Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My two cents on ‘Insta-poetry’

Instagram(Insta) bred poets have popularized a contemporary form of poetry which often casts a shadow on the suitability of the content being deemed as ‘poetry’

Poetic literature under the Indian school curriculum, acquainted the students to world renowned poetic geniuses.  Robert Frost, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Vikram Seth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, are just a few that I remember from the top of my head.  Their poems were on different themes, but they all very obviously belonged to the realm of poetry.  They were often not easy to comprehend and suggested a need for familiarity with the author’s written style to truly understand the context.  The poets audaciously used poetic license to create the story they wanted to tell.  Intensity of emotion that would otherwise require several pages to fully unravel, were brilliantly captured in a few lines.  To my surprise, the popular poets I discovered on Insta were far from this known concept of poetry.  On a positive note I found Insta poems interesting and engaging.  I also found them empathetic and inspiring.  However, I couldn’t ignore the rudimentary nature of the poems.  Their expression of thought seemed to peak at a very basic level, like a song on a piano with limited chords.  Credit where credit is due, the poems don’t make it a challenge to unbox the message and instead try to effectively convey the point.  However, for some key reasons that I’ll move on to, the poems have traded off the charm of poetry for easier depiction of thought.  The poems seldom paint a picture, they rather describe it.  Metaphors, imagery and verse are rarely reflected in the poems; they are more like a message broken down in multiple lines.  Inevitably, the simplicity of this form of ‘poetry’ makes it seem doable.  In part, that is good news as it provides a kickstart platform for amateur poets to experiment with their writing style but unfortunately, it comes at a cost.  The cost being that the meaning of poetry is lost on many since its more about concisely conveying a message rather than weaving a story to convey the message. 
A common theme across most poems is love, a topic which easily draws empathy and subsequently drives the follower count.  Poems tend to be driven solely from personal experiences and don’t challenge the imagination.  Poetry that is heartfelt or deep need not involve a first-person experience.  To elaborate, I take the example of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a famous poem that gave detailed account of sailors at sea that tempted fate by engaging in condemnable actions.  Apparently, the idea was inspired by the poet’s friend’s dream of a ‘skeleton ship’.  Some also say that the poet had never sailed at sea and yet was able to beautifully illustrate the story by diving into his imagination.  Simply put, it wouldn’t be called ‘creative writing’ if imagination didn’t play a role. 
The other peculiar feature of Insta poems is the confusion between a poem, a quote and a short story.  I am not saying that long poems conform to the rules of poetry but Insta poetry seems to be short mainly due to a content driven mindset that the app thrives on.  People feel a need to constantly post content to remain in the public eye and maintain popularity.  A pressure to publish posts even when the creativity well is dry, leads to poetry transforming into epigrams which are at best self-quoted quotes and at worst a generic comment.  Epigrams are essentially satirical or clever in nature; they need wit to be properly written and hence would also be typically difficult to type out at the drop of a hat.
My two cents on the subject may sound grouchy but it’s because a lot of trending poets out there were Insta born and being termed as ‘poets’ places them near the ranks of the classic poets, a truly big responsibility.  Fortunately, I have come across interview accounts of some popular poets talking about taking a literature class or picking up a book of poems to learn more about poetry ‘in situ’.  I am not saying you need a how-to-guide to write poetry but having a thirst to better it would help sustain quality poetry by these new age poets.  Otherwise, in some cases, the misguided popularity could lull them into believing that every thought that stumbles upon their mind is worth publishing.  Indeed, these poets are exploring a new form of poetry which is probably best suited for today’s hurried world where several exabytes of content are generated each day, but their success may usher in an era where a basic message knotted in some words, starts being deemed as poetry. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A three star article

