Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The room in the elephant

Mastodon — or to be precise, mastodon.social, which is the only part of the 'Fediverse' I've explored at all — feels a lot like early Web.

Before 'social networks' were named thus. Before Ryze or Orkut, which for many Indians were their first steps into the ocean. Before even blogs. When there were communities, and it felt… right. When "assume goodwill," to steal friend Udhay Shankar's advice to members of a certain list, seemed perfectly natural. (To be clear, I only met Udhay comparatively recently. When I did see that succinct phrase, those words leapt out at me; they described what I had been looking for then — and often I found it — and continue to search for today.)

These communities of choice formed in ad hoc ways. Lists (which of course were pre-Web, and to which I came late), chat rooms (which I jumped into enthusiastically, over-enthusiastically), even comment sections when they came up. And, as someone pointed out to me, guest books and the like. It took some time and effort to find your peeps and keep track of them.

Geocities was the first, if I recall right, to create infra of a sort for this. (Raise hands if you had a homestead.) Then came LiveJournal, which I totally missed out on, and then other early purpose-built networks and the "blogosphere," which I put in quotes because it already feels like a bygone era. And now, of course, social media seems ubiquitous, inescapable.

In this deluge of information, Mastodon.social feels calmer. Like starting over. The rules of engagement, formal or informal, are sane, and moderation is firm and decisive. I see 'influencers' fumbling around, some adding 'verified' symbols to their handles because Mastodon doesn't have them. I also see folks who are confident in their worth, being helpful, reaching out, not standing on their celebrity dignity. I see names from long ago, people who sort of withdrew from the hurly-burly (or maybe just from my ken, as I morphed).

Perhaps, this won't last.. Perhaps server loads will get too high to keep membership free. Perhaps traffic will be too frenetic for moderators to keep track of. Perhaps.

For now, this is refreshing. And fun.


If you haven't tried the water yet, come on in.


Friday, 8 November 2019

Trunk call

Yeah, so I'm on Mastodon.

If you want to join this 'instance' of Mastodon and follow me, use this link.

Both are invitations to mastodon.social — which is the most popular but also only one of many ways to use Mastodon — but you don't have to do either to use Mastodon. You could, instead, go to Join Mastodon and get an overview and then choose from any of a vast number of instances of Mastodon. Think of it — in a limited way — like email: I could have Gmail, you could have Yahoo Mail (but why would you?), but we can still write to each other. You can even set up your own instance of Mastodon if you have a server and are feeling hospitable. And then later, if you want to, look me up.

Here are links to intros to Mastodon at PC Mag and LifeHacker (the later's a bit dated, referring to a tool that lets you look up your Twitter followers, but Twitter's changed it's API, so the tool no longer exists.)

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Requiem for a paper

And for another Saturday of my life, a few stray thoughts and a few general observations and a few points of view (all my own work).

Like it’s sad that The Afternoon Despatch and Courier will bring out its last edition today, 34 years and change since it first hit the stands.

Like so many of us blithely defected from Mid-Day just to follow the writing of Behram Contractor, its founding editor and most popular columnist under the nom de plume Busybee.

Like it was a talisman for people my age, the first paper we bought ourselves, sharing its pages and collaborating over the crossword in the canteen of an evening, later reading it on the train home when we were earning salaries and could afford personal copies and could properly, to steal the verb today’s young people use, ‘adult.’

Like we who lost the afternoon paper habit to getting our news on the Internet even as our parents continued to get printing ink on their hands every morning were complicit on The Afternoon’s demise and so we can hardly complain, but we will, like this writer, nevertheless mourn our victim.

Like the paper hosted a galaxy of reporters and writers over time, many of them role models to your correspondent, some of them now people one has met personally and liked, their bylines remembered long after one first read them.

Like no one wrote about Bombay and its people and their foibles and graces, their mannerisms and addictions, with as much affection and gentle humour as he did, some have come close since, but only that. And yes, not many knew its food, from the humblest snack to the poshest spread, as he did.

Like while one can reproduce Busybee’s signature starting lines for his Saturday column and begin every paragraph with ‘like’ as homage, as many have, and many will do now to mark the passing of his paper, it’s really not possible to write like him without having lived his life; there’s a reason why a word often found before his name is ‘inimitable.’

