Woods and the Trees

We're pretty interesting as a species.

We experiment, spend time/effort/money to make automobiles just that 5-10% more efficient. Even a light 1000kg car - with 2 passengers - essentially uses most of the power to move itself.

We invented CFLs, LEDs and increasingly way more efficient forms of lighting. To light pathways, roads, streets and places with a near-zero human population or movement all night. In fact, a city is praised for "being well lit" all night even tho the number of bulbs faaaaar outnumber the number of people all night.

We watch "reality" on TV.

We ALL want exclusive, unique experiences.

We want super efficient production - the goal being the elimination of as many people from the production cycle as possible. In heavy engineering, in agriculture, even in software. We also have started replacing consumers with super efficient ones that support "growth" is price/sales - via commodity trading! All so human beings can lead better, happier lives.

We define and seek templates for how to break the mould, think out of the box and chase our dreams.

We all want to better than average at most things.

We believe in notions of equality, fairness. We also use or invent all available ways to assert dominance, authority and superiority over everyone we can.

We want a better future for ourselves and our kids. We're mostly caught up is quarterly results and short term goals.

We want to explore the world for newer, stranger experiences. We are investing heavily into, and using readily, technology to connect more and more with "people like us" and ideas we agree with.

We have more, faster tools for communication. And we do much more tof this:
We have more information than ever. Attention spans have shortened and deep thought has fled us.

We have cut down forests, directly and indirectly. And support "plant a tree" initiatives all the time.

We are all expressing ourselves more often, more widely and more loudly. To an audience that has less and less time, or inclination to listen in toviews other than their own, or to anything thats not entertaining.

We want our impact on the planet to lessen. Starting after we are done buying the SUV, or large screen TV, or 5 more energy consuming devices.

We want dustbins in every corner. So we can "safely" dispose of - read move out of sight - all the junk that we did not need to generate and throw into garbage cans in the first place.

We have invented increasingly complex monetary systems that none of us understand or control anymore.

We spread and support democracy with a missionary zeal. Yet a few companies control most foodgrain, and a handful control most production and monetary flows in the world - much fewer than ever before.

We are inventing shoes that help you feel you're running barefoot. Expensive shoes :)

We fly across the globe as ecologically conscious tourists.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I don't think its hypocrisy. Its probably some kind of blindness, or at least myopia. We really cannot see the disappearing woods and get caught up in delighting at the artificially grown trees as part of our massive landscaping effort.

Social Net ke Side Effects

One thing Facebook, Twitter etc have done is to make it even more important to appear to lead an interesting life than actually leading one.

Applies to entrepreneurship, patriotism, concern-for-causes too - ?

Everyone's marketing - their lives, lifestyles, their relationships, their heartfelt causes, and of course (and maybe most appropriately) their businesses :) Its reverse-voyeurism, in a sense. And surely, our social networks can be for so much more, can they not ?

Posted via email from bangalorekaapi

London Fires

London portends an ominous warning for all of us. 

Its not a happy world. Not too long ago, we'd have taken poverty/tough times in our stride and been thankful for whatever we got when we did. 

Our current growth models and their needs and structures help and serve a few, and that again in the short term. We almost design them to be win-lose, and just too many are shown unreal and sometimes illegitimate dreams, and then kept away from them. Our sense of achievement comes often from having "risen above". We have a stronger and stronger awareness of what we're not getting - and we invent newer needs and mechanisms to keep defining "risen above", in the wake creating a feeling of restlessness and impotence in so many who, in the first place, couldn't really be bothered about those 'needs'.

Watch out, you may be starting fires today that you'll need to fight tomorrow.

Posted via email from bangalorekaapi

Anna Hazare, Ramdev, et al : What Are We Fighting For?

Somewhere, I don't believe that its corruption per se that bothers us so much. Its existed forever. We've participated in it, willingly or otherwise. At the very least, we're desensitized to the whole thing.
So why have these fasts and protests resonated so much, especially amidst the GIMC ?

