Saturday, August 18, 2018

Help Kerala from Mumbai

The Food Army is known to reach out to  people during any natural calamity. It's time to reach out to Kerala.

They are airlifting these groceries to Kerala.

You can join them by giving any of these items at a collection centre near you. 

1) Dry roasted Upma without water (pack in a zip lock bag)
2) Rice ( 1 kg pack)
3) Dal (1 kg pack)
4) Milk powder ( 1/2 kg pack)
5) Sugar (1 kg pack)

*Collection on Sunday 19th and Monday 20th August 2018 only*

Please share this message and help us in helping them. 

Thank you,
The Food Army

( *46 collection centres across Mumbai* Pls click on 'read more' at the end of the message to scroll down and see all. Pls call them before going)


Vidhi Nerav Shah
Luckshy Investments
15,A/1, Supariwala Bldg, 
Ground floor, Prasad Chambers Compound, Opera House, Mumbai 4.
Entry gate from main road next to Roxy Cinema.
Time : 11am to 5pm

Rupa Pithwa
A/9, 3rd floor,
Utkarsh bldg, 
Sikka nagar,
Behind modern school.

Rama Kela 
101 Rushab Apts,
10th floor,
Dr. Parekh Street,
Opp H N Hospital,
Next to Girgaum Court,
Prathna Samaj

Suman Shrivastava
Flat no 6. 2nd floor Shashidhar Apt. 
Dr. Rajab Ali Patel Marg. 
Lane Opp Breach Candy Hospital.
Breach Candy.

Ronak Doshi 
72, Sahakar Niwas , 
2nd floor,
20, Tardeo road , 
Next to Brand Factory  Mall , 

Charmi Thakkar 
D/2, Venus Apartments,
1st floor,
R. G. Thadani Marg,
Near Flora Restaurant,



Neetu Sing
B 702, Siddhi Vinayak Apt,
Patakar Block,
Bandra west.


Sneha Tejuja
601 Aditya Bldg,
11th Road,
Near Hinduja Healthcare,
Khar west.

Nayab Butt
Klozet, Shop no 2.
20th Road, 
Khar Danpada,
Opp Anand Vihar Chemist,
Khar west.


Radha Patel
1001, New Madhuvan Society,
10th floor,
81B Saraswati Road,
Opp Gokul Icecream,
Santacruz west.

Sunita Hurkat
401, Kalpana bldg, 
Near Mangal nursing home,
Beasant street, 
Off SV road,
Santacruz west.

Deepali Modi
A/601, Nandini bldg,
10th Road,
Behind Vijay Store
Santacruz east.


Kavita Thakkar
Flat no.9, 1st floor,
Bharat Kunj,
Next to Daulat Vihar,
Bapubhai Vashi Road,
Neat east west flyover of Dadabhai Road,
Vile Parle west.

Manasvi Vadhani. 
101. Saroj Apartment, 
Opp. Grasshopper Hotel, 
Next to Nanavati School, 
V. P. Road,
Vile Parle west.

Dr. Krishna Desai
Shruti Clinical Laboratory
203 Royal Chambers,
Opp Millenium Club,
N.S. Road no 1,
Juhu scheme.


Sarla Nair
Palash Tower, B wing,
Flat no. 53, 5th floor,
Veera Desai Road,
Near Country Club,
Next to Gundecha Symphony,
Andheri west.

Rachna Khurana 
Flat no 34, 5 floor, 
New Akandjyot CHS, 
Bldg no 11, 
Manish Nagar, J P Road , 
Andheri West , 
Next to 4 bungalows Gurudwara.

Vaishali Vyas
B -14, Shivam CHS,
Opp Pathare Prabhu Hall,
Andheri west.

Mrs vijaya Sailopal 
603, Garden view.
Shashtri nager.
Above Gandhi nursing home 
Next to oh! Calcutta Restrauant 
Nr. Swami Samarth temple circle,
opp. Hdfc bank 
Andheri West 
Mumbai 53

Jyoti Ajwani
605, A wing, Nandadeep,
Sher-a-Punjab society,
Opp Hilton tower,
Malpa Dongri road,
Andheri east.


Kavita Doshi
802 B Mahindra eminents
S V road,
Goregaon West


Dr. Krishna Desai
Suburban Hitech Blood bank
206 Sugun,
Rani Sati marg,
Near Railway line,
Malad East

Seema Bhatt
A 101, Maurya,
Raheja Township,
Opp 16 hours fitness gym,
Malad east.

Payal Gadkari
704, Lotus, 
Vasant Valley complex, 
Film city road,
Before Dindoshi depot.
Opposite Oberoi mall.
Malad / Goregaon east.


Ekta Acharaya
The Ocean Cake shop
Shop no. 6,
Vishwadeep Heights,
Opp Vasant Sadhna,
Mahavir nagar,
Kandivali west.

Falguni Shah 
J 1438 govardhan nagar,
Opp Poisar gymkhana 
Near Raghu leela  mall ..
Kandivali west

Mrudula Venugopal 
9B-405, Whispering Palms xxclusive,
Lokhandwala complex,
Akruli road,
Kandivali east.


Mamta Gadhiya
502, Olive Apt, 
Devki nagar, 
Eksar road, 
Near Lotus hospital, 
Borivali west

Tejal Solanki
C/202, Star Galaxy CHS,
Opp St. Anne' High School,
Borivali west


Dhiraj Saini                         
G wing, Flat no. 703,                 
Shree Shankeshwar nagar,
Landmark - Gokulanand Hotel, 
Dahisar east


Dilshad Nensey                        
102, Shirin Villa bldg, 
2nd floor, Room no. 7/8, 
Opp Aqsa medical store , 
Shaida Marg, 


Vipul shah
590/30, Dr. B.A road, 
Kapole Niwas, 


SHRI SATYAM STORES (ladharam DI hatti) 
shop no V 5&6 opp bhaaji mkt 
mumbai 400037


Ri Kumar  Mody                            
Flat no. 1, 
Neelkanth Nilayam society, 
Opp Joy hospital, 
Near Jain Mandir, 
D.K. Sandhu Marg , 
Chembur east. 

Jaya Amit Gangar
B-3, Vasant Prabhat,
608, S T Road, 
Above Vodafone,
Chembur east.


Nehal Kapasi
A 601, Rajhans Bhavan,
Bldg No.5, 
Opp Ganpati Mandir,
Above Dhanlaxmi bank,
90ft road,
Ghatkopar east.

Yogesh Zaveri
Arpan Foundation
Flat no.2, Grd floor.
Poonam bldg, Plot no.160.
R. B. Mehta Marg, 
Next to Natural ice-cream,                                                 Ghatkopar east.
Time : 9am to 5pm


Julie Srivastava
F/702, Raheja vistas,
Chandivali farm road,
Andheri East,


Rajal Shah
Neelam nagar,
Phase 1,
Building No.4/401
Gavanpada Road,
Above Om salon,
Mulund East.

Tushar Gala
4 Pushpa Kunj CHS,
Dr. Ambedkar road,
Opp Vanividylay school,
Near Tirupati Balaji temple,
Mulund west.


Jeetu Shah
Kaccha Limboo
5/6, Yashvardhan,
Ram maruti road,
Thane west.


Kaustubh Vyavahare
A 403, Shree Krishna Jyot,
Samarth nagar,
Surval chowk,
Near New Marathon,


Mehak Hinduja
D1-102, Nilgiri Gardens,
Sector 24, CBD Belapur,
Navi Mumbai.

Sangeetta Vyas
C-33, Flat no. 89
Kendriya Vihar CHS,
Sector - 38,
Nerul West Seawoods,
Beside seawoods D'mart,
Navi Mumbai 

N. Anupama
C/O Vishwas Rao
Flat no. 403, Krishna villa,
Sector 21,
Navi Mumbai


Sonali Mhatre
Shantaram Sadan, 2nd floor.
Near Saankeshwar nagar,
Manpada road.
Dombivli east         

Saturday, November 29, 2014


(Cross Posted from the Nila Tamaraa, where this post was first published on 7 Novemer 2014 )


Our guest blogger Sunil R Nair, a man whose mind is always in the future, lover of verses, a teetotaler and collector of wines,  goes down a culinary-memory-lane in Pune. Check out his He tweets @spuriousmallu  