Like this was supposed to be about the newspaper, but it has turned out being about Mr Contractor.

Like, perhaps this was why the paper was not the same after Mr C passed away.

Like it was somehow inevitable that a picture of an internal notice announcing the paper’s closing has been doing the rounds on social media way before any formal news of it appeared anywhere.

Like it was nevertheless sad that that notice was signed by the publisher’s commercial manager not the editor.

Like one hopes that the staff whose services ‘stands terminated w.e.f. 19th July 2019’ had read the writing on the wall before the notice on the softboard and have found new jobs.

And this final point of view. Today’s young people are not reading print newspapers much; but they are reading, and reading a lot; it’s just that their eyes are rivetted to small screens and we who make a living in text media have not yet learnt out how to get them to pay to read us. And more loved papers will die while we try to figure that out.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Dystopian Rhapsody

Is this the real life?
Is this Republic TV?
Won in a landslide;
No court will call us guilty.

Open the door
Of your refrigerator:
Oo meat!
I’m just a गौ boy,
You get no sympathy,
Because this is not the north-east,
There they can eat more cow
Because there we’re winning now.
Kerala तो is all commie, commie.

मामा, we lynched a man.
Broke his door down, then his head,
Threw some bricks and now he’s dead.
मामा, who needs a gun?
See, now they’re all scared and running away.

मामा, ooh,
Did you hear the sickulars cry?
If it’s grief for Muslims, is it sorrow?
Carry on, carry on.
As if minorities matter.

Oh hell, real war might come,
When I yelled that battle-cry
I meant you should die, not I
Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you at the front I need to wee.

मामा, ooh
(The winds of war blow)
I don’t wanna fight,
Just sometimes want television rating points.

I see a camouflage-cap-wearing wanker:
News anchor, news anchor, will you do the flak jacket?
Studio graphics,
Very, very scary pix
Eeee!
(Goswami-o) Goswami-o.
(Goswami-o) Goswami-o,
Shivshankar Navika
O TRP-ee-ee-ee-ee.

I’m just a गौ boy, nobody’s देवर.
He’s just a गौ boy from a poor परिवार.
Spare him his life from the actual army.

You know I died in ’64?
Jawahar! Ho, you do not understand. (Understand!)
Jawahar! You’re our only plan. (Only plan!)
Jawahar! Take the blame old man. (Blame the man!)
You and all your clan. (Rename their plans!)
Just because we can. (Because, because, because, because we can!)
Oh oh oh oh
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh, Nehru-mian, Nehru-mian (We’ll use you till ’24.)
Maybe by then we’ll also go after Gandhi! Gandhi! Gandhi!

So you think you can stop us from re-election?
We’ll win and we’ll change the constitution.
Oh, baby, remove ‘secular,’ baby,
Then ‘democratic,’ just gotta get five more years.

(Ooooh, ooh yeah, ooh yeah)

India is in tatters,
Anyone can see.
The rich are getting fatter,
That’s what really matters
To me.

Can you feel war winds blow?

Sunday, 10 March 2019

We are WhatsAppians

I’ve got my phone
I’ve got the time
Can’t write a sentence
That’s not a crime
Can copy-paste
So sucks to you
I’ve hit ‘Share’ and sent to all my groups
And it’s gone through

(And I can go on and on and on and on)

We are WhatsAppians, my friends
And we’ll keep forwarding till the end
WhatsApp historians
Our tones are stentorian,
No time for research
’Cause we’re not really sapiens; hello world!

I’ve taken my vows
I’ll make India tall
I’ll mix up science and stories and reproduce as fact what’s myth
And then ‘Send all’
No I have no neuroses
No self-worth issues
I’m attractive to all around after I’ve had some booze
And I’ll always amuse

(And I just need go on and on and on and on)

We are WhatsAppians, my friends
And we’ll keep forwarding till the end
India we glory in
Our phones Chinese or Korean
No time for fact check
’Cause we’re not really sapiens; hello world!

