Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering—this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary daytime advice for everyone. But at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn't work—and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day. At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible by retiring into an infantile dream—but one is continually startled out of this by various contacts with the world. One meets these occasions as quickly and carelessly as possible and retires once more back into the dream, hoping that things will adjust themselves by some great material or spiritual bonanza. But as the withdrawal persists there is less and less chance of the bonanza—one is not waiting for the fade-out of a single sorrow, but rather being an unwilling witness of an execution, the disintegration of one's own personality…
Saturday, 4 September 2021
Saturday, 19 June 2021
Thursday, 27 May 2021
Nature in Kolkata
Tightly-packed buildings one after the other, with very few roads in between and even fewer open spaces and water bodies is one way of describing Kolkata in 2021. The hot scorching sun throughout most of the working hours before sunset makes people stay indoors if they can afford to. The central business district is chock-a-block with people though, as are the various residential slums where a large section of the residents live. It takes exceptional circumstances to not hear the sound of motorised vehicles throughout the day. Amid this, where does one find nature or the aesthetically pleasant aspects of it?
Smoke covered stars from the skyline of the city several decades back. Cumulus clouds against a blue background, as in a John Constable painting, are visible sometimes after the rains have stopped, taking away the harshness of the sun. If one passes by the East Kolkata wetlands on such a morning or afternoon, the greenery and lack of buildings in the horizon may lull you into an idyllic mood. The small hillock of garbage resembles a natural hill from afar. The Maidan presents a welcome break but it was created by clearing away the trees to practice firing the cannons. The greenscape of the land has a few trees but it leaves much to be desired by way of nature. Rabindra Sarobar, another man-made landscape in south Kolkata has water, trees and birds. Central Park, in Salt Lake, has its own share of such elements as has Eco Park in New Town. Curated landscape of this sort has its own charms, especially if one is not spoilt for choices.
Another way of grasping nature is by acknowledging the relief that pre-monsoon storms and the monsoon brings after the scorching heat of the summer. The relief turns into misery for the homeless and those in living in fragile quarters, which, considering the significant slum population of the city is considerable. Those ensconced behind glass windows may look at the rain with a smile on their lips and a sense of calm on the skin of their bodies if they do not mind being indoors. With the heat and the dust settling down, the landscape takes on a mellow look. The leaves shine bright, the barks of the trees glow and the roads do not stare back at you. Even before the rains begin, the sky with its grey clouds presents a pretty picture. The grey clouds look like juicy fruits, about to burst open and shower sweet drops of mercy on the city beneath. They present the same sense of expectation and relief as the idea of a cool shower after a hot, sweaty, grimy day.
Birds, those warbling creatures of delight, are a disappearing species in the city. Whereas the crow and the pigeon reign supreme, and the myna and the small crane are still thankfully found aplenty, lots of other species are a rarity. The koel is more often heard than seen but its voice is reassuring enough to the human residents that this avian neighbour of theirs still exists. It is rare to sight a blue and orange kingfisher or a black-headed oriole but sighting them seems like a feat in itself, a moment of delight and of joy at the wonders of nature. Sparrows, those little bundles of energy, are no longer common.
Dogs, cats, cows, buffaloes, horses, squirrels, rats and mice are common sights. Dogs and cats are domesticated pets and we have a different kind of relationship to these animals. Squirrels, on the other hand, present the wildness and swiftness of nature that we still prize.
Trees in the city are not allowed to grow to their fullest extent. The tree in Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara would not be found in Kolkata anymore. Horizontal branches are trimmed regularly to make the tree fit for a crowded city. Such trimming is rarely proportional. As a result, the trees grow lopsided and fall over when pushed by strong winds. Leafy trees abound. Fruit trees in people’s personal compounds are a rarity. Kerala, for instance, has recently brought out a rule urging people to plant mango or jackfruit trees in their houses. Kolkata is yet to entice people to bear such fruits. Vegetable gardens are also not particularly common owing to the lack of gardens in the compounds of most buildings. A city bursting with people barely manages to push together people inside its limits. Trees in such spaces are a luxury. It is not as if one will not see the odd guava, mango, papaya, coconut, banana or jackfruit tree or tomato or chilli plants in building compounds but such compounds are the exception rather than the norm.
Sunday, 18 April 2021
Monday, 22 March 2021
Friday, 12 June 2020
Internet companies can be divided into the following categories:
1. User-generated content
Examples include social networks and social clouds, such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube.
There is a first mover advantage here. If your associates are not on a platform, there is little incentive for you to join that platform. It is not too wise to replicate existing leading platforms and hope to poach their users. A newer kind of platform is the best bet. Facebook offered something different than Orkut. Instagram offered a different kind of experience from Flickr and Picasa. TikTok offers a different kind of platform from Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
This offers a good chance for domestic start-ups. Along with fast delivery and good customer support, if a platform offers cheaper products, users will abandon older platforms and move over to the newer one. Cheapest service usually wins.
There is a first mover advantage but being the cheapest trumps that. Whoever offers the cheapest service wins. India has the BHIM UPI app. But it has far lesser users compared to Google Pay, PhonePe and Paytm UPI because those companies offered more freebies and were hence cheaper.
4. Content library
Streaming sites, be they music, movies, educational videos. Quantity, quality and price of the content are the three factors. For music, quality is similar everywhere. What matters is quantity and pricing. For movies, quality and pricing since the content is usually mutually exclusive. For educational videos, quality and pricing are the two most important issues. This segment is likely to always remain a multi-player field.
5. Aggregators of offline services
The online aggregator needs to offer availability of services, good customer support and cheap pricing. It is similar to e-commerce. Brand loyalty is less. Cheapest service for the end-user wins as long as the price suits the offline service provider.
6. Pure internet services
Usability and features along with pricing wins. Think of video conferencing services. Better features wins. First mover advantage is not very prominent.
Wednesday, 13 May 2020
When an academic is also a fiction writer or a poet, the book is often very readable if one knows enough about the subject being discussed. C.S. Lewis’s The Allegory of Love has several sentences which made me appreciate his writing style. Alas, I do not know enough French to complete the book.
1. Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800 (1983)
4. Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)
5. Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978)
6. Philippe Ariès, The Hour of our Death. Translated by Helen Weaver. Originally published as L’homme devant la mort (1977)
7. Wallace K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought (1948)