Crowd-sourcing a column

So, I need some help.

I’ve been asked to do an essay on demonetization, as we on November 8 mark one year of the announcement.

It is a subject that has produced an endless stream of analysis and opinion, seemingly leaving no room for a fresh take on the topic. I’d appreciate help in thinking through this one, hence this request: could you guys provide your take on demonetization, in the comments field? The pluses, the minuses, your thoughts on how the issue polarized the country and why, how informed you feel on the subject and where you think there is a lack of specificity…

It’s an open thread, so please feel free to post whatever thoughts you have, without feeling the need to adhere to the questions above.

Which reminds me, I owe some of you responses to your comments on the media in response to my question here. I’ll get to those now, before I disappear back into work. (PS: Struggling with a few deadlines, so blogging will be somewhat sporadic for the rest of the week).

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Bangalore Lit Fest, and a question for you

The 6th edition of the Bangalore Lit Fest begins tomorrow, at the Lalit Ashok. Here is the full list of speakers and performers, and here is the schedule. If anyone reading this is from Bangalore and attending, do come up and say hi — I’ll be there both days.

This also means that starting now, the blog is on a break till Tuesday morning (I have to record a podcast on Monday). I’ll post snippets from the more interesting sessions on Twitter, though, for those interested.

On my way out the door, this: A couple of conversations yesterday revolved around “the media” and its many sins of omission and commission. Both times, there was considerable dissatisfaction with the way the media functions; both times, however, the dissatisfaction was vague and non-specific; the goalposts kept shifting and it felt to me when trying to respond that I was dancing on quicksand.

So, a specific question for you: What is your take on the state of the media today? When you say “media”, who exactly are you referring to, and what is your specific grouse(s)? What specific examples have you seen that dent a particular media outlet’s credibility? Appreciate your responses, and there is no restriction on length. The reason for asking is, I want to work on an essay-length piece on the current state of the media once I am done with this weekend, and your inputs will help give it a focus and direction.

Thanks much, look forward to your inputs. (I won’t have the space to respond to each individual comment over the next three days, but I’ll find the time to read, and I’ll post considered responses once I am back).

Be well, all.

Back at base

The Kerala trip, which involved the better part of three days wandering around the fraught Kannur/Kasargode region and two days in Calicut indulging in the biriyanis of Paragon and Rahmath, was interesting in ways I hadn’t predicted. There’s a ‘great game’ being played out in the Kannur area — a deadly dangerous political game pitting the Left, led by the CPM stormtroopers, against what it perceives as the “encroachment” of the hard Hindutva sponsored by the RSS/BJP/VHP and allied organizations. It’s the sort of story that merits a deep dive, in the form of a series of essays — for which I have to make a longer trip, most likely in late November. So more on that later.

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“The presstitutes deserve it”

Responses to my previous post, about the MS Dhoni presser, have been illuminating. I’ll just say thank you to the positive responses — and to my surprise, there have been many such — without elaboration.

On the negative side, two responses — or rather, two types of responses — surprised me. One view, expressed in different ways by a few people, said in sum that “presstitutes” deserve that kind of response. On a related note, someone suggested that public figures should stick with one word responses in future.

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Because it is Sunday…

…Open Thread, folks.

Toss in links to stuff that is worth reading.,

Talk of what is top of your mind — the things you feel strongly about and don’t think is being discussed enough.

And in passing — because this blog is now here to stay — tell me what works, what doesn’t, what you want to see more of, what you expect to see on here but don’t…

Like I said — open house. Meanwhile, I am off to spend the day with Ramesh Srivats and Mahesh Shankar

Their plans for the spanking new fantasy sports site Fandromeda will feature on the agenda (Check it out, if you haven’t already — this is a beginning, the team has a lot more coming up, sign up and come along for the ride). So will beer. Lots more of the latter than the former.

See you back here tomorrow morning.

“Blogs are dead”

That, at least, is contemporary media wisdom. And maybe the analysts are right — after all, they spend all their lives excel-sheeting the hell out of news, microscopically examining “metrics” and tossing around informed presentations about “Return on Investment” and “audience retention costs” and all of that stuff — the calculus of news.

That said, into my third week after I returned to this blog, I think I’ll stay. For why? Because unlike on social media, here I can not only explore a thought that occurs without artificial constraints of space, I actually get to hear what the reader thinks, to engage with those thoughts and in doing that, to further clarify my own thinking as well.

Like, so.

Occurs to me, this is what I loved about blogging the first time round — this kind of engagement, debate, discussion, which peaked when I was doing either cricket, or this.

damned if I know why I moved away from this (Twitter is the drug of choice — instant gratification, so maybe that was why) but now I am here to stay.

Thank you!

In a corner of a bedroom in our Chennai home, cleared of furniture and all other encumbrances, there sits an urn.

It is actually a fairly simple clay pot, about eight inches tall and six inches across at its widest. It is covered by a Kerala-style thorthu (towel), the same one I wore around my waist when I and three others carried my mother’s body on her last journey. And in it rests a couple of handfuls of ashes and a few shards of bone.

This is all that remains of a 77-year-old lady who lived a full life — as professional, as wife, as mother and grandmother, and as the go-to friend to the many dozens who, unbidden, arrived at our home with stories, most of which we were hearing for the first time, of how mom had in her unobtrusive way helped them at times of dire need.

A good friend once pointed out to me that the true test of character was how you behave with, what you do for, those who can do nothing for you in return. By that litmus, mom had ‘character’ to burn — and it is an integral part of who she was that we are finding out how pervasive her influence was only after her passing. When she was alive, she never spoke of any of this — nor, as we are learning, did she permit the beneficiaries of her generosity to speak of it.

That urn is warmed by a lamp that burns bright 24/7, and it will stay lit till the morning of the 26th, when I consign to the elements all that remains of my mom.

Meanwhile, what has warmed me — and the immediate family, with whom I have shared all of this — is the kindness of strangers, the compassion of friends, the empathetic readiness of strangers and friends alike to reach out a supporting hand. You imagine, when something like this happens, that all you want is to be left alone, to be able to crawl into your personal space and nurse your wounds. And that is what I told the friends who called. Some heeded that, others ignored me and kept calling, messaging, writing mails, reaching out in many different ways. And I realized that they were right, I was wrong —  isolation is no cure for grief. To those friends I owe more than I can articulate (to say ‘repay’ would be to insult them beyond measure).

To the many who on this blog and through calls and emails and Twitter DMs shared their personal experiences – with parents, with children, with illness, with life, with death – what can I say that does not come out cliche?

Hearing your stories helped me make sense of my own; reading of your pain helped me cope with my own; knowing I was not alone helped me arrest my emotional free fall and  recover a sense of balance and perspective.

To say ‘thank you’ is to insult your generosity of spirit. Yet ‘thank you’ is all I have, for now. I hope you know there is a wealth of feeling packed into those two words.

PS: There are many mails, and messages in the comments section here, that I haven’t been able to respond to. I will, though. Soon.