading is now either ‘lost’, or you have to hit the ‘back’ button ever so often to return to the page you were originally reading. This occurs when you click on a hyperlink – either knowingly, or inadvertently – that immediately transposes you to another domain, or another webpage. That link which pulled you away from the current page is the outbound link. As an example, I’m taking you to this webpage outside of wordpress. If you clicked on it, notice that it opens up in another window. This is intentional, because I’d like you to continue reading this page (although the other page offers something delicious!). ヅ This link is an example of an ‘outbound‘ link. Does it add value to my site i.e. this page? Well, that is a function of how the algorithms of Google, Bing, or Yahoo will mark this page – add points, or give negative points – so as to bury my page among the billions of pages so it is almost never found by someone searching for the topic on Links in the context of search engine optimization.

However, in contrast, if say you have a page on this subject, and decide to link to this page or any other with related content from my posts on this blog, that would be an example of a ‘back‘ link for my blog. Now, depending on whether your content and my content have relevant content and there’s an obvious reason why the link exists, once again, the algorithms of the search engines (smart as they are) may figure out the likeness of content along with the context and give us both a positive mark. However, if the search engine finds that some spam-filled page stuffed with keywords is linking to me, neither will that page earn any point, nor will mine. This would be an example of ‘cheese tactics‘ by the spam website. Of course, note that I borrowed this phrase from the gaming industry. But as the phrase connotes, it’s a cheap tactic used to garner clicks, that no respectable SEO expert would dare to use.

But what about ‘cross-links‘ within your own website? Often, when you’re on a company’s website, you may be reading say the About Us page. You may find a link on that very page which will transpose you to another page e.g. their Press Center, or their Contact Us page or even to an email id e.g. info@xyz.com. Then when you click on that Press Center, in turn it will have a page with yet another link which takes you to some other page but within the same company’s website, say e.g. on their product page… or think of an e-commerce site like Amazon. When you visit this shopping portal, it is hard to really exit from the site, because of the numerous links which will keep drawing you back to look and search and browse more and more and more of their various products. Not only are the links relevant, they are not filled with spam; also, you clicked on these, because something on the page draws you to them, compelling you to click and click again. Eventually you end up shopping, and your click has now brought about a conversion! Isn’t that the objective of for-profit businesses? In the shortest possible time, with the fewest number of clicks, how can the website or webpage entice you to make a click that will bring about a sale of their product. This in very simple terms is the whole point of search engine optimization, landing page optimization, the value (or lack thereof) of links and cross-links. Not as a company, but as a blogger, I’ll link to one of my own pages here, on words-n-motion. Who knows, may be you will follow me, or subscribe to my blog… that is an example of ‘conversion‘ for a not-for-profit site. 😉

An Indian’s reflection of India, post “Independence Day reflections from London”!

Vir Sanghvi_Counter Point_13th August 2010
Independence Day Reflections from london

Vir Sanghvi’s Counter Point article, entitled, Independence Day reflections from London”, which he posted on 13 Aug 2010 08:47 p.m., seems to be floating in cyberspace as a ‘forward’ re-titled, “The new look at India by the arrogant British”!  In the past two months, it has appeared twice in my Inbox – and perhaps it won’t be the last time, am quite certain. Well, the first time around, although I was peeved, and while I pondered over the writing, I too, in turn, just forwarded it to some folks on my contact list. However, this morning, here’s what I wrote back to my India-based friend who sent it to me…

“When I read it a couple of months back, I said to myself… this is the same 350 year-old view of India when the Brits’ greedy eyes saw the wealth in India, and wanted it for grabs… just as they did in other ‘Commonwealth’ nations across the globe. Indians were gullible then too, and were taken in easily by all the sweetness and sweet talk… only to suffer, for centuries that followed!

Again, what amazes me is that Vir Sanghvi speaks only to (and of) the elite few of India… what “effortless rise of India” is he talking about? That too, in “just less than two decades”! He has blindfolded himself to the fact that millions of Indians have toiled with their blood, sweat, and their lives, for several decades (and centuries)… and they continue to do so… with little benefit for themselves! The growth he refers to as being “just short of miraculous” is ‘the lopsided, convenient, good, warm, fuzzy feeling’ sort of view that such speakers-publishers-editors provide; sweeping under the carpet, and totally disregarding the fact that even tiny little nations such as Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines, and even Thailand have achieved way more in just two decades; we won’t even mention China (since it’s large), although we’re aware that they, notwithstanding all their inherent evils, are giving the US and the world a run for their money!

