Author: ContentMatters

A media professional and a keen observer of the shifting shapes of content and those who make it.

The New World is coming

Breaking habits is hard but with this months long, enforced lockdown and a broken economy we will all find ourselves moving towards some changes in our lifestyles and in our social and political structures. A few that come to my mind are :

Reducing the stress on over populated cities

Less global and more local

Building outlying satellite towns and making them autonomous and independent

Flattening hierarchies, helping rebuild smaller businesses

Adoption of a global digital currency

Kick starting our Agra and farming on a priority basis

Investing in health care

Digital transformation will pick up pace. Simplifying tasks so they can be attributed to tech and robotics and thus free up time to innovate and create a new world order.

Appreciating and acknowledging the co-dependence between man and nature. Nurturing our planet and the environment.

Collaborations and task teams will take precedence over monopolistic leaders and organisations.

Most importantly, we will see global citizens rise in a wave against the existing inequities and work towards building a common future.

The world in pause mode

It’s difficult to wrap my head around what we are experiencing today. Just a month ago it was life as I had always known it. Stepping outside of the door was never accompanied by a jolt of fear or doubt. It was just something you did unthinkingly as you set out and about.

Today, I worry about my car as its stands unused like the others in the car park. The cars are all washed regularly. They gleam and glint like showpieces but the tyres are slowly losing air.

The park has a huge padlock at the gate. It looks verdant, peaceful and alive. Not a single human is visible but birds are reclaiming their territory with evident delight.

The air is filled with bird song and eerie quiet. There is no honking. No traffic sound. No chatter of people. No motorbikes driving through noisily without their silencers. No lovers hidden in the folds of the lanes. No fitness obsessed people jogging with single minded intent. No flights roaring overhead.

The outdoors are calm. Deserted. Surreal. And yet they seem to be in a state of regeneration. The buildings, on the other hand, pulse with hidden energy. You expect them to explode with all that suppressed fear they are holding within them. Each apartment brimming with people 24/7. Reined in. Restricted. Locked down.

Where am I? What is this place? How did we get here? There is a feeling of inevitability to the life we are all suddenly leading. That breathless, endless surge of people through the cities, rocking back and forth between home and work has ceased. Completely. We have been forced to retract, retrace. To pull back and stop. The machines have ground to a halt. The malls have shut.

And yet the world has come alive. Were it not for the lonely deaths and the rapidly spreading contagion, the pressure on the medical teams and the local governments, the absolute halt of the economy … I swear, you could hear an underlying strain of melody. There’s a faint tremor to the note but it’s pure and sharp. And it’s fighting its way through. I can feel the world straining to rise like a phoenix from the ashes … and when it does … what an enthralling sight it will be.

Till then … stay safe.

Dear Virus/Weapon of mass destruction,

My mind is in a constant state of churn. Focusing on any one thing has become challenging. Visions of people dying, losing loved ones, being locked away in a hospital with other sick people, struggling to breathe, wishing fervently for home, maniacally tracking my symptoms and worrying about the state of my lungs, wondering who will take care of my children if I’m in hospital, what if I’m responsible for bringing you home and endangering my parents or my in-laws, fearing ostracism not just for myself but also my family, concerned about you staying in my blood stream for ever, questioning if my lungs are melting and I’ll suddenly drop to the ground, dead, pushed into an electric crematorium and summarily dismissed from life … my brain is whirring endlessly till I’m a nervous wreck.

Then, suddenly, I find myself riding a hopeful crest … imagining myself immune to you CO-VIDa la loca; emerging into cleansed, beautiful, incredible Mother Earth, ready to embrace life and love, to find some peace in farming and nature, live every moment completely, appreciate the truth of Hyggae and Ikigai … until I crash again into the depths of despair imagining all the migrants stranded at the railway platform, stuck in limbo, unable to move forward or back, penniless, helpless … or the innumerable poor people across the nation struggling to understand where their source of income disappeared, trying to make sense of this new reality … why have you, o virus, challenged what is already a challenging existence?

What of those stuck in abusive situations locked in with the perpetrators for god knows how long, and what of those stuck in maddening, frustrating marriages having to get up each morning and look at the one person they most wanted to be away from, what of the houses bought but not shifted into, what of jobs lost and nothing in sight in the distant future, what of the ailing and the weak unable to leave their homes, what of those stuck in different cities unable to help their loved ones, what of those on the streets with no shelter, what of those grappling with depression and fear, what of the medical fraternity going through their days in a haze of fatigue and with no end in sight, what of what … what … what … and more endless whats.

I feel tired. I also feel exhilarated. And grateful. And guilty. And blessed. And angry. So angry. And deeply sad.

How does one make sense of this craziness? You have brought everyone down on their knees. You have changed the way we look at our reality, at the value of money, at the true value of relationships, at governance and what we expect from it …

Are leaders across countries joining hands? Are they building a plan that will help nations pick up from the remains and build a new world? It’s time to open source running of countries, institutions, corporates, banks, health, travel … basically, reconfigure the world.

You have ripped off the masks. Today we all stand exposed. We wanted to be alone, self first before anyone else, stuck in a loop of unending greed. Today we are all alone, each to his own, forced to live the simple life. Will good win over evil? Will less win over more? Will compassion win over racism and authoritarianism? Will we realise our true north?

There is good that I can already see. People are coming together in the most innovative and amazing ways to help, to carry each other through this time of war. Earth is palpably breathing a sigh of relief, monopolies are slowly deconstructing … the time is not far when people will rise together to save each other and rebuild our future together in more touching, thoughtful and humane ways. We will win this war. We will pay a price but we will win this war. Maybe, you want us to …

yours humbly,

We are all in this together.

Covid-19 – How prepared are we?

Dear Administration,

I had some queries. Would greatly appreciate some insight on this virus which has everyone captive, enthralled and fearfully obsessed.

As of now, I know I should not travel to almost any international destination since this thing seems to be on speed. I should wash my hands at every given opportunity; not touch my face nor touch any surface in public places both of which are proving to be a full time challenge; sneeze into my elbow and pray that my office also decides to encourage working from home; buy hand sanitisers that are no longer available in the market and not bother with masks as they just spread panic and achieve nothing. Oh … and continue eating meats and eggs as that has nothing to do with anything other than the small interesting tidbit that Kerala has had a resurgence of bird flu and resulted in 12k chickens being culled.

Moving on from all of the above … I’d like to understand better how my state/country is managing the situation.

Let’s say I’m unwell and quarantine myself for 14 days within the four walls of my home. What am I supposed to look out for in these 2 weeks? Do I stop ordering stuff online as it would mean an assortment of delivery boys at my doorstep? Do I ask the maids to stay home as well? How exactly do you define quarantine?

At what point in those two weeks do I call for help? Is there some protocol to follow while in quarantine? Where does one call? Does one call for medics at home or call an ambulance? How equipped is the machinery to get people from point A to point B without infecting others? Does the entire family get transported into an excluded seclusion? Do you get to take your digital devices into isolation as well? What about children? What about pets or are they just left to fend for themselves while the family goes off into an impenetrable fortress?

What happens if one is tested positive? Since there is no treatment as of now, how do people get better? There must be some protocol since everyone doesn’t depart for the holy land after being infected. Or does it mean that one can have the virus but not the disease?

If all those tested positive are placed together in an isolation ward … will they keep transferring the virus from one to the other in an endless merry go round?

What happens when you emerge unscathed from isolation? Can you go back into the world of living as super beings who are no longer susceptible or do you go into hiding once again?

When schools start closing down, events start getting canceled and people invest in masks like its the biggest thing on the stock market … then it raises some basic questions. Could you answer some of them for me, please?

Thanking you deeply,

a concerned citizen

Beauty in tumult

Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai. Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-kaatil mein hai. (The desire to make a sacrifice is in our hearts. Let us see what strength there is in the arms of our executioner) Bismil Azimabadi

Today’s youth is impassioned, angry and awake. They’ve found a cause towards which to direct their energy. Righteous, patriotic, inclusive, fighting injustice … it’s a beautiful, heartwarming sight.

Today, almost 50% of our population in India is below 25 years of age. The average age of an Indian is 29 years. Imagine the sheer power we wield as a country!

Unwittingly, this power has been harnessed and is gradually unleashing its moral strength, righteous anger and indignation upon the leading lights of our nation. All it took was an encroachment into civil rights and constitutional freedoms.

To see them pouring out into the streets across India, choosing a path of restraint despite provocation, choosing to stand with their brothers and sisters, choosing unity and diversity … it is like witnessing an eagle take flight. Powerful and glorious.

To whom I belong,

For years I kept lining myself in anticipation of nurturing a living breathing entity. Years went by but nothing happened. I kept lining and shedding … eternally hopeful … waiting, longing.

Somewhere the prolonged wait and hope soured into disappointment.

I have been withheld from following my natural course and the flush of hormones are beginning to get all mixed up and erratic. Soon the clockwork rhythm will stutter. Soon you will realise that it is the end of the road and there is no going back and I will remain lonely and unfulfilled this lifetime.

We are in this together and I’m learning not to hold a grudge.

lovingly,

your womb

Personality Typos

You wake up one fine morning and the dissonance that you sometimes felt but brushed aside suddenly turns into a full fledged aggravation … and you sigh and once again tell yourself … that gut … it was right as usual.

You meet people socially. Everything seems fine. You’re a drink down and you fail to notice the maniacal gleam; the bloated gloater; the brisk brush-off to the pet; the skittish eyes; the flash of anger …

Later, the personality blooms before your eyes when a ‘situation’ presents itself. When control is no longer possible. When they’ve been caught off guard. Then those hidden signs manifest into the real person behind the smiling facade.

And then it’s ‘ouch’ time …

These ‘typos’ are not a mistake. They exist for real. They’re the spice to the regular fare but always better in small doses.

I should have been warier so I wouldn’t feel like a warrior today.

Oh, December!

I like you! You’re dressed in twinkly lights and Christmas red. People everywhere are celebrating you. You bring travel, events, parties, gifts, retail therapy, friendly get-togