Showing posts from August, 2021

August 25 to 28, 2021: The Sounds of the night

August 25 to 28, 2021: The Sounds of the night. Tells you where you are. Tells your life story, because where one is at any moment is the product of story of the person’s life and that moment will be a part of the story a moment later. Where I am is a part of the story of my life and that story is why I am here now. And the sounds of the night become a part of the story, and as the sounds change the story changes. Or is it the other way around? The sound of the story now is the different constant drone of traffic not far from where I am. Cut through by the crickets that are kicking up a racket. A distant voice of a child in play with others. The sounds of accelerating motorcycles. The dogs near and far. This is the sound where I am now. This is the sound where I was a few weeks ago. Another story from the past. That story has different sounds of the night. All of the ones listed and the additional sound of a night guard of the community night patrol. Clanking of cutlery as someone was

August 23 and 24, 2021: There is always a first time

August 23 and 24, 2021: There is always a first time. I am in an industry where the people I have to interact with the most, never change in age. Come pandemic, come conflict, come peace, come whatever, on the first day they are almost all the same age. For nearly two decades. It is as if I am caught in time warp, where my calendar age is going up, the main people around me stay the same, allowing me to ignore my calendar age. This is the cheapest time travel available as every year right around the end of August I enter a worm hole and get transported to a place that seems to stay the same, always. I took a different form of travel many yeas ago on a hot August day when the jet was held in a holding formation over New York. I thought it was a free bird’s eye view of things that were only alluded to in Mad Magazine and seen in the numerous travel agencies that were spread across Chowringhee and Park Street. The Twin Towers. The icon of America – and thus the price paid – was no longer

August 20, 21 and 22, 2021: In preparation

August 20, 21 and 22, 2021: In preparation. There is a sense of anticipation and a nervousness about the future. Masked and ready. In a neighboring University there are already clusters of students being identified with the disease. Mild and thus are being set apart from the others. A frantic email from a student in the class starting on Monday about concessions for Covid. “I do not want to expose others” the email says. The college spectrum is wide. In the session on Friday the youngsters came enthusiastic. All masked, all eager. Some others seem nervous, doubtful. Talking for 30 minutes through a mask, projecting my voice through the cloth, I realized that this will be tricky. I use the disposable surgical masks. Usually worn by medical professionals who do not have to lecture for 90 minutes. These were designed for silence. The OT is not usually a place for lectures. Now the mask has a different application. There is confusion as well. The city has mandated something, and we may hav

August 17, 18, 19 of 2021: And thus the story changes

August 17, 18, 19 of 2021: And thus the story changes. It has been raining a lot. Interrupts the flow of life which has taken on a continuous characteristic where the incredible variety of tasks seem to collapse on the limited time that physics, conniving with biology, allows me. All of a sudden, the narrative of normality has become real. This is not a drill. Real people in real places are doing real things now in the real world. I am dragged out of the virtualized that I inhabited for some time. The lines near the night clubs of Sector 5 are real as a newfound freedom has settled into the city where the limits of freedom have been extended two hours into the night. The limits of freedom are being tested in every space I am connected with. New living space, new mate in the room, roaming the hallways, looking for the laundry, access to a wheelchair, the need for feeding tubes, the restlessness of the uncertainty that awaits us. These things happen in my spaces. Everyone is wanting to b

August 16, 2021: Zoning through meetings

August 16, 2021: Zoning through meetings. Yes, you read it right, not zooming through meetings, but the possibilities that some of us have embraced came alive today. It turned out to be a very long day because the sun always shines where I can be. I seem to have taken on the hybrid, as the World rushes back to the old ways. There is something missing at a meeting that starts at 8 am in the morning. One expects some sugary treats to wash down with the coffee. And there was nothing missing. The treats and the coffee lubricate these meetings. In most cases, the meetings I have to attend turn out to be satisfying for me. Things seem to get done, good people with good intentions usually get things done, after meetings. Today, I was sitting so close to a colleague on one side and my wife on the other side that I had to hide my computer screen from sight to camouflage where I really was. New experience, we always brought portable computers to the meetings. But for nearly 2 years, the laptop i