I recently watched the episode ‘nosedive’ from the brilliantly produced TV series, Blackmirror, which triggered my thinking on the importance and/or dangers of putting a rating on people’s actions. Now this article is a particularly challenging one to write as it flirts on the boundaries of what’s normal and harmless and what’s not and I have had to be cautious with my choice of words. It’s best to start by saying there is nothing wrong with ranking people, places etc. per se in our heads. In fact we do it innately on an everyday basis which builds our preferences and propels us to make decisions on what ice cream to buy, which clothing to wear, which person to acquaint with at a party etc. etc. However, the argument of ‘too much of anything is harmful’ plays in, when we start ranking everything explicitly. To provide context to what I mean by ‘too much’, a quintessential example would be the episode I mentioned. Sidestepping on possible spoiler alerts, the episode in a nutshell is about a futuristic technological world where people are profiles on a giant world network and are rated by people around them on a day-to-day basis. People scrounge for points as that determines social stature and related perks. Should you fall below the score of 3 on 5, you face consequences which can amount to restricted access to places, products and possible jail term!(Glimpse:
Ratings seems to have found roots in identifying quality in a large world with overflowing choices and options. For instance, I personally find ratings on food ordering apps helpful. Except, overtime you realize the ratings are subjective and may not always be a five star for you. The same context holds when we rate each other implicitly through social media by the absolute number of likes on our pictures or absolute number of followers on our profile, amongst other things. What is likeable to one may not be to the other but in an inane quest to collect the maximum likes, we try to shape our profiles as more socially desirable. Pictures taken for memory are now pictures taken to draw an image of oneself and seek self validation. With time we haven’t realized how subtly, rating manifests rating and we are caught up in that vicious circle. It may seem a tad exaggerated to use the term ‘vicious’ for wanting more and more likes but it is harmful as the tendency to be liked gets accentuated in our perspectives and creeps up in the smallest of things we do. What is naturally likeable about a picture or gesture becomes an unsaid rule, pivotal to what we click. Every small act gets linked to an ulterior intention of being liked, whether it’s clicking the mother dairy ice cream you ate or putting up a happy birthday Whatsapp status for your friend. 
Maybe every once in a while we need to “stop and smell the roses”; relish in the joys of the wondrous technology of photography and social media and resist the externalities it brings with it. Connect with people afar and anew, let go of that side pose and goof for fun and not for its ‘like’ inducing endearing quality, click a black and white for the charm the picture may hold each time you see it not because you want establish yourself as a pro, and sometimes just forget to click because you were so busy having a good time! True, these examples are borne from my personal bias but they are such commonplace that I believe at least one will resonate with you.

The irony of it all baffles me. In an ever-growing world  where we want to distinguish ourselves and be sought after, we are constantly exploiting basic human psyche of ‘what appeals’ and consequently edging towards dehumanizing ourselves by mechanically chasing the fair-weather approval and affection of the possibly near but most probably not, the truly dear ones, and dangerously losing our individualism.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Is writing a lost art or an obsolete skill?

Is writing a lost art or an obsolete skill in today’s technology driven world? I wonder this as I stretched out my arm to grab the forgotten diary to jot down my thoughts only to turn to the sticky notes app on my laptop. The mobile as our permanent accessory, the digital pen is always with us and more convenient to carry than a pocket diary and a pen. I personally miss scribbling my thoughts, my work and my to-do lists on notebooks and parchments on paper but the convenience of an app or a word doc triumphs these sporadic urges and old habits. At work, the argument lies in efficiency but of late the argument also validates in a world where you can share, edit and update grocery lists (cue:Wunderlist). Alas, then it would seem that ‘manual’ writing is now only a creative pursuit, a skill survived by those who feel their thoughts flow more freely with the organic feel of the pen on paper. Then again, personal writing is confined to the covers of a personal journal whereas professional writing is increasingly digitalized. I don’t have the luck of knowing any writer but considering that manuscripts undergo several edits before making it to the publishing house, it seems ideal for authors to be typing their work over penning their thoughts. It’s also easier for writers to find their genre of audience through digital social media. Blogposts, Fb posts and Tweets are the most popular ways of expressing one’s opinions publicly and additionally helps getting feedback on the same or generating a discussion. Since all the arguments are in favour of digitalization, are we looking ahead at a world with writing as a forgotten art and skill? Would the futuristic generation of school going kids be more excited about iJournals and beta versions of writing apps than the smell of new books and the joy of brand new and colourful stationery? Will qwerty takeover cursive writing? I, for one, have mixed feelings about writing losing its place in this world. Maybe reminiscing is for the old. For instance I don’t miss the radio though my parents still keep one in their bedroom with the antennae stretched high listening to FM. Maybe the digital ink will never fade while the writing on paper finds its way in museums as a bemusement for future generations on how we got by without speech to text, autocorrects and backspaces.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

On why I love my job

Great to be working. Why? Well its a good feeling to be self sufficient and to enjoy those eight hours at work and come back home to your rented apartment knowing you made all this possible.