Blue Nile Restaurant. Photos: Sunil R Nair

Long before Pune became the mini metro it is today, it was the town of three cantonments, a river — Sangam — an army command, few dozen colleges, Parsis and Bohris. While growing up in this town, one had to declare allegiance to one of the two distinct factions on either side of the Sangam — the old conservative Pune with its customs and traditions and the liberal Cantonment ‘Poona’, swinging to the sounds of Jazz at the Jaws Burger Café or the Regatta along the Bund Garden or The Osho Rajneesh Ashram with its free spirit, love and… grass! This is the part that I belonged to — the profuse, rocking Poona of the 70s, 80s and nineties, before moving to that concrete jungle called Mumbai.
The Lal Deval 

My father, communist, trade unionist and closet-rum-drinker ensured that his kids — my sister and I — were “always” a part of the “hipness” of the Cantonment area. So when the rest of the Malayali kids went to schools that were within walking distance, we went by bus to a school 18 Kms away in the heart of the Cantonment, right next to a  Synagogue, funnily called The Lal Deval (The Red Temple).

My classmates were mostly, completely insane (in a nice way) Parsis, the comical (again, in a nice way)  Bohris, a few radical (in a funny way – at least that’s what I thought) Christians and the likes. Being in the midst of this motley crowd, always an ‘outsider’, had its benefits — I was privy to their hallowed rituals and most importantly their food, replete with ‘soul’.

After 11 years, I went back to the now-called- Pune, to walk down memory lane. Was it guilt or 
was it nostalgia or was it both? I don’t know, but I was compelled to go back to the old ‘haunts’ and experience the ‘soul food’ again.
Biryani that needs to be eaten with hands - Indian style!

The jaunt began with Blue Nile. It had to! Housed in a 180-year-old building and spread over two floors, it stands as it always had been, right opposite The Poona Club on Bund Garden Road. Blue Nile seemed to be in a time warp. The ground floor still served “bachelors” and the first floor hall was for “Family” — back then, to enter the hallowed portals of the ‘family room’ all you needed was a willing female companion old enough to vote. I am glad, nothing has changed. 

The Blue Nile is run by Persians or Iranis who migrated to Poona some 60 years ago and stayed back serving Persian Biryani and Kebabs. They do serve the normal biryani too. But, why would you want ‘normal’ when you can get the ‘Persian’ — made out of chicken stock flavoured rice, speckled with saffron and a large piece of fried chicken served with a roasted tomato and a slab of butter. It has to be eaten with your hands — the Indian style. That Rs.250 biryani nourishes the soul, worth every rupee.

If you are a foodie like me, you’d still have enough space in your tummy for Blue Nile’s other special —Tandoori Murg.Finish it all off in style — with an ice cream FaloodaAll for Rs.180/ But then as they say, there are few things in this world money can’t buy — like the experience of going back in time and having your heart wrapped in this warm sepia-toned feeling that makes you think — all is well with the world. My soul sings a similar tune at the Britannia Café in Mumbai — but that’s for another day.

The next day, I headed to Marz-O-Rin. Founded by Sheriar J. Sheriyarji in 1965 with only four items on the menu — chutney and chicken sandwiches, cheese burger and chicken roll. All the items had something to with fresh slices of bread and basic fillings.

Long before quick serve restaurants or drive-in eateries came into existence, Sheriyaji established a counter in the heart of Main Street ( MG Road) that served sandwiches, rolls, juices and milk shakes.Their motto was simple — you want to eat, get in line. If you complained, they’d throw you out. My face stretched into a smiley when I learnt that they still threw out the whiners, and yes, there was still a winding queue waiting to eat those sandwiches. The folks behind the counter were the same people who used to scold us boys when we took our pimply girlfriends from St.Mary’s School for a sandwich and some hand-holding. The men still don’t crack a smile; they still wear that attitude that screams ‘We do not need you, you need us.’Sigh! And they are right!

Because Marz-O-Rin  is the place where you will find shimmery white butter melting into the warm folds of fresh bread, which then wraps itself around minced chicken and mustard — it’s a symphony that your palate will remember till your are called to the Pearly Gates. Go early, find a place in the balcony of the Bhaktiar Building and I promise you… you will find ‘home’.

While you are there, try their almond macaroons, bite into the coconut ones or the very gooey dark forest cake slice. Then wash it down with cold rose milk or coffee or Bournvita.Back in the day, they used to have glass bottles of nimboo paani (Lemon water) with a foil cap, which we would punch with a straw...I believe, I still haven't tasted anything as good as that lemon water.

