Archive for December, 2009

Spiritual Environmentalist

Sunday, December 6th, 2009 December 6th, 2009 Praveen Bose

Listening to a man or a woman in ochre robes has often seemed to me the favourite pastime. If you put in a man in flowing beard, the better.

They hold forth on subjects as varied as environment, science, astronomy, physics, and of course the favourite, Philosophy. I had to to be present at a ’satsang’ of one such person who all referred to as ‘Swamiji’. I was fascinated by how riveted people were to their chairs though he seems to be reeling out one science fact another, I am sure, he picked up from the daily newspapers (hail journalists!).

He was particularly interested in discussing, or rather speaking, about the Copenhagen summit that is just round the corner. More fascinating is that the audience turned to him to get their facts right and to check if global warming was all true in the first place. His advice: “Please follow the run-up to the Copenhagen summit more keenly. Read up more.”

More fascinating was that the listeners believed that he was more informed and was capable of finding or suggesting solutions to the ills dogging the planet.

Climate change is the in subject, he said, so we shall “discuss more of that”. So, go veggie, as people in the West with their non-vegetarian diet are destroying the world. “Do you know how much of resources you require to produce just 1 kg of red meat?” He seemed particularly interested in fighting red meat eaters. He seemed OK with those who ate other types of non-vegetarian food.

He seemed more keen on putting the West on the mat.

Wish he had advised the well-heeled listeners who had come in their flashy fuel-guzzling cars, to junk them for fuel-sippers or to take to public transport. Alas! That was not to be. He would then probably have fewer people people coming to listen to him.

How I was virtually defriended!

Friday, December 4th, 2009 December 4th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi


I have more than 1500 “connections” on Twitter, about 350 plus “friends” on Facebook, another 500-odd “contacts” on LinkedIn. I thought, until now, that it meant I’m popular and people wanted to be connected/befriend me. Oh boy, I was wrong.

Last week I encountered “this one woman” on one of the 15-plus discussion groups I belong to on LinkedIn. This “woman” had some very interesting ideas about digital marketing and branding opinions that I agreed with, so I sent her an invitation to join my network on the professional networking site. Promptly, I got an e-mail saying, “Thanks for the invite but I connect with people I know and hopefully our paths will cross one day.

I read and re-read the mail with a sense of disbelief and the thought that echoed in my head was “Oh, crap. I’ve been rejected.” It just didn’t sink in. I had an itch to mail the woman back and ask her why she did that, but I soon forgot all about the mail.

Next day, a random check on my Facebook profile told me that I have 10 “friends” less. (Since I had managed to round off my friend-count on Facebook to 350, I remembered the figure). As of today, I have just 330 friends left on my Facebook. All I could think was didn’t people t want to be “friends” with me anymore? Was my popularity declining or what?

That night, I went back to the internet and dug out a report that told me that social networking sites are common grounds to “dump online relationships” since the awkwardness is minimized while maintaining users’ privacy. In fact, according to Urban Dictionary, defriending is often seen as passive-aggressive behavior – ending a friendship without having to confront the person in question.

Having read all the “social behavior” explanation, I was no where close to feeling comforted. So, next best option for me was - revenge. We are fast approaching towards the end of the year, so I decided that my resolution for 2010 would be to remove strangers with whom I am no longer in contact on my social networks. This way I get to keep my number of friends down and build a quality of existing friendships online.

When social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, began their rise to popularity, users seemed to race to add as many friends as possible, in an indiscriminate manner, perhaps out of curiosity to find out what acquaintances were up to, or maybe just to be seen as popular online. Although I wouldn’t go as far as to claim that I have never added strangers on my social networking networks, but I have made sure that I added people who were either an acquaintance of any of my real life friends/family.

But now, its time I start defriending a few.

Everyone should love a good recession

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 December 3rd, 2009 J Jagannath

“I don’t understand business and I don’t even want to because my math is atrocious. I am into features. End of discussion,” said a female friend of mine, who is a writer at a leading fashion magazine. I found this, the way you perceive, statement or confession, scandalous. Here’s why.

I am sure there must be many more like my friend, who are blithely unaware of the recession that befell on everyone in the recent past. However, let me limit my rant to my friend as she is in the field of journalism and, more importantly, she’s a features writer.

In journalistic parlance features are the articles that are not essentially newsy, are discursive and more contemplative than the spot news. In the last 20 months the best features have been on the meltdown. Vanity Fair, arguably one of the best fashion magazines, had incisive reportage on AIG, Alan Stanford and Bernie Madoff’s fall to disgrace. Onion, the parody newspaper, known for its headlines replete with banana peel humour and cerebral content, had a story on how the pins industry is thriving in the wake of recession.

According to the story, due to the pink slips and various kind of foreclosure notices that have to be stuck up for viewing, pins were used left, right and centre. Isn’t this a feature story? At least the people who visited the newspaper’s site thought so and it was the top story for weeks. Consider this Financial Times story- every major financial institution that went belly up in the US had a Starbucks outlet, the US equivalent of India’s Cafe Coffee Day, around the corner. How is something as innocuous as a cafe be in cahoots with the men, whose glutton-like appetite for money was unprecedented? All the paper work for those insidious junk bonds called credit debt obligations was done sitting in the cafe’s plush settings. A simplistic story yes but a thought-provoking one too.

How can my friend be immune to the fact that this downturn made words like ‘toxic wife’, ’stimulus’, ‘deficit’ part of the urban patois? How can she repudiate the reality when the fashion designers had recession wear as the flavour of the season? Financial Times and Wall Street Journal are financial newspapers but they have the best fashion coverage among all the global newspapers.

Business journalism invariably involves a lot of math, which for the uninitiated might look discombobulated. That doesn’t preclude you from knowing the bare minimum. How else would you appreciate Matt Taibbi’s damning article on Goldman Sachs in a recent Rolling Stone issue, which is, well, a music magazine. Taibbi’s no-holds-barred article deconstructs the entire facade of the Wall Street giant in his inimitable fashion. He used swear words in the article in such a way that Martin Scorsese’s expletive-laced dialogues sound like sermon on the mount.

I am not asking my friend to wade through the alphabetical pool of CDO, TARP, AIG, NINJA and what not and come up trumps on the other side by understanding the nature of the beast that shaved at least $3 trillion money from banks and myriad financial organisations. All I am telling her is that when you are wedged between the Wall Street and Main Street, just make sure you don’t slip through the cracks.