Monday, December 07, 2015

Recommended Reading: The Secret to My Productivity, or:Thughts about Luxuray and Privilege

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Release Palestinian Poet #Ashraf Fayadh!

Soudi Court sentences Asraf Fayadh to death for his poems

Read Asraf's poems here, and see for yourself if he deserves this punishment for what he has written. and please sign the petition if you think it's a gross injustice to a poet who believes in artists' freedom.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Chorus of voices rises against "Intolerance"

"Today, we live in a country in which, when the thugs and apparatchiks of the New Order talk of “illegal slaughter”, they mean the imaginary cow that was killed — not the real man who was murdered. When they talk of taking “evidence for forensic examination” from the scene of the crime, they mean the food in the fridge, not the body of the lynched man. We say we have “progressed”, but when Dalits are butchered and their children burned alive, which writer today can freely say, like Babasaheb Ambedkar once did, that “to the untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors”, without getting attacked, lynched, shot or jailed? Which writer can write what Saadat Hasan Manto wrote in his “Letters to Uncle Sam”? It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with what is being said. If we do not have the right to speak freely, we will turn into a society that suffers from intellectual malnutrition, a nation of fools. Across the subcontinent it has become a race to the bottom — one that the New India has enthusiastically joined. Here too now, censorship has been outsourced to the mob."

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Is social media real?

"Social media isn't real. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers."
--Essena O'Neil

Monday, November 02, 2015

Gung-ho Chetan Bhagat

"Ever since writers began returning their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against the Narendra Modi government for promoting ‘an atmosphere of hatred’, Bhagat has, at times deploying reasonable wit, scoffed at them for being melodramatic, and inconsequential to most Indians. In the process he has expressed the view of the Modi government. But, if Modi indeed is dismissive of the protest of the scholars he might be making a blunder.

Writers do not need access to the nuclear arsenal to light a fire. What follows the lighting is not in the ambit of prose but in the nature of fire."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

From Svetlana Alexievich's first interview after the Nobel Prize

..everything happens so fast and intensively in the modern world that neither one person nor the whole culture are able to conceive it. It is just too fast, unfortunately. There is no time to sit and think it over, as did Tolstoy, whose ideas matured over decades. Every person, me too, can only try to grasp a small piece of reality, conjecture only. Sometimes I leave only 10 lines out of 100 pages of my text, sometimes one page. And all together these pieces are united in a novel of voices creating the image of our time and telling what is happening to us

Friday, October 09, 2015

Does this year's Nobel Prize in literature send a message to Kremlin?

CL: What sort of message does her victory send to the Kremlin, or to Minsk?
KG: It says, you may have tanks and airplanes, but we give out the Nobel Prize!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A bestseller can be manufactured

One agent recently said to me, “I believe a bestseller can be completely manufactured. All you have to do is print 250,000 copies of the book and make it your lead title and push it down readers’ throats, and they’ll buy it.” And the agent was basically right. Bestsellers often happen because (1) the author’s name is one the populace recognizes, so they buy the book without scrutiny, or (2) the book is just visible everywhere (every bookstore, in Target, Walmart, etc.), so a reader thinks, Hmmm, this book is everywhere—maybe I should see what the fuss is about, or (3) it’s a Fifty Shades of Grey situation where it takes off for any strange reason (in this case, I think, the lack of a breakout erotic mainstream book in many years and the fascination [naughtiness!] that came with that), so a reader thinks, Hmmm, this book is everywhere—maybe I should see what the fuss is about. So right there we’ve examined three possible ways for a book to become a bestseller without the writer having oodles of talent. But again, this is a massive gray area (like the book—ha), because you look at a book like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, and that was just another contemporary YA debut that came out and kind of piddled along sales-wise. But it was really good, and word of mouth slowly slowly slowly drove it to the bestseller list, where it has remained for years. So that is a case of a bestseller that I attribute to talent.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why are dictators afraid of writers?