I think we're feeling left out, and reasonably helpless. The dialogue between us and the ever-aligned politicians has completely broken down over the last couple of decades. And we hardly vote, in any case. The political class has freely "participated" in the growing GDP with no checks and balances, and the excesses, brazenness of it all, coupled with the current lack of even a semblance of any counterbalance that we might be able to provide to this has finally gotten to us.

I think, despite the very very naive and sometimes even dangerous thinking thats trying to fill up this vacuum, that this is a good thing to happen. Our overall cynicism levels might actually drop. The best case outcome will be a process that starts and sustains an issue based dialogue between legislators, administrators and the citizenry. Of course, this'll need "them" to re-establish some credence and us to be less suspicious of everything political (in itself not a dirty word, its only muddied as practiced, quite like religion).

Engagement, and not hostility and antagonism, will be the right way forward and hopefully we'll get there as the current flare-ups settle.

The really really big question is - do we have the sustained enthusiasm and interest in a functioning democracy and dialogue? Or will a short term assertion of citizen power satiate our collective egos ? Many in the classes that stand to benefit from our lack of involvement will be counting on us to run out of breath and soon get caught up again in upgrading our lives as dictated by the glossies and the idiot box.

Our Cities

Was discussing traffic, housing and suchlike in the context of what hope our cities have going ahead of being better places to live and work in. It should not strike the fear of God in your heart to have to go meet someone at the other end of town. Or to just dress up and get to work every single day.

Then there's stuff like this, and water. And air. And the fears we've trapped ourselves in about our kids walking/cycling/busing around the city by themselves.

All those carelessly written words and notions in essays one wrote as a kid about "Technology : boon or bane" seem to have acquired a real, dangerous edge to them. We seem to have acquired a lot of ability, and gotten most our goals wrong.

Of course capitalism and the free market are god. But why do we destroy cities by forcing schools, and public utilities, and parks, and commercial real estate, compete for the same land ? Obviously a few of these either move out, or become unsustainable or too expensive. It sounds very communist, but the need to ensure that each micro-city - and keep them small for god's sake - has space allocated for people, the things they do, their schools, parks, lakes. And that each of this does not have to compete with multinational corporations or real estate interests with deep pockets.

We need to ensure with interact with, and understand well the cycles of, the producers - of food, of sources of water, of energy. Not merely sweep these connects under massive carpets of retail and services interfaces. We'll drive lesser, eat healthier, and do more meaningful stuff in life. It'll be more about the people in them, rather than about the cities themselves, or about their modes of transport etc. Cities need to impress and dazzle lesser, and accommodate and nurture more.

Our cities are killing themselves, and dragging us down with them.

Arrogant Money

A lot of the old world money is humble. It has worked hard for it. It is generous, large hearted.

A lot of the new money is arrogant, with a massive sense of entitlement. Its got it a little easier than it ever imagined, and needs to put on a display of inflated self worth. Its also more money minded and usually not big hearted. Its more suspicious of motives, others and believes in exclusivity and existing in islands.

Chennai, By Bike!

Nopes, I did not go cycling all 350 kms! But have stumbled upon a wonderful way of getting around when visiting different places for meetings, family trips or just plan going seeing them.

I needed to travel to Chennai for a short meeting yesterday. The plan was to catch an overnight Volvo, find a place to shower/change, wrap up the meeting and take an afternoon bus back again. The meeting was someplace in Thoraipakkam, about 20kms or so from the centre of Chennai. The dreadful tales people recount when they speak of Chennai's infamous autokaarans were enough to make me, very obviously non-native, very very nervous. Cabs would be very expensive. And given the paucity of time, figuring out buses and shared-autos was not a viable solution.

An then, just a few hours before I left, it occurred to me that I could take a bike along! 20kms is hardly anything esp given Chennai's flatness. Yes, there was the weather to contend with - but I'd be getting there early in the morning, had access to a guest house for a few hours and was planning to shower anyhow. A little extra sweat is hardly a deterrent for a biker.