As I walked out of the place, all I could think of was: how the hell did the chutney in the sandwich and the cheese burger taste the same after all these years — flavourful green chillies without the heat. Time, at Marz-O-Rin, stands still; it sucks you into its wondrous time machine. And I am a willing time-traveller.

King Burger Outlet
On my third and last day at ‘down memory lane’ I went for grunge — grimy, sooty rickety King Burger outlet. It is at the end of East Street and if you have  weak innards or paranoid about germs-taking-over-the-world then this is not for you. But you should know, this is where they serve a ‘mean’ burger — mammoth chicken / mutton mince patty with just the right amount of onion and a sauce that is an audacious mix of mayo and ketchup. It’s comfort food.

Quirky! That's what make this place special
By the way, know beforehand, that at King Burger they will not cut the giant burger into two, but will happily let you share the whopper. Yeah, they are quirky that way. But is what makes special. It will take time to finish the burger so, settle down, stretch your legs, enjoy a young Dylan and Elvis on the wall, relax and soak in the world...then...bite into your burger. It won’t be a pretty sight, but it will surely be gastrorgasmic —  charred caramalized bits of meat, buns soaked in the mayo-ketchup mix with the bite of crunchy onions — if you were allowed to bite into heaven, it might taste like King’s burger. And trust me, it  lasts 24 hours in the system. Wash it down with a Duke’s Lemonade or  Fram’s Raspberry or Ginger. Fram’s is short for Framjee — an antiquated cold drink manufacturer, indigenous to Pune. Do carry antacids as a precautionary measure.

Don’t forget to shoo the flies away.  Look out of the windows and immerse yourself in the rich banter of college kids pooling resources, the sweet nothings of the last bite that the guy insists the girl must have — I was transported to twenty years ago when raging hunger would see a bunch of 20-year-old boys and that rare girl on the spare seat of the Kawasaki RTZ, find burgers that were close to what Pop Tate’s served to those kids in Archie’s Comics. Macs and KFC were still in the future. But for those few hours, we were all Americans in Pune Cantonment.

Ganna Jus
Once I was done at King’s Burger, I had one last stop to make — Ganna Jus, one of the many roadside stalls that sells a tall glass of fresh sugarcane juice with a dash of lime and a bite of ginger. It’s the drink that will seal your memory, in more ways than one. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Android of things is coming, be very connected. Soon.

News that Google is buying Nest has come with the usual analysis and postmortems. Let us face it, Google is no longer a search / media company. They are slowly getting into the space of creating an OS that will keep us engaged with the space around us.  Roy Tennant of DigitalShift says eloquently that "I have a variety of opinions on the topic, but one seems inescapable. Google already knows so much about us. Having lured us into sharing our deepest secrets through free services like Google Search, GMail, Drive (formerly Google Docs), and many others, they inevitably want more." That 'more' is what Nest would provide, that more will come in the form of Internet of Things Architecture (IoTA) that I bet Google will go after very soon.

So here are a few predictions:

1. Google will buy more wearable technology companies to complete the Google Glass ecosystem. All those in India wanting some bit of sunshine - here is what you must do - go after creating apps for the Glass ecosystem, go after creating solutions that will enable Google to track everything about its users. Let us assume that Google will not be evil about the data and go get some money into the bank.

2. This year - 2014 will be the year of the Internet of Things. So get ready to have all kinds of things talking to all kinds of things, exchanging information and providing real time responses. Google Now was just the tip. wait for the Tsunami to hit.  

3. Android will move / Has moved beyond the 3 screens it was originally planned for. It will be the life juice behind the cars, behind the Thermostats, The AC, The Fitbit, The med equipments, The sugar monitors. Providing Google with minute details  that go beyond location, content and context. Imagine what it can do for advertisers with this kind of data, imagine what it can serve up easily on each one of us. 

This is going to be exciting. And scary. When did they say Skynet went sentient? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The firsts of 2013 and the possible firsts of 2014

Last Saturday's issue of Mint Lounge is luscious. It lists a whole lot of things that an urban Indian can do for the first time. These were outlandish one like walking across Outer Mongolia or sipping coffee with the pygmies of Amazon (do they even exist), most of them were real things that could be done if one had the spine or the will to do so. The more I read the issue over the weekend, the more I felt that I had done a lot of firsts in 2013. So here is my list of firsts:

1. MOOCs - I discovered Coursera and online education for the first time. And in one burst over 6 months attempted 8 courses ranging from Gamification to Design Thinking. I managed to get certified in 6 and dropped out of 2. Not bad for someone who struggled through college. It was an amazing experience to find time to schedule 3 hours daily to watch lectures, take notes, prepare essays and submissions and give a test every week. If I had any doubts about my ability to discipline my unruly ways, this was it. And found many many enlightened educators and people who I would have missed out completely if I had not attempted my first education after getting educated. And even if they think that MOOCs are a big mistake, I think that this is foundation for education for everyone. 