 You ask: why is this appearing in this particular manner, and not in another manner? Then you start to investigate and understand it. You see the logic you couldn’t see at first. Then you start to unravel everything. You reconstruct and deconstruct reality, by breaking myths, lies, clichés, and propaganda. That’s why dictators are afraid of writers.

--Hamid Ismailov 

Saturday, September 19, 2015


"Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bo Sacks on Native Advertising

 I find it a despicable practice. I think it’s a path to dupe the common reader. I really believe that, over a period of time, the public will wise up to what’s being done and there’ll be a backlash against those publications that do it, including the New York Times.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Facebook awards me Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand US dollars!

I signed up with Facebook eons ago, and have stopped using it long since. But my page still exists, and if you see any new posting on my page, it's done by Twitter on my behalf. Yet surprisingly Facebook chooses to award me for just being a user.

Let me elaborate.

I got this e-mail from Facebook Office at 10-56 pm (Indian Standard Time) on September 15, 2015.

Facebook is one of the largest Social Networking site which valued more than $100 Billion Dollars and also expecting its One Billion Users to come mainly from Mobile devices than desktop Users by this year 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has decided to boost Users and Companies a WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY by Lottery Program and Initial Public Offer said in a press release.
It has been reported by our cyber crime monitory unit that, so many atrocities are been carried out by corrupt staffs of the Facebook company parading them self as legitimate agents of Facebook lottery organization there by making use of this medium to tarnish the name of this company.
Based on this note, a meeting was held yesterday to deliberate seriously on issues of such so as to curb the incessant incidents of fraud with the help of the FBI IC3 Cyber Crime Division and the Interpol. Just recently After much investigations, we found some files of unclaimed winners and having gone through them one after the other, we found your payment file which is why we are contacting you right now.
We are pleased to inform you of the result of our Middle Year DRAW held on (14th SEPTEMBER, 2015) by Facebook Company in cash Promotion to encourage the usage of Facebook users world wide, your Name and Email was among the 35 Lucky winners who won US$350,000.00 USD each on the Face book promotion Award Attached to Ref#(2551256002/244) and Serial Number# (55643451907).
The online draw was Conducted by a random selection of email you where picked by an Advanced automated random computer search from the Facebook in other to claim your US$350,000.00 USD the lottery program which is a new innovation by Facebook, is aimed at saying A BIG THANKS to you all our users for making Facebook your number one Social Networking to hook up with your families and friends all over the World.

It is my pleasure to inform you that ATM Master Card Number: 8731 2001 8747 3215 have been approved in your favor, The ATM Card Value is US$350,000.00 (Three Hundred and fifty Thousand United States Dollars) You are advised that a maximum withdrawal value of $5,000.00 USD is permitted on withdrawal per day and are duly Inter Switch so you can make withdrawal at any ATM locate Center of your choice around the world.
You are required to come down to our cooperate head quarters at the address below to claim your prize in person within 3-banking days with a proof of identification and a print out copy of this notification.
But in a case where by you can not travel due to time factor,Please do confirm that you will take responsibility for the cost of delivery.

Facebook Corporate Office & Headquarters
1601 Willow Road Menlo Park, CA 94025
Tel:(252) 392 -8056
However for the purpose of proper verification among other relevant information,it is imperative that you supply us with the following requirements;
Legal First and Last Name:
Complete Residential Address & Age:
Direct Telephone No & Fax:
Legal Occupation and Position:
Address of Occupation:
E-mail address:
On behalf of the entire board of committee we sincerely apologies for the mishap this must have caused you in the past. If you are not interested please do not bother to reply and CONGRATULATIONS ONCE AGAIN FROM FACEBOOK!!!!
Frank W. Thomas
Promo Co-ordinator
Phone:+1 (252) 392 -8056

I wish it were not a scam. Time for Mark Zuckerberg to act.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Literature as role-play

