Wednesday, 26 May 2010

How grey was my valley?

Tapen Chattopadhyay, who played the character of Goopy in Satyajit Ray's Goopy Bagha series passed away a few days back.

The Goopy Bagha films defined children's films in a country where there weren't many. Films you could grow up with as you kept discovering layer after layer each time you saw them. For many of us they were the rare home grown super heroes cum rock stars. Though more in the Asterix quirky, double meaning, genre. This post is not about Goopy Bagha. You can check this excellent post by the Great Bong to get an idea of the phenomenon that was Goopy Bagha if you want to know more.

I first heard about Tapen Chattopadhay's death from a college friend on Facebook. Soon status updates from others of my vintage began to pop up. Culminating with the above blog post which was linked by many including me.

I guess the mid thirties is a strange period. This is when the icons you have grown up with begin to leave you. Bagha, or Robi Ghosh, was long gone. Goopy now joined him to rock the heavens. Michael Jackson thrilled and then shocked and then went away. Others faded away. George Michael was not really a Lady Killer. Aggasi probably not as cherubic. The judo and disco legends disappeared as Mithun and the eighties became a real time spoof. Gavaskar was left peddling DLF Maximums and MRF Blimps after breaking Bradman's records. Kapil Dev sulks in a corner. The mighty Windies is barely ahead of Bangladesh in rankings. Azza went from one murky world to an even murkier one. Becker and grass are both part of history books. For the cows as Lendl said. Maradona is rounder than the ball he fisted in. Bachchan keeps re-iventing himself. Kishore is remixed.

So who fills up the gaps. Do we search for new icons? Where? Amongst those a decade younger than us? Or do we live in reruns?

But then there is always Anil Kapoor who ek do teen'd his way onto the Oscar Stage. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Finely Chopped on Facebook... My experiments with Web 2.0

Warning: Geeky post ahead

I recently opened a Facebook Page for my food blog, Finely Chopped. A blogger friend wrote in today saying that she'd just discovered this page. She said she was wondering why I had stopped putting food updates on Facebook. Till she found the Finely Chopped pages. And then said that this was a good idea as I could reach out to a larger number of like minded people.

So why did I start a Facebook page for the blog.

Well let's go back to more than a decade and a half and about twenty five kilos less to a balmy afternoon in Calcutta's Presidency College. PR or Dr Prasanta Ray, an urban legend and head of our Sociology Department was taking our class. One of those rare teachers who could connect life with education. Reason why I remember a lot of what he had taught then.

PR was discussing the book of a rather intriguingly named Sociologist called Tom Bottomore. If I remember right, Bottomore said that each individual has a number of social concentric circles around him. Friends. Family. Family of procreation or the out laws. Of orientation or birth. Work. And so on. People apparently behave differently in each of these groups and often reflect the image others have of them when living in each circle. So if your parents want you to be studious, you will hide your desires to be a rock star. If your friends thought you you to be a rock star in college then you would play Led Zepp in your car while driving down in pinstripes. If your office doesn't approve of rock stars then you would toe the party line and espouse the values of your company.

PR, without doubt, was a rcok star in his trademark white dhoti and white panjabi and gleaming scalp ... though we did disagree on whether the college should have rock concerts or not. A rare moment of discord.

Mr Bottomore passed away in '92 according to Wiki. No one told us that in 92 -95 when we were in college. But it is interesting to see how some of what he said plays out in the age of web 2.0 and social networking.

So what are the concentric circles that I belong to? Family. Fortunately or not, no one apart from my brother and wife are fellow web denizens. So I can crack all the family jokes that I want to. Friends. A lot of whom I have made in the last couple of years. Folks who are in similar spaces as me in terms of life stage, aspirations, experiences and mind sets. With whom you develop a degree of pleasant warmth. People you look forward to connecting with. In real life and in the virtual world. Work. The stuff which brings the bacon to the table. And, how could I forget, saving the best for the last, food lover, cooking enthusiast, food blogger and the very occasionally commissioned food writer.

How do these translate into social networks? In my scheme of things work should nestle itself in Linkedin. Work relations are professional, most of us have a job to do, often for corporations. Our relations are defined by this context. In my mind these relations are represented by the 'connections' of Linkedin. Want to network, self profile, discuss business, further business, recruit, apply for a job ... go to Linkedin. Work has its boundaries. Linkedin defines this. Things become messy and complicated when the professional steps onto the personal.