2. A wedding in November made me go out of my comfort zone and got me to not act my age for the first time this year. I dressed up as Quick Gun Murugan - the sambhar sipping cowboy from South India. Between the time that I said ok to the idea and actually doing it, my friends bet 10000 bucks - (#@$$#@$s). I had to go to a smelly costume shop in Lokhandwala, brave the looks of Estonian long legged girls who dance in Hindi movies and a reality show participant to select the awesome costume that Nawaz put together for me. Yes it was worth it. Yes it made people in Versova's Kino's Cottage stand up and stare at me and yes I confess. I completely enjoyed it!

3. I hate fish! Even when it is scaled, gutted and deodorized, I cannot stand the sight. When the family goes to Gajalee - the famous for fish restaurant for their monthly quota of Bombay Duck and Tisrya - that's clams for the illiterates, I sulk. Last year I got over my hatred for fish and cooked with it, just to make my daughter happy. She insisted after seeing Jamie Oliver cook fish on a food show that I cook for her the exact replica. And that meant that whatever I cooked, I had to eat, else the little lady would sulk. This year I have to find a decent octupus and a very tame squid - all in the name of being a good father. 

4. I rode a donkey! No pictures exist of this spectacular adventure. My partner in crime - my daughter asked if she could ride a donkey - these donkeys were part of a caravan of nomads on the way to Chikmagalur. She would not ride unless I did - so we did. The donkeys were friendly guys, smelly but timid, docile creatures. After around a kilometer of riding them I promised never to call anyone a donkey ever. Respect!

5. Picked, sorted, roasted and ground my own mix of Chikmagalur coffee. It is something I recommend every coffee addict must do atleast once in their lifetime. And immediately brew the coffee fresh out of the grinder. The liquor sings, you hear notes that you never knew existed. I found hints of orange, cranberry and pepper - all from the plantation where the coffee beans grew. The terroir of the place gets embedded into the flavour of the coffee. You have to close your eyes to listen.

6. Worked on an area that I do not understand - Gaming and helped build a amazing portfolio of cross platform solutions for the next quantum leap in Gaming in India. You will hear more about it in 2014.

And now for the list of possible firsts of 2014:

1. Run a marathon by December - maybe a quarter marathon but do something about running
2. Grow atleast 1 week's worth of vegetables in my balcony garden every month. We currently have mint, spinach, carrots, chillies, red peppers, karela, pumpkin and beans growing.
3. Learn to dance (shudder!!)
4. Write my first full length novel ( I have been lugging it in my head for over 10 years now)
5. Stand for elections of the local Mohalla Commitee and show those guys who is boss. It is my AAP moment.
6. Learn to make cheesecake at home. 

Not bad eh?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The myth of privacy - we are already tracked and tagged everyday, so why bother?

I have been taking a MOOC course called Understanding Media by Understanding Google by Prof. Owen R. Youngman on Coursera for the last 6 weeks and the last assignment was about privacy - a debate on whether our decreasing anonymity online, and the increases in data collection and information sharing that accompany this decrease, either improves or damages 21st-century life. Part of the course work is a peer assessment which we need to complete and I ended up listing how many of the students were ok with the decreasing anonymity online. 

Around 90% of the students ( the sample size is too small at 10 students, hence I cannot say whether this is a trend) whose assignments I graded and a few people I interacted with on Twitter seem to say that they are not very concerned about the lack of privacy due to mega structures like Google and Facebook keeping tabs on them and sharing their information with governments. 

I have to agree with thinker and author of What Would Google Do, Jeff Jarvis who blogs at BuzzMachine when he says that it is impossible for us to hide ourselves from the eyes of who ever wants to study us. We cannot want the benefits of a cell phone network and then grumble that the operator knows where we are at any given time. The more data gets collected the better is the understanding of society and the world around us. 