About a year ago, I started working for a British company that deals in analytics and consultancy for a range of commodities. Sounds off beat but that puts it in line with my post-graduation centered around resource economics and was an interesting change from the usual mono-focused calculus-stats based economics taught across most schools. There were some hiccups in the beginning but the fact that I call them hiccups instead of challenges is because I am learning to take things in perspective and not overreact to avoid generation and subsequent recollection of negative memories over time.

I am writing this post at work so I have given myself a timeline lest I go on about the recent past in excruciating detail. But to express my gratitude and to remind myself on bitter days how lucky I am,here goes a list of things I am grateful and/or happy about:

Not your usual sit behind the desk ,crunch numbers job

Why do I say crunch numbers? Well all work involves some amount of grunt work  but a lot of entry level jobs will just violate a person's sense of being by involving them in the most mundane of tasks. I am sure most philosophical awakenings must be frequented at work place and corporate sector is brimming with existential crisis all around. I experienced the same but I have come out enjoying my work and realizing how its a lucrative option for the present.

People ,people,people

Are they all a treat to talk to? Bah,humbug. But the most senior of people are quite accessible and I had a chit-chat with the CEO on my commencement here. Some senior colleagues ( no sir or boss here) have the most cordial and humble style of talking to the extent that its heart warming. In fact its one of the reasons which prompted this post. Now that I recall, they were very cordial and responsive during the recruitment process too. Usually human resources are quite incommunicado.

A student with a fat stipend how I feel. Since the role is a cross between research,analysis and client engagement, reading and updating my knowledge is of the essence. I am not a smiley face on all days but yes on most days I have something interesting to look forward too. 

I get to see sunny days and I know that Penny and Sheldon teamed up against Leonard

Its not soul sucking and I have time for myself.

The 'at work joys' are reducing progressively because I am running behind my slotted time for this post. I have a lot more to share but for now this a good summary. Hopefully I'll have some exciting work stories to blog next time.

#Tip: Best ways to beat work blues is to wake up on time,spend some me time by yourself and then shake off the cluttering tiny thoughts and brace yourself for the new week. Get coffee on slow days( avoid the habit though). In fact many experts agree on the coffee theory. Garfield is a popular propagandist.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Modi govt: The gray areas

The upbeat sentiment surrounding the Modi government is still in the air but a caution seems to be creeping up on it. Reports assessing one year performance of the BJP led govt give an overall optimistic feedback. This seems debatable as the criteria for assessment and the weights attached to these are to a fair extent, subjective. Until now the focus has been on economic growth. As much as it is important to fuel the engine of production and consumption , the social culture based on gender, religion and democratic rights should not be overlooked as it dictates the quality of life in a country.

During the central elections the major criticism for BJP led government was based on imposition of its Hindutva ideology if it came to power. A growing string of events have given ground to such fears and the govt has been passive in dealing with them which shows nonchalance towards protection of minority rights or a latent affirmation of these events which is what probably fueled the audacity of the misdoers in the first place.

If we had to enlist the ideal qualities in the PM of India ,it would be a long comprehensive list, one which cannot be fathomed in one person alone. So, the issues and goals motivating the leader himself are more likely to be highlighted and dealt with on an average. Modi is thus perceived as a businessman holding the political reigns of the country. This perception has in effect excused him from the increasing identity politics. The array of foreign investments they boast about have come at the cost of rising communalism and sexism. A look at the Brazilian state of affairs and the demerits of 'unaimed opulence' get clearer.

Acche din will flourish when the leaders learn to run a model of inclusive growth. In essence,the Modi govt needs to start viewing the citizenry as a nation rather than an economy only.