Many authors make an effort to have an almost surgical incision between life and writing: they continue to write stories that are completely abnormal and disconnected from their life, experiences, authority, even from their fears and desires—and it begs the question, then why do they write them?—and on the other hand they carry out their lives filled with work, family, free time, etc. They’re like do-it-yourselfers, they treat literature as a hobby, and they dismiss it as a mere instrument to furnish their personal ambitions with a little extra touch of aesthetics. For example, the academic who publishes a noir novel increases the charm of his very-respectable-but-perhaps-somewhat-sterile position. To honor oneself with the title of writer carries with it a career that might seem too categorical, too meager, too singularly devoted to principles of socially operative pragmatism; to be an attorney and a writer, a teacher and a novelist, a doctor and a poet, etc., is often the ideal power marriage in its most sinister manifestation. Literature as role-play may even at times reach a very refined level, but ultimately it’s no more than role-play with all the stories, the scenes, and the emotions each playing a role. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Towards Injustice

Today we seem to be running in the opposite direction, striving towards injustice, applauding it as though it’s a worthy dream, a goal, an aspiration, and the terrible tragedy of India is that the caste system has institutionalised injustice, made it a sacred thing. So we are programmed to accept hierarchies and injustice. It’s not that other societies are just. Other societies have been through wars and genocide on an incredible scale. I am just talking about the imagination of our society. What can one do, how do we rail against it? Many of us do what we do, knowing that even if no one’s listening, even if we never win, though we want to, badly, we’d rather go down on the other side than be a part of this victory march that is really a death march.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Review : Internet is My Religion by Jim Gilliam

Recently I read "Internet is My Religion" by Jim Gilliam. It's a wonderful memoir by a tech-geek who is a devout-Christian-turned atheist, an activist and committed to "connected humanity".

I've loved the book so much that I posted a review of the book in the Medium.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Recommended reading: The Web We Have to Save

When the Web started, you loved it for its hypertext and hyperlink, but these are almost gone now. What you see now is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other social media.  Outside of social media, the Web is dying a slow death. Centralization now replaces democratization which characterized the earlier web. The apps that you use, use you for data which are used to sell products to you. Is it this Web that you wanted?

 Hossein Derakhshan has a great article in Medium on the web - then and now.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Death of A Patient

When the first phone came, he was sick with fever and pain in the abdomen. The second call, barely twenty four hours later, told he was dead.

I was shocked. I found it hard to believe. The death was awaiting as it were between two phone calls.

The caller, his son, elaborated: Since you said you would not go to clinic, we took him straight to hospital. The doctor in the emergency administered an injection, and he died then and there.

I didn't detect any hint of complaint in his tone. But I had sort of guilt feeling. After all, he was my long-time patient and always sought my advice when he or any member of his family would fall ill.

But what followed his death was more intriguing. I had this account from my clinical assistant.

As the news of his death spread, the ruling party wanted to pay its last homage to him. He was one of its local leaders but I didn't know about it.  In fact, I thought he was a leftist. May be he he shifted camp after the regime had changed.

It took all of the night to get prepared for the occasion. When the party members shepherded by the local MLA reached the hospital with wreath, flowers and all, the hospital authorities had already shifted the body to the morgue.

So they went to the morgue and retrieved the body from the heap. The body was way swollen and disfigured beyond recognition and what was more, the air around and over it was heavy and smelly and hard to breathe.

It's needless to further go ahead with the narrative.

What a death!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's mystery all over around vit D

Vit D is the new craze in medical science today. Most pharmaceutical companies are now out for making a killing out of this trend. You would now see a plethora of seminar or CMEs being held at big city hotels organised by different companies, where the eminent doctors speak to their listening colleagues on the benifits of vit D.

Nothing wrong with it, apparently. But I was surprised when yesterday at such a seminar at HHI, Kolkata, a lady speaker claimed that every Indian - herself included - today suffers from vit D deficiency. Such a sweeping claim unsupported by any worthy data evoked no critical response from the audience. I felt like blurting out, but in such a formidable milieu, I could not summon up the courage.

Not so long ago, I remembered, in another seminar organized by yet another company at a differnt five-star, two eminent endocrinologists concluded that there is not enough data to prove that Indians are suffering from vit D deficiency that much because it's the land of sunshine and Indians still get a lot of expose to sun, the main source of vit D.

