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