In times of disaster the data collected can help governments keep tabs on the affected citizens. Disasters like the recent Phailin cyclone and the London riots have shown that responsible use of the information can be useful. Had there been some form of a ruling that disallowed the government from tracking there whereabouts of these potential victims, the toll would have been higher.

Data emerging out of our conversations on Twitter, Facebook and Google can help a greater goal of providing better healthcare, prevent riots and squash rumours in times of strife. One of the comments in the Jeff Jarvis debate on The Economist [1] asks "Does society benefit from people sharing personal information online? To me, the answer is a highly qualified "yes". Yes it allows like minded people to share information and experience that would not otherwise have been exchanged."

Google already knows enough about me, it has had me by the scruff of my neck since they went live with their search engine. Airtel probably has all my text messages and a copy of all my calls, HDFC Bank and Amex knows exactly how much I earn and what I spend on. I have to swipe to access the various buildings and levels at work and every toll booth I cross already takes a grab of my car number plates and my face. There are cameras recording the 24 kms I drive to and fro to work. There are cameras inside the lobby of my building, the lift and the mall. I get calls from 27 agents the moment I am 30 days away from renewing my car insurance. I do not think anyone can function without being tracked. Then why are we so worried about privacy? 

All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret, says Gabriel Garcí¬a Márquez  [2] . My opinion is that what is secret, our deepest darkest stories must be protected and if anyone has these in their lives they must ensure that it is not published on the net or on some social media. However the private part of our lives enhanced by the digital crumbs be leave behind can eventually help us in ways that probably have not yet been discovered.

If in the near future the Internet of Things becomes a significant reality then imagine how enriched our lives can be. And at that point would we be getting fidgety about lack of privacy?

In conclusion can just think of a new jargon I came across in one of the assignments - 'Privacy Currency' - the valuable we give away to get services for free. Think about it.

More things to read on privacy.

But imagine if we did feel free to share our health data. Think of the correlations and possibly causes and cures we could find. Why don't we?
Think of it this way: privacy is what we keep to ourselves; secrecy is what is kept from us. Privacy is a right claimed by citizens. Secrecy is a privilege claimed by government.

( A truncated version of this blog post was submitted as part of the coursework on Google Media on Coursera)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Once upon a time there was a girl called Tarakshi and a crow called Kaa...

Once upon a time in Mumbai lived a 7 year old girl called Tarakshi. She lived in a small apartment on the third floor of a building close to the beach. Her bedroom window opened to the lush green of a tamarind tree full of crows. One day while she was playing with her friends in the narrow space between the building and the moss covered compound wall she spied upon a small frail baby crow who has fallen off from his nest in the Tamarind tree. The baby crow was hurt badly. Tarakshi took him home and then she made her mother take the crow to a veterinarian. That night she kept him warm and cuddled in a shoe box under her bed and soon he was hopping around the flat behind her. She named him Kaa. He was a smart crow - and liked to sleep on the bed post right above Tarakshi's head every night with his beak tucked into his right wing. In the morning he would wake Tarakshi up with loud kaaa kaaa and flutter around Tarakshi's head all the while till she went off to school in her big yellow bus. He would be there waiting for her perched on the topmost branch of the tamarind tree when she returned from school. He made friends with the people who lived in the tamarind tree - the squirrels names Sniffy and Hoppy, the ant family - Bunty, Mungi and their daughter Chinti, Kooie the koel and Mignon the sparrow who had four daughters - Crystal, ChiChi, Tara and Maana. He also taught Tarakshi the language of these animal people. And what fun they had!

The story above is the template that I have used for the last 5 and 1/2 years to keep my (now 7.5 years) daughter entertained. Every night at bed time she would hear me narrate an adventure. To begin with the stories were simple - about brushing the teeth every morning and night and eating healthy fruits and picking up things after play time and so on. Eventually as she grew up Tarakshi became a role model. Tamara, my daughter would do things only if Tarakshi did the same in a story.  Tarakshi has grown up too. She is now almost 11 and has a cat called Kylie who used to belong to a witch queen and a dog called Tipsy - she and Kaa found him running behind cars on the road near Tarakshi's building.

