Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fantasies and Songs of Wildflowers

It isn’t quite the Parisian sidewalk where I imagine myself to be while I jot this down into a journal, the pen wrapped in hand made paper, the paper hand made too, because I like those ridiculously expensive things that they sell as hand made and organic. You know, those Parisian cafes from a hundred movies, with little umbrellas, a few chairs and a sexy waiter taking down your order and attempting to flirt. This is just an Italian café in the middle of a mall. But on this weekday there aren’t many people, there isn’t annoying Iglesias songs playing and the staff is friendly to a fault. So I can’t really complain. For some annoying reason, almost all malls in the city play Enrique’s pained crooning songs all day. Annoying, did I say?
I figured I couldn’t remain haughty and just update this space with the column every month and feel all important because I was writing said column. Nah! In fact, when I am not writing, I miss writing. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to actually write because I am so constantly thinking of lines (clever ones, or so I think) and always having to make note of these lines somewhere, there isn’t an hour when I can stop thinking of what to write. I wish I could have this invisible wire from my head to some remote device somewhere using which I could transcribe all my thought to text and store it someplace. I hope someone thinks up something like that. Maybe a writer would invent something like that, after being frustrated with having to constantly use a pen and a paper or more likely a laptop to record all of these thoughts, or risk losing them forever to newer words. But then, I figure, writers are not necessarily great inventors of anything except words and scenes and of people. Maybe someone would then invent such a device in their words and put it out there and some one else would pick up the idea and attempt it in a later era for a college project. Then they would write about how a long time ago these things which are so commonplace were once fantasies that the writers of fantasy wrote about. Like things in 1984 or 2001. Wouldn’t that be nice now?
Well, so while this isn’t Paris, the sky is a bright blue with fluffy clouds, the kind you want to write summer songs about, and Bangalore, despite being a city, is a rather good city to live in. I shall grant that. I love the cafes and the bookstores and the youthfulness to this place. And after five years, I suppose you get used to even bad toothpaste.
I hadn’t done this in a long, long time, this, sitting by myself with a coffee or a tea and reading or writing. I wonder why I had stopped. I enjoy the sounds and the people around that walk in and out constantly, lost in worlds of their own making, coming by, in a public place, yet trying to create a circle of their own universes around them. The more I sit here, I more I realize that I have missed this table for one that I was long an advocate of. Time and again, under different circumstances, I am reminded of Virginia Woolf’s fantastic female polemic A Room of One’s Own. That is when I wish I had studied English literature. Maybe I will, one day. Just like I promise myself I should start learning classical music again.
This post isn’t really about anything, in case you haven’t noticed already. Being a journalist, you often learn the wonderful art of writing 500 words on something that should really be dismissed in a line, two if you want to stretch it. And that is what I do here.
Well, actually, I could be wrong. When I see or hear or touch or feel something, I think in terms of words. It is only a few minutes later that I think up an image to go with it. The sum of my experiences means something to be when I distill them into words and sentences and then as images. For friends I know, it is in the other order.
So what I do is this. I seek to boil down this moment here into a set of words. I want to put this rediscovery of the café as a great place to write into a, if I can call it so, verbal photograph (though it doesn’t sound right). And one day, I could read the archives of my blog and remember that I liked doing this: this love for writing, this love for doing so in a café, this creation of a little world around myself where people peep in, but don’t stay for long and i have my time watching them. This moment where I am alive and healthy and aglow with the joy of being among the wildflowers, that is what this moment is about.
While on the subject of wildflowers and such like, I found the perfect theme song for me. Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. I can imagine if someone sings the lines to me, I would think, “wow, that song is really me.” I finally have a ‘my song’!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Voices: Column 3 in City Buzz, Bangalore

On Plotting Retirement from FB
Since no one is asking, let me tell you myself. I travelled to the Konkan coast last week, spending three-quarters of the day on a train, mesmerized yet again by the gorgeous Western Ghats (and glaring down at a lecherous old man, ugh!). Travel is what I often try to do and write about. This month’s column was decided then, until, riding back to a lovely mansion overlooking the Netravathi River, my parents and I had this conversation about the “youth of today.” Mom was telling me about this teen, daughter of some cousin’s husband’s niece (or some similar long winding relation) who had to be put in a convent in a small town because she was addicted to her iPod, her mobile phone and to Facebook and was neglecting her studies. Her thus rehabilitation was leaving her in tears every night and the adults shaking their heads at “kids!”
That happened. Then there was all that buzz about Google starting its +. I found myself telling someone, sounding agitated I presume, that when everyone began to take their pictures, their links and “partyyyyy” albums to Google + from Facebook, I would retire from the social networking scene. But when I was checking the latest inane status message from a ‘friend’ I last met 14 years ago, logging in from my phone for the eighth time that day, I wondered whether this retirement would happen sooner than later. I am going to make a case here, hear me out, will you?
I joined Orkut (kids, “in our days”, there used to be something called this) when Facebook was already up and running. Before long, everyone I knew was Face-booking and I told myself I couldn’t be bothered with walls and such like. That was until a classmate decided to get married and everyone else began to ask me whether I had seen and liked her pictures. So I joined, fully and whole heartedly blaming peer pressure.
The status now: I have 350+ friends on my list. No, nothing alarming, given the overwhelming numbers I see on other profiles. But the point is, I don’t have that many friends! I don’t even particularly like some of them. Often times I only accept a request because we have 23 mutual friends, not because I remember the face or the name. Well, you know all this. I can see you all nodding your heads.
I read a report recently about Facebook fatigue and how millions in the West have permanently gone off the site. But Zukerberg is not losing any money, or sleep over it because the best markets, even for the dying Orkut, are the developing countries, Brazil and India taking the lead. My retirement won’t worry anyone, except me. Here is why.
I will no longer read what someone had for breakfast or see a picture of the first mushroom salad with chopped lettuce they ever made. I will no longer be able to see the sequence pictures of my friend’s kid standing up and walking to the nearest door with a toy in his hand! I will no longer be able to ‘like’ anything! Or see updates of where my favourite celebrity is holidaying. Or join protests to rid this country of something they all like to call corruption. Or tell the world where I put my handbag when I get home! Nor be friends with people I didn’t even remember existed! Goodness! Do I realize what I shall be missing!?
LOL (another FB favourite)! Yes, I am dripping sarcasm. But you can’t blame me; the prospect of ripping myself away from my virtual home is messing with my good manners here.
After I checked what earth shattering non-thing hadn’t happened to the people on my list in the six hours that I was asleep, I remembered a line from Revolutionary Road, a movie I was watching last night. Leonardo Di Caprio, my first teenage crush and Kate Winslet, two very fine actors star in it. Leo’s character, somewhere, says, ‘I want to feel things, really feel them, you know? How’s that for an ambition?’ If that were to be my ambition as well, I think I would prefer not reading another line about how someone ate sushi for the first time and be forced to ‘like’ it. I would rather not know about it at all, to be brutally honest.
“Knowing what you’ve got, comma/ Knowing what you need, comma/ Knowing what you can do without, dash/ That’s inventory control”. Di Caprio speaks into a dictaphone late into the evening. Facebook I think I can do very well without. Or maybe that is nonchalance talking, knowing that the carefully constructed profile and the albums meticulously added and captioned are still there when I log in again.
Earlier this morning, I closed my LinkedIn account. I am sure none of my 61 connections will miss me, because most are also on my Facebook list. Will they miss me if I go off FB? I desperately hope so! In management, there is a group that marketing students are particularly told to target, the laggards, the late adopters of some new product or technology. I am, proudly, one such. But I will, I must try out Google+, I tell myself, and break the curse of letting things and movies and music that the world talks about pass me by when I am blinking and watching the sunset.
Meanwhile, if I am still on FB next month (you can never tell, with peer pressure and all that!!), I shall make a very strong case for why I, and you, should not delete the account!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Another Milestone, or So I Suppose

I looked and looked through a gazillion folders on my laptop but couldn’t find an appropriate picture to go here. And I looked some more, with the same results.
I thought I would make this a pretty post, given that I ‘celebrate’ an anniversary of sorts, that of my having completed five full years in the stately world of journalism today. Today is some significant day for the print media (is it World Newspaper Day?), something we studied at university and that I have conveniently forgotten. But I do know it is some Day and I remember that I was thrilled about when I entered Express Buildings as an employee in 2006.
No, this is not a looking-back-to-those-days sort of a post. But obviously a lot has changed from when I started to now. I have a policy of not regretting my decisions. The truth then was, I was passionate about journalism once upon a time. And the truth now is that I am no longer as gung-ho as I used to be. Yet it has been an incredible journey. There have been dozens of incredible moments, many, many lessons, much fun.
I am not sure I will still qualify as a journalist, independent or otherwise, five more years later. But you know what? It is ok. This not being sure. I think I prefer it that way. All I know for sure is that I will still be writing. That should be enough now, aye?