We are WhatsAppians, my friends
And we’ll keep forwarding till the end
We are WhatsAppians
We are WhatsAppians
No use for AltNews
’Cause we’re Whatsappians

We are the weird

There comes a time
When we heed the WhatsApp call
When the weird must come together as one
Infocell is saying
Oh, it’s time to type a tweet
’Bout him, the greatest mard of all

Stop watching porn
Pretending we’re at work
And someone, somewhere thinks we’re all cool
We’re all a part of our great big parivar
And the truth, I mean cow, is all we need

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay
Just for this tweet

Oh, type them out fast
So the rest of us can share
And mantris will jump in and retweet
Demigod has shown us
That throwing stones at heads
Is just another bailable offence

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay,
Just for this tweet

When there’s no template, and no Infocell call
Make up some shit, curse the Congis, have a ball
Well, well, well, well, let us tell some lies
Oh, the bhakts will surely come
And we’ll game algorithms as one, yeah, yeah, yeah

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay,
Just for this tweet

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay, just for this tweet

We are the weird (are the weird)
We are the paid trolls (are the paid trolls)
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting (so let’s start tweeting)
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay, just for this tweet

Oh, let me hear you!

We are the weird (are the weird)
We are the paid trolls (are the paid trolls)
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting (so let’s start tweeting)
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay, just for this tweet

[repeat chorus until it trends]

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Bumpy and Western song

Almost ’leven, Lower Parel
Traffucked as ever, full of party people
Air is soiled there, they ain’t got no trees
Building jostle buildings, cutting out the breeze

Potholed roads, take me home
To the flat I do not own
Get me an Uber, even Ola
Take me home, bumpy roads

Battery’s low now, b-pack’s empty
Should’ve plugged in while we were still drinking
I might have to take a kaali-peeli
Worse, the local, with the hoi polloi

Come on app cab, take me home
To the flat I do not own
Lokhandwala, 1 BHK
Take me home, bumpy roads

Nakabandhi, breathalysers oh FMG
Oh why did I, remind me, move to this bloody Bombay
Lurching down the road I remember
That I am very late on my EMIs, EMIs

Potholed roads, take me home
To the flat I do not own
In Wadala, please don’t judge me
Take me home, bumpy roads

Bumpy roads, take me home
To the flat I do not own
In Vikhroli, at least it’s not Vashi
Take me home, potholed roads

Take me home, down potholed roads
Take me home, down bumpy roads

Apologies to John Denver.
Sing along: Karaoke version

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Where have all the flowers gone?

Where has mother nature gone, long time passing?
Where has mother nature gone, long time ago?
Where has mother nature gone?
She lost to progress, poor old girl
Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

Where has all the progress gone, long time passing?
Where has all the progress gone, long time ago?
Where has all the progress gone?
Gone to rich men, every one
Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

Where have all the rich men gone, long time passing?
Where have all the rich men gone, long time ago?
Where have all the rich men gone?
Seeking tax breaks, every one
Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

Where have all the tax breaks gone, long time passing?
Where have all the tax breaks gone, long time ago?
Where have all the tax breaks gone?
Into foundations, every one
Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Where has all the funding gone, long time passing?
Where has all the funding gone, long time ago?
Where has all the funding gone?
Greening the planet, every one
Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

Friday, 21 September 2018

Drag

At a Blank Noise silent walk a few years ago, we strolled down the Carter Road promenade holding placards making statements about street sexual harassment. (I forget what my placard said.)

As we walked, I noticed something… different about the way the evening walkers looked at me. About halfway through, I got it. When we walk in public places, we unconsciously meet eyes, signalling the way we pass each other; that wasn’t happening. Every eye I passed was looking at my chest.

That’s the closest I’ve got to experiencing what itfeels like to walk our streets as a woman.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Unfit

“Where’s today’s 100?”
“But I wrote a piece today! Stayed up all night to do it!”
“So, that’s like you did a formal event today, so no workout?”
“Yeah, I mean this was strenuous. The recording file got corrupted, and I had to struggle through my notes. And you know how bad my handwriting is.”
“Okay, so how many words did you write?”
“800ish.”
“Poor baby. Was it tough?”
“Struggled right through. Maybe I was sleepy. But I had committed to have it ready.”
“So you can’t write smooth and fast? You’re out of shape? More riyaaz, perhaps?”
“FUCK. Fine.”