The speakers of yesterday's seminar - among them the legendary M.S.Ghosh - trotted out a quite opposite line. In fact, they advocated to the doctors that all patients should be given vit D irrespective of age or ailment.

The doctors had visibly bought the speakers' mandate before they turned to cocktail dinner.

It's mystery all over around vit D. What's the truth, I wonder.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Arundhati Roy on India's new Land Acquisition Bill

Oh, I missed it. The Hindu published an illuminating interview with Arundhati Roy in May.

The corporate land grab is the fundamental drive of the new economy. Whether they are IT, coal or steel companies, the first move is to take over and then control land and water resources. The notion that you must allow them to do it and that will generate jobs is a myth. The statistics say that we are only seeing ‘jobless growth.’”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Study of Literature=Study of Data?

The study of literature is becoming, or has already become, the study of data. Every Dickens novel has been mined, every Nabokov character described as having phallically long toes has been tagged. Deconstruction—unconscious betrayal, or betrayal by the unconscious—is for the microchips now.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Racing has not stopped in Kolkata. Dr A Chakrabarty told us while we were moving in a car by the side of the race ground. It’s still here, but once a month or so.

I read somewhere that racing had been banned. Is it in Mumbai or somewhere? Anyway, Kolkata’s racing horces are still running.

In a similar way, anatomy dissection, which somebody told me has stopped, is still there. Dr Mondal, an assistant professor of medicine, Sagar Dutta Medical college, confirmed me his medical students were practising it in their classes. They import the body from R G KAR Medical college or somewhere.

Of course I’m ignorant and  not savvy enough these days.

Ashamed to admit that I didn’t know early morning urine is best for detection of albumin. The British speaker at Taj Bengal auditorium further enlightened me by saying that  the patient must not take any protein-rich diet for three days, must not suffer from any infection or fever before his urine is taken for examination.

It’s the most inexpensive test for albumin, he said(The British still cares about patients’ expenses).

RN Tagore Hospital charges 50,000 rupees each day if your patient is on ventilation. Apollo takes 70,000 rupees for the same thing.

Dr Chakrabarty said, “Mamata should close these hospitals, if she wants to keep her mark in health-care.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Recommended reading: Pankaj Mishra-Aman Sethi conversation on politics of aspiration, Narendra Modi and future of journalism

Neo-liberalism creates its own human subjectivity. So everyone – whether writers, cotton farmers or mere tweeters – is supposed to turn into an entrepreneur now, set up their own stall in the marketplace, compete and clash with other entrepreneurs – the day is not far when everyone will be expected to float individual IPOs! The overall result is a culture of aggressive selfishness, envy, rancour and animosity, which eventually exhausts and corrodes its participants from within.  I find it extraordinary and deeply depressing that the idea of caring about the weak is scorned as ‘socialist’ by many rich and powerful Indians today – derided as the pitiable obsession of deluded jholawallahs. The caste system was bad enough in encouraging callousness; we have also bought into this bogus neoliberal ideology of meritocracy, which exempts many people from thinking about the disadvantaged and underprivileged.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Svetlana Alexievich on Russian media

Of course, Russian television perverts people. Journalists of Russian media should be tried for what they are saying. For what they are saying about Europe, Donbas and the Ukrainians. It's not just that people want to hear it. We can say today about a collective Putin that lives inside every Russian.We have faced the situation when the Red Empire disappeared, but people were left.

Friday, May 22, 2015

International writers' call for justice for murdered bloggers

We were shocked and horrified by last week’s murder of 32-year-old blogger and editor Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death on his way to work by a masked gang wielding machetes in the city of Sylhet on 12 May. Prior to his death, Ananta Bijoy Das had reportedly received a number of death threats from Islamist militants, and his name had appeared in two assassination lists published in the Bangladeshi media, alongside those of other secular bloggers described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.'

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Social media "a tool of silencing"!