I have wanted to create a blog for parents of little boys and girls to help them navigate through the years 2 to 10 when the kids we have hopefully listen to us and are fascinated with their fathers and their mothers. Afterall what we give them in those 8 years defines what they will be when they are older.  The 20-30 minutes everyday I spend with my daughter are the best relaxant that anyone can prescribe. The wide eyed wonder in the initial years has given way to questions about morals and rights and wrongs. It has helped make me a better man - taught me patience and discipline to be able to think up imaginative stories. I have had to wake up sometimes to her requests on a Sunday morning of wanting me to tell her that story about Ribbit the frog and how he sailed a paper boat to rescue a dragon fly who did not listen to his friends and went far away into the trees to play with the evil grasshoppers! Its been worth the effort. It has been an investment which I hope will be far more rewarding than letting Barbie stories and Shinchan hours be imposed on kids just to keep them out of the way.

I have often wondered if this series of stories could be turned into an illustrated set of books. I have day dreamed that one day there would be t-shirts and compass boxes with little anecdotes of the two. I even went to the extent of trying to convince myself that someday the creators of Chota Bheem ( ugh!) would hunt me down and buy the rights to the series and make me rich within the next quarter.

Until then...


Missed out posting last week. Was too busy trying to create a business model using excels and word files. Something interesting is brewing. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Losing our humanness - the age of distraction and the loss of imagination

I choose to think that if someone instinctively and repeatedly picks up a mobile device to consume media while engaged in another activity, then the person is not engaged or immersed in the first activity completely due to either boredom or due to lack of stimulation. We see this behavior happening all the time - recently I attended the performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the legendary Prithvi Theater in Mumbai, India. This theater is very strict when it comes to the audience using the mobile phone within the auditorium and the ushers are known to vocally point out people and throw them out. Even at the cost of being caught, there were at least half a dozen grownups who constants checked their phones. One of these was seated next to me and ended up asking what he missed when the audience roared with laughter. So much for the good old bard and his art and nuanced performance of the actors on stage. It is not engagement, it is being distracted.

We are bored because we are used to this constant attention that the phone provides. We get fidgety and jittery when we do not have a notification or a message or an email that beckons us to leave what we do and escape to that red blinking LED. The syndrome is similar to that experienced by people addicted to a drug - the withdrawal symptoms which includes physical and mental stress. Maybe it is because we want acceptance from our peers and want to not lose out on the whirlwind of news and events going on around us. 

A few of us might use the excuse that we are trying to be engaged with the event happening in front of us. I cannot justify what engagement would take place if you are tweeting whats going on on screen or updating a status message, and very quickly thereafter keep checking for responses while the nuance, the flavor and the essence of the event occurring at that moment is lost to us. Instead of deeping the engagement it creates a layer of technology interference. I have often spoken of the second screen being as important as the first, one assumes that the people using the second screen are not using it while the main act is being missed on the main screen. It would be downright stupid.

Technology reshapes the landscape of our emotional lives, but is it offering us the lives we want to lead? asks Sherry Turkle in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Overwhelmed by the volume and velocity of our lives, we turn to technology to help us find time. But technology makes us busier than ever and ever more in search of retreat. Gradually, we come to see our online life as life itself. We come to see what robots offer as relationship. The simplification of relationship is no longer a source of complaint. It becomes what we want. These seem the gathering clouds of a perfect storm.

We are beginning to behave like Pavlov's dogs - we need attention and the phone seems to provide it in easily doses, and we say we are bored.

I hear from friends and coworkers that their kids spend a lot of time using the tablets and mobile phones, that these 7/8 year olds are experts in using these devices. My question to them usually is whether their kids read a 20 page book with pictures at a stretch or can they listen to a story narration without getting distracted? I get weird looks. And therein lies the problem, we are so distracted that it is the normal for us and hence it is the normal for our children. Unfortunate that the next generation would not know what it is to lie under a banyan tree and watch the clouds go by and not have the compulsion to let the world know that they saw a dragon and a rabbit being chased by a mouse in the sky.

Further reading:

The crisis of Attention mentioned by Joe Kraus in "Slow Tech" which in the initial minutes illustrates how distracted we really are due to the mobile phones which are constantly buzzing and not letting us complete any one thing in its entirety.

Technology reshapes the landscape of our emotional lives, but is it offering us the lives we want to lead? asks Sherry Turkle in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” - illustrates the loss of ability to absorb nuances and depth in any subject.

(I had to write a shorter version this essay for my assignment for a course that I have taken on - by Professor Owen Youngman, it has been tough to do it when all the phone does is vibrate)