August 14 and 15, 2021: Memories of mountains and moonshine

August 14 and 15, 2021: Memories of mountains and moonshine. The mist comes down in a strange way as soon as you make that curve next to the nursery. I have noticed this every time I drive on the mountain road that connects the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock. In the Appalachian. Yes, that is a real place and for one full day I was in the real, in the place, in the mountains. It was Saturday, so had to do a quick greeting with the band of bondhus from school, as I excused myself to a sit-down lunch at the familiar restaurant at corner of King and Right. A kind of calm brought on by reassuring signs at the shops stating that all the staff are vaccinated. So we are safe in these mountains, where the air is fragrant with the display of flowers along main street the aroma of meat grilling on the fire – the quintessential burger – the one that works really well with the crispy onion rings and the home cut fried potatoes. That sense of safety is assured by the promise of vaccination and the

August 13, 2021: I posted on Facebook

August 13, 2021: I posted on Facebook. After a long time. You should look at it, it is a lament of a way of life that we are about to lose. I wrote about this life as a theoretical possibility in book chapters in the late 1990s. An idealized cybernetic life. I dreamed about this then, and even earlier. Sitting in a basement with computer consoles. Like in the science fiction movies of the old days. Everything on the screen. Life distilled to the digital. Students on the screen. Bondhus on the screen. WhatsApp as community. Everything a keystroke away. And it became real in March of 2020. I was confined to the hole. First, it was disturbing. But then I saw the screen. And all was good. Multiple screens, multiple places on the screens, multiple people. Tethered to the screen as the music played and I worked. Finished my book. Attended numerous meetings. Conversed on WA with my bondhus. Everyone was always and already there. Now it is about to change. The strains of work in the “real” lif

August 10 to 12, 2021: This is nothing

August 10 to 12, 2021: This is nothing. I am cheating on my writing by collapsing three days into one narrative. But then sometimes the days blend into each other through a cycle of slumber and work that the distinction disappears. From collaborators looking to write papers on the state of social science research in the midst of remote opportunities, to film makers trying to raise money for a worthy project, to preparing for the new arrivals who my wife and I will chaperone for the next year, to the conversations helping a bondhu prepare for vital work, the days just blended into each other. Nothing is defined by time or place. Spent a couple of hours sitting on the stairway connected to people. It just felt nice sitting there and having an important conversation. This all started when a research colleague came up with the idea of including me in a Webinar. Way in the distant past of March 2020. Evidently people liked what I did. And yes, I will say it, “thanks to the pandemic,” I had

August 9, 2021: Its like living in Jurassic Park

August 9, 2021: Its like living in Jurassic Park. There was a famous line in the second movie about the fictional theme park with dinosaurs. The first movie did not bode well for the park, but the people did not learn from the experience, and they went ahead and built a second park where there was a false sense of security and much anticipation. There was a famous line in one of the movies, “Ooh, ah,’ that’s how it always starts. But then later there’s running and screaming.” Because nature, when threatened always finds a way. That was early April in Calcutta. The “ooh” and “aahs” things were good, all OK, then came the middle of April, and early May, and there was the screaming and the deaths. Nature found a way, and our euphoria led to the running and screaming. And today, in the middle of August, we are seeing a lot of the “oohs” as we fearlessly, in Florida, send our children to school without protection. The oohs and aahs. Hopefully the running and screaming will not follow. Would

August 8, 2021: Dog-day afternoon, in a nice way

August 8, 2021: Dog-day afternoon, in a nice way. It was sometimes saddening to see the Golden Retriever being walked in the hot and humid evenings in front of the verandah. As I would sit and try to take in the slight breeze that portended rain, I would hear the walker bring the dog close to our gate and I would step outside and pet the dog. Had built a connection with the animal. Perhaps I still have some lingering odors of Snowy, and other dogs might sense it. My son pointed out that I had really connected with Snowy, unlike what everyone might have expected, and there are moments when we had truly connected, and those habits linger. So, the Golden, who was rather unimaginatively named “Goldie” and I had connected as well. And on this Sunday it was another dog day. First, it was Toby. The camera can make a relatively small animal look large in size and as we bantered on about Covid and other things on the Sunday afternoon, Toby kept coming into the room. I suppose this was meant to

August 7, 2021: Blinded by the blue

August 7, 2021: Blinded by the blue. The brightness of the clear sky always amazes me. The sky seems to be always blue here. As I sat on my familiar spot surrounded by the magnolia and the pines I looked up and was again struck by how the very special signature blue. There is a clarity in the air that seems almost artificial. Far from the maddening crowd, perhaps, because the silence of the morning is shattered by the mechanized mowers that seem to incessantly cut the grass creating an artificial pristine surrounding. Everything needs to be controlled. Systematized. Made boring. The excitement of discovery, the inherent tension of avoiding the Zomato driver as the scooters speed by on both sides of the car is replaced by a discipline that still cannot rein in the numbers that seem to be skyrocketing in some parts. Like a year ago, we are back to the unhappy and unbelievable place where the politics of masking seem to be back in full force. The simple reality of protection of the commun