“The fear of causing offence, the fear of ruffling the careful layers of comfort, becomes a fetish.  As such, the goal of many public conversations in the United States “is not truth … [it] is comfort”.
-Chimamanda Adichie  at 2015 PEN World Voices Festival

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Haruki Murakami on Terrorism

The biggest issue right now is that borders are disappearing. We have this thing called terrorism, like an integrated organism spreading across borders. This problem cannot be solved with Western European logic or strategy. They say they are destroying “terrorist nations” but by suppressing them with force, they merely make the terrorists disperse. I lived in the United States during the Iraq War, and was particularly stunned by the superficiality of the media’s reporting of it. Or perhaps I should say, the dangers of “American justice.” In the long run, what’s happening in the Western world now is the meltdown, diffusion and extinction of that logic. This process started from around the time the Berlin Wall fell.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Salman goes to jail!

Amused and a little surprised by Salman Khan being sentenced to jail for five years in the hit-and-run case. It seems like something hard to believe. But things like this happen, I know, Judgement from the court, I mean.

I found it hugely interesting when I read in the newspaper about a person claiming that he, not Salman, was at the driver's shit on that night, and whatever shit happened that night, he owed responsibility for that. It was of course the last desperate attempt to save Salman, the hunk hero, behind whom the entire Bollywood and a part of the powers-that-be stood by with their clout and resources. Sometime  before the last LokSabha election, Salman, as far as I remember, joined the BJP bandwagon to actively help Narendra Modi  in his victory. But this also doesn't work.

 It's interesting again that none is celebrating over the judgement, not even the victims (they would like more compensation instead). Rather there is a gloom in the media and elsewhere, which goes to validate my pet theory that things around us are going shit everyday.

But I liked the moment when Justice Deshpande announced: it's you who was driving that night. It was the moment of reckoning, and who would challenge the truth? There must have been a stunned silence at the courtroom at that moment.

Thank you, Justice Deshpande, for your intrepid verdict. You'r my world. I adore you.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Arundhati Roy on Vinod Mehta

Anyway, he’s gone now, and with him perhaps the era of the intractable, unpredictable, idiosyncratic editor. Not because there aren’t idiosyncratic folks around any more, but because we live in a climate where it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to function. The outpouring of grief at his passing by all kinds of people, including those who are professionally his polar opposite, seems to be as much for him as for the end of idea of the independent-minded editor. In some ways it must be seen as a credit to Outlook’s proprietors that they made room for a maverick like Vinod Mehta, despite being targeted and having their offices raided several times. As for the rest of us, while we grieve for Vinod, we cannot give up on the possibility that there can be independent editors in future too.

I will miss Vinod very much. He played such an important part in my life as a writer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stand up for Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand!

"We are shocked at the tone of some of the media coverage, especially in some television news channels. These have made a bonfire of the basic principle of fairness and due process, which is the presumption of innocence. They have also shown more than the usual aversion to understanding issues of complexity, though these are not matters that would challenge more than the average intelligence.”
- from a statement by Irfan Habib, Pravat Patnaik and other intellectuals
via The Citizen

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spielberg on freedom of religion, speech and expression

If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, you know that like many other groups we’re once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance. Anti-semites, radical extremists and religious fanatics that provoke hate crime – these people that want to, all over again, strip you of your past, of your story and of your identity, and just as we talk about our personal histories and what makes us who we are, these people make their own points. Facebook pages, for instance, identifying Jews and their geographic locations with the intention to attack, and the growing effort to banish Jews from Europe.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

A Political Party or a Club?

How does one get a membership of a political party?

Forget if you're ideologically fit.  There's no stringent acid test to prove for your efficiency or integrity.

It's hugely simple actually: You have to just shell out 50,000 bucks to qualify for its membership. And it's for lifetime.

The party referred to here is India's - Bengal's, to be more specific - Trinamool Congress run by Ms. Mamata Banerjee, already a controversial figure, for her ideas and actions. which are no less controversial.

Now, do you know of any party in India or world which has such a strange policy of membership?

What's your take on it? 


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