Next comes 'friends'. Ideally Facebook is where I would like to connect with them. Remember we are the mid thirties generation. We don't have the time to physically 'hang out'. Web 2.0 is tailor made for us. Problem is that Facebook profiles are public. What works for it goes against it too. I might define friends as "Folks who are in similar spaces as me in terms of life stage, aspirations, experiences and mind sets. With whom you develop a degree of pleasant warmth. People you look forward to connecting with". But the truth is that you have people from work - clients, colleagues, suppliers - those who want to 'network' creeping into your private space of Facebook. Or voices from the hoary past. Whom you might often not recognise as more than a name or a roll number in college or school. Or even less. And strangers - 'mutual friends' - who don't even bother to give a word of introduction but want to be friends. Well, I really doubt if 'friends' could number into hundreds, forget thousands.

And then comes 'food enthusiast'. Finely Chopped is my blog where I hold forth on food. But then blogs are meaningful, weighty, broadcast mediums, not as interactive as Facebook. So I would put a number of food updates on Facebook which might not be on the blog. Then I realised that not all my friends are foodies. Jibes of 'how much do you eat' were common. Which I could understand. After all I don't see the point of those who flood my Facebook pages with songs, ads or worse, internet management and marketing news retweets. To each his or her own. Who am I to judge if you surf the net for work and not porn.

Plus there were unfortunately some pure work contacts in FB. Folks whom I didn't want to actively broadcast my life to. Which is different from them stumbling onto my blog. My blog's not anonymous. That's a call I took and am comfortable with. Just don't want to be seen broadcasting stuff. That's needy

And so my Facebook page was born. With some help from fellow blogger and virtual friend, Pree. I am a tech dinosaur after all. This is a place for food 'lovers' to collect. I don't like the word 'obsessed'. If you like food and people who like food then this is the place to be. Here you will find lots of food. Meals. Recipes. News. Dreams. And a barrage of it. You can choose to be here if you are fine with it. Or, you could choose to not 'like' it. This is not the place to be if food bugs you. As they say, "you shouldn't be in the kitchen if you can't stand the heat".

And here's some geeky stuff on my Facebook experiences for those who came to this post because of an interest in social media rather than food.

  • Finely Chopped, the blog, got about 102 followers after around 2.5 years on Blogspot
  • 100 odd followers after about a year on Twitter
  • 183 'likes' after about 2.5 weeks on Facebook. And daily page views on Finely Chopped went up by about 30 per cent after I opened the Facebook page
I guess amongst the three, Facebook is the best way to connect and broadcast with people of our demographic. The blessed 'Networkers' know that. Pity.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The gravediggers ... Mumbai ravaged

There was a slightly old Economic Times lying around in our bedroom. I glanced upon what was written on it as I was tidying up. The article was about Gollman Sach's take on the BRIC countries. 'I' standing for India. And how these would dominate the word even faster than earlier predicted.

Those of us who work in multinational companies would have possibly come across the spiel about how India is the future and how everyone's excited about the 'India story'. You would have heard the same people going gaga about the service in Jet Airways when they come here. And you are probably reading this post on a state of the art laptop or phone. The latest the world has to offer.

But a look out of the window of your home, office or car shows a very different world outside. And I am not even talking about the in your face poverty. Poverty we have learnt to blank ourselves to. Poverty which bothers us only when an Irishman refers to it while winning making an Oscar winning film.

I am talking of the traffic which gets worse by the day. The sheer lack of civic planning. Monstrous, ungainly flyovers coming up. Walkways which noone will use. Roads being dug for the Metro. And pilars being put up for the monorail. Yes, we are a city in a hurry. But does it all have to be at the same time?

The dust, destruction, construction and desolation gives you the feeling of a war ravaged city. Not that of a city which is the commercial capital of the 'future'. One look at any Asian city, I am not even talking of those of the developed West, and one realises the need for a reality check.

The simplest and most recent example of this insensitivity and lack of civic planning is the Bazar Road beside Balaji restaurant at Hill Road, Bandra. This is a narrow road which connects Bandra to the Sea Link. A road which many take to office in the morning.

Well if you go half way down the road these days you will find that it is closed. In which case you will have to turn back in this single laned road and the result is almost as chaotic as the Indian Parliament in session. Now I am sure that there is a good enough reason to shut the road. But why not put a sign warning people at the beginning of the lane? The simplest thing then would be to turn and take the Mehboob Studio exit.

But then, as T would say, 'where are the hardships'?

My teachers in school used to say that I was a day dreamer. That I would not pay attention to what was happening in class. That I would be lost in my own world. But I must admit that even I am not enough of a dreamer to see any hope amidst the rubble.

It's time to get real.

I know it's Maharashtra Day today. But before you say 'get back to where you belong' and all that stuff let me go on record saying that I am really fond of, and attached to the city. I would speak up for it any day. But I also know that most of us have been badly let down by those who matter. As Forrest Gump would say, that's all I have to say about that.