Next, what bike? My Merida would be the most familiar, but a little large - and the bus guys end up (unfairly) charging for it. I remembered Ravi's bike rental venture - and found theBTwin Hoptown at 200/- a day over weekdays. Perfect!


The BTwin Folder awaiting the Volvo

The bus dropped me off near Chennai Central - and it was actually quite pleasant in the morning! I'd been told autos would take 40-60 minutes to get to my destination depending on traffic. I got there in 50mins, despite many stops to ask for directions (btw, Google maps + GPS on Android helps a lot!) Without pushing at all since I was trying to sweat as little as possible. Saw a lot more of Chennai than I ever have, and got a good morning workout without no extra time spent. And its great to have endorphins and positive energy in your system before a meeting.

One curious thing : everyone I asked for directions - even 5-6 kms before the destination - first started with telling me "oh but thats faaar" (I do follow a little Tamil so could get this much even from the vernacular interactions) Its surprising how the notion of distances has changed in our cities, and how difficult people think cycling is.

Got in, showered, had a good meeting (or it seemed like that given my happy state) and got out of there. Fortunately, all morning had some cloud cover - but it got sunny on the ride out to Koyambedu, from where all the buses leave. I was advised to take an alternative, though slightly longer route by one of my biker friends in Chennai so encountered little traffic till I got into Guindy. Upto that point, the air itself never felt hot (unlike in the heat of the northern plains) though the sun was strong. Sunglasses helped, but I never got too uncomfortable.

Similar story with the bus guys on the way back. This time, a bunch of fellow passengers got excited about the bike as well - a couple even test rode it around there as we waited for the bus. Had a bus change owing to an issue with a brand new Isuzu and got a comfortable, but slow sleeper. Got to Silk Board at 11ish, and unfolded - with excited auto guys helping out - and rode back home.

The folding bicycle is a terrific tool. Benefits :
  • Its easy to put into a bus, and takes up as much space as a large suitcase, and is lighter too! Obviously the bus guys charged me nothing for it when I just said "my luggage" and handed it over :)
  • Its a major conversation starter! The bus guys were only to happy help load it. Everyone wanted to know more. Even the auto guys at Silk Board (on the way back), instead of being disappointed about the loss of business, atually tried helping out unfolding it! (Not that you need help - it takes just a couple of minutes and is a breeze).
  • Its pretty fast for city traffic - despite smaller wheels. The gear ratios are different from your regular MTB, and changes are quick and easy.

If you need to make outstation trips, this is a good way to carry your own transport along! Mumbai might be a little too large if you have to travel a lot for meetings, but for most cities, this is a great option.

Otoh, if you're travelling into Bangalore - give Ravi a buzz and get a bike delivered at your doorstep for the duration of your visit. Freedom from autowallahs, the ability to go-anywhere, and getting to know the city much better are huge payoffs. And you're getting your dose of exercise even when you travel.

As you might have noticed, am totally smitten with the idea. Both, of the folder itself, as well as the idea of carrying it around when travelling!

Hot or Not or Whatever Happened to Joy ?

There was a time we caught two movies a week, sometimes. We did not always need to know from the reviews beforehand if the movie was "worth watching" - it was more about deriving pleasure and a good time out of whatever we watched. Sometimes we suspended disbelief, sometimes we needed to carry empathy as we went in, sometimes we gave in to feeling spooked, and sometimes it was intensely and deeply intellectual.

It was not about 0 or 10 - all movies were certainly not reduced to a binary choice.

"We value our time more" - often heard argument in this context. Really? You'd just catch a movie in the time you spend reading the multitude of reviews and analyses of one. And if you value your time, you'll construct it in different entertaining surprising ways - not just in the mould of one dreary totally expected and conformist superlative.

The movie reviews (and of course those darned multiplex prices) have killed it. Bigtime.