Yeah, one can argue that why is it that I – who escaped the woes of India – am so vehemently deriding Vir-speak. Well, that’s because I do not belong to the elite 1%; I toiled in India, but lived under conditions just a wee bit better than those of the slum-dwellers. Despite my hard work, the basic necessities such as a clean shelter, clean water, & hygienic living conditions were outside my reach. When I stepped on the street, despite paying my taxes and dues, I still had to cope with ‘the system’. It was not easy for me, not then, and not now if I opted to return and live there. More than 3/4 of my life I’ve lived in India, and have every right to feel the way I do today. Although I live in North America, it has never been ‘home’ for me. Ironically, was my ‘home’ i.e. India, ever comfortable for me? Encountering gender discrimination, and class discrimination, I lived for the better part of my life there, struggling (and yes, I’m aware, I wasn’t alone in it… millions of others suffered then, as they do now). Even today, be it in England, the US, or in India… only those with money have a voice!

Vir Sanghvi has that voice that we’re listening to, since he has wealth ( it’s a safe assumption), he’s always been among those elite few… not without it could he have had the luxury and ‘good fortune’ of a Mayo College education, not to mention Oxford! The rest usually follows. Money attracts money, as well as the moneybags! The point of all this is not that I’m envious of his good fortune, or of his successful career thus far, nor of his fame! He’s entitled to his opinion, his fame and fortune… just as that poor boy was, from Slumdog Millionnaire, whose fortune changed, making it his turning-point!

Read between the lines, and it appears that Vir Sanghvi is more than secretly (and openly) pleased, that now the West looks up at India (but note that he does not say ‘Indians’), and that they’re sucking up to India. But hey, say if the West did not verbalize their changed opinion of India, would Vir Sanghvi truly believe that India has made this ‘miraculous’ progress? It’s almost as though even today, India needs recognition from the West; the West must ratify India’s progress, without which Indians will not believe it one way or another. But what do the GDP numbers say? How do they compare to those of similar nations whose progress was impeded in the past, and yet, in the last 3-4 decades those very nations have galloped away to glory! What do health figures speak? Is India anywhere close to the ‘finishing line’?  Has India arrived? Soon, there will be yet another round of ‘forwards’ – patting one’s own back for say e.g. Aryabhatta’s role in math; or Sushruta… India’s very own… father of surgery, from past centuries! Just as Vir Sanghvi sings praises, and refers to ‘mark of quality in such areas as computer software’! Isn’t that an ignoramous statement? Where is India’s equal to Google or Apple? No doubt, India is great at leap-frogging into a new era e.g. no phone to cellphone for even roadside vendors! Of course, ‘outsourcing’ – the buzzword of India’s first decade in the 21st century. Innovation and quality products still rise from nations far from India!

India has plenty… harnessing that potential is the challenge. Valuing what is in hand, unleashing the indigenous potential, and recognizing it from within, should be elemental.

Do check the following links, and then compare the data to similar data for other nations.

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INDIAEXTN/Resources/Reports-Publications/IndiaEconomicUpdate-September2011.pdf

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/EASTASIAPACIFICEXT/KOREAEXTN/0,,menuPK:324651~pagePK:141159~piPK:141110~theSitePK:324645,00.html

http://www.worldbank.or.th/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/EASTASIAPACIFICEXT/THAILANDEXTN/0,,contentMDK:20205569~menuPK:333304~pagePK:1497618~piPK:217854~theSitePK:333296,00.html

http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/philippines

Check others, if you are interested… or, have time… remember, we are not the 1%… we have to work… words alone are pointless!”

Buried whole…

Vacant days

Empty space

Blank verse

Barren thoughts

Forced words

Deafening silence

Frozen time

Wasted talent

Blinding signals

Glaring darkness

Bottomless hole

Buried whole.

Monday morning blues… it’s that darned typo!

However, this may draw a smile… reproduced from The Shawinigan Standard – December 24, 1947.