August 6, 2021: Some days do not matter

August 6, 2021: Some days do not matter. The early mist provided a good backdrop to be driving. The roads were empty at the witching hour when only a selected few would venture out. And I did. Everything seemed far away, irrelevant as one follows the broken white light partially blinded physiologically, and the rest accomplished by the mist. Distant trucks look like a living being emerging from the mist, and then whizzing past leaving a blinding darkness in its wake. Predictably, the eastern sky behind me did wash out with the rising sun. Coffee in hand, messaging bondhus while I watched the sun come up sitting at some unnamed Starbucks somewhere like the many Starbucks that I have visited. A sense of permanence. The golden arches or the green face. Sometimes with my blindness the “Haldiram” placard from the distance seems like “Hardees.” In the instant of recognition, I realized I have again space shifted. It matters to no one but me. I remain available. The 10:30 am chat with one bon

August 5, 2021: The burger

August 5, 2021: The burger. There is something magical about the slightly hard-crusted bun, with soft bread inside, a juicy medium-rare patty, the sliced onions, the soggy lettuce, and the two slides of tomato, with a slice of cheese and adequately smothered with sauces. I lift it, carefully remove the pickled cucumber, and the first bite into it is the closest thing to complete happiness. Followed by the fried potato doused in ketchup. This made my day. Food is connected to places. The parshe maach (parshe fish) with par-boiled rice preceded by Alu posto (potato cooked in poppy seeds) and followed by Misti doi (sweet yogurt) are markers of another place. The pandemic took these pleasures away. The fried potatoes doused in olive-oil from the street vendors of Naples. The fish and chips wrapped in the Times at Camden Town. The pastries in Vienna, and the Pad Thai in Soi 13 in Bangkok. The pandemic has robbed us of these pleasures. Thus, the bite into the burger, at a standard fast-food

August 4, 2021: Don’t drown the drink

August 4, 2021: Don’t drown the drink. I am still baffled by people who would take a perfectly good single malt Scotch, add ice to it, and then fill the glass with water. I saw the bottle weeping and the bar tender looking despondent. But the lounges are now open. The tediousness of the pandemic is wearing off as the airport lounges are opening up and one can actually use the food buffet and not have to be served food in pre-packaged plastic bags. Airports are filling up, there is a sense of living with the pandemic now, and everyone seems to have adjusted to the fact that certain precautions need to continue. The desolate look of airports is disappearing and T3 had a fuller look, more people, going places, more airplanes, more airlines. The lines are lengthening and maintaining distance is a challenge and is not a priority. Masks are easier to do, as is the PPE for the middle seat passengers on certain airlines in certain countries. Those who know me also would know that, like many ot

August 3, 2021: Decisions we feel bad about

August 3, 2021: Decisions we feel bad about. There are always the moments of doubt. Did I do the right thing? People ponder. What if my decision led to harm for someone I care about? These things gnaw at us as we go through life. The loss of a sense of control. The pandemic has brought this forth again and again. What is the correct treatment? What is the correct policy? What is the risk that the decision brings forth? Nearly impossible to answer and dwelling on such issues causes a restlessness that can become a barrier to rational thinking. A bondhu recently said to me, “I believe calm mind can win all situations.” So true. Where does this calmness come from? It is not the “Kata” from our college days. There is no translation for Kata. It is the expression of bravado and rejection of risk assessment. Kata could mean “just let it go “or perhaps a “whatever.” But there is a difference between the calm mind and kata. That is the assessment of risk. When someone is gnawed by a decision i

August 2, 2021: About pain and grief

August 2, 2021: About pain and grief. The pandemic has perhaps allowed us to re-consider what we mean by pain. The disease itself, as I watched it sometimes ago in people I care about, has a component of pain. The discomfort can be from just simply a cold to gasping for breath. It has also reminded of the centrality of death in our lives. How death can come so suddenly or can be a prolonged expensive battle armed with ventilators and other apparatuses. Who finally makes the decision about when to stop? Or is the decision made easier by nature intervening. Many, perhaps a little bit of me also, saw the futilities of extending life by appendages and then still undergoing the pain and the grief, because eventually nature found a way. Now, we are told, there will be no more deaths from the disease. In some places, the delusion that we will no longer die from the disease, leads to conversations about the need for masks. We stand again at a point of inflexion as in some parts of the World th