Following are some of the key issues discussed to analyse the govt's performance:
Green zone:
-Jan Dhan Yojana
-Increased FDI flows
-Deregulation of Diesel
-Coal and telecommunication auctions
Red Zone:
-Church attacks
-Gujarat reservations
-Beef bans
-Sexist statements of MLAs
Yellow zone:
-Passing of Land aquistion bill?
-Passing of GST?
-Sustainability of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan?
-Increase in social sector expenditure?
-Development and expansion of rail links?
-Banning of Nirbhaya documentary?

Monday, April 6, 2015

*insert catchy cryptic title*

Part I: Donkey Kong

She knew it meant nothing. There were days that melted into nothingness and there was no guilt in the time lost for she realized the purposelessness of life.When she got busy,time wasn't enough and the purpose was too pressing. However,there were times it felt 'right' to be alive;there were times of effortless joy. The load of idleness was too heavy on her existence and the rest seemed forced. There were things she enjoyed which she could do but knew she shouldn't so she wouldn't.
It was chaotic. There were peers who were burning the midnight oil,friends who were on a roll and family that was always bustling around happily. And then there was Steve Jobs. There will always be a Steve Jobs;either you get inspired or self-abhorrent or with some of the blissfully idiotic,wish you had enough room in your garage. So lo behold, after much ado about nothing ,she was looking around for a job which was also forced but came with the bait of cash.

One frustrated day at this hour, she chanced upon a golden thought:she was a donkey. Like the donkey she was toiling away for the master, the society. It wasn't the dreaded nihilism or the start of a guerrilla warfare of artists feared by the elders.It was an economist's tale,the minimization of purpose and effort subject to a purposeless life. It was a realization, a rational thought tarnished by institutionalization, an awakening too simplistic to be an epiphany.

Life's mysterious for its evasive in comprehension,it makes you believe in a pattern only to complicate it further. You go back and forth and estimate the portions of the right condiments only to realize, this time you are in a different dish. So maybe its best to learn to savour the variety of cuisines life has to offer because either way you have to eat.

Well that's too submissive and morose,atleast for my liking . And a little donkeyish. Better get the 007 formula..

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Happy Victory

Today is an inspirational day for the aam admi. AAP beat the political veterans,BJP and Congress by a wide margin ,67-3-0 respectively. I found it quite unexpected. Probably because the system is such that one feels words speak louder than actions. The city seemed to be awash with a 'Modi wave' following his sweeping victory in the central election. Indeed the BJP was trying to put their best foot forward with women leading the Republic Day Parade, publicizing Obama and Modi's chemistry,Swatch Bharat Abhiyan,meeting foreign leaders etc. Seems like a party actively working for the country. Pick up the microscope and you see chaos behind the scenes.
Secularism should be an implicit understanding for leaders of a pluralist democratic state instead casteism is BJP's septre. Vandalizing churches,saying "boys will be boys" in response to women's safety and urging Hindu women to bear at least four children isn't the mark of a healthy party let alone compassionate.
Aam Admi loaded with their idealistic notions and well intentioned young members is not devoid of flaws including being more activist in nature than exhibiting leadership. However, for all their mistakes on thier 2 year short journey, their agenda, to sincerely serve the people and improve the city,has remained steadfast. While the big shots 'swept' gathered dirt in the middle of clean Rajpath roads,the AAP members picked up the jhadoo for good use and sweeped away to clean the city. The saffron brigade took over the city with their aggressive and also offensive campaigning while AAP campaigned for themselves not against others , judiciously using their limited human and monetary capital. These small things resonate with the common man and his needs and desires. Whether one lives in a sprawling bungalow or a slum dwelling,we all want our city to progress ergo 67/70.
This day also marks goodwill and hard work reigning over shrewdness and 'andha paisa'.
Good luck to AAP and hope they bring the change we all wish to see.
P.S. As for Mrs Bedi and Shazia Ilmi, I guess its part of human nature to be opportunist,its only rational. However, what's irrational is considering the common man as herded cattle.
P.P.S. If the lakhs they spent on getting an advertisement published on the front page of a national newspaper,in violation to the code of conduct on election day,was instead spent on building winter shelters for the homeless,it wouldn't have been an utter waste of public money.
P.P.P.S. I had written a mail to AAP regarding negative publicity towards their party. I not only got a prompt response but liked how they retaliated by defensive campaigning and didn't resort to dirty political war play.