Monday, August 24, 2015

Ghosts of cubicles present

I recently watched the excellently funny and darkly humorous movie Office Space, on the plague of the current times: The non-spaces that most offices tend to be, where a large portion of the intelligent middle class workers spend their days, years, their life.
Pair that with the brilliantly researched book by Nikil Saval called 'Cubed' and I was in introspective misery as I contemplated the speedily waning weekend and my own entry into the cubicle of my office. There are times when I feel a seething rage at the hiss of the coffee machine, the steady hum of the central air conditioning system and the unnatural, deeply unimaginative white light that everything around me is bathed in. 

People find their escapes in their screen and the headphones which are attached to their ears like extra appendages during work hours, and the atmosphere is borderline surreal at times. The surroundings have an alternate, suspended and stifling reality. 

To quote the protagonist in Office Space, are we truly meant to spend our lives in cubicles, staring at screens? The nature of most modern work being such, it's getting difficult to find jobs that require something more out of us. The computer seems to be the ultimate tool that needs to be mastered and offers infinite challenges and distractions to keep one busy, or to at least give the impression of admirably being so.

The evolution of the office space and the issues surrounding the same have been better articulated and referenced by many others. Why do I waste my breath on saying the same old things, that so many others have said before me? Mostly to make myself feel better out of the rant, yes. But to also suggest that whenever we do have a chance to rethink and structure the workplace; architects, technologists, designers, anthropologists and business folks need to come together to define a better system that is more open, modular and ultimately more productive for us. (And for people like me- well, just a window to stare out of would suffice for now, without the crushing knowledge that I will have to climb the proverbial career ladder to land a corner office for the same.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Time to kill

Of all the epiphanies that can strike a person at utmost inopportune moments, the ones about ones own character and passions is the most monumental. There I was, reading through some of my daily customary internet garbage, that this one shook my world. Well, not something so intense, but exaggeration goes a long way in trying to make a story more digestible. Ironic, in a way. So the digressions aside, today while reading an article on the quality and experience of leisure, I realized what truly drives me.
I've always been very vocal about the fact that hard work is my drug, that I can sit for hours on end at some challenging enough task, one that tickles my grey cells and puts me in a stupor-like zone where the world seems to recede into the background. Today, it struck me that I can only be comfortable in my leisure time, a time of doing absolutely nothing "productive" in the conventional sense, when I have filled up my quota of "work" for the day/week/month.
When I'm deep in a project, working and clicking away on the mouse to make things happen on that rectangular screen, somewhere deep in the dark recesses of my being I am creating a time for leisure which is guilt free. So the question is that, do I really love working, or do I love the feeling of having "earned' the guilt free leisure time when it does actually come my way?
Has the conditioning of this capitalist world been so thorough, that I cannot allow myself a period of nothing-ness, without having deposited in the bank of workaholism? Even more worrisome is the fact that most of my free "me-time" is peppered with myriad versions of distractions and activities, which are universally considered to be fun. And today I realized a deeply latent fear of not doing anything with my leisure, as if leisure also has to be filled in and scheduled out in a likeness of the calendar at work.
Is this what I do to myself or is there a larger force at play,one that afflicts so many more in varying degrees, across all walks of life. Maybe I'll schedule an evening of not doing anything, so that can also be cancelled out of my to-do checklist.

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?


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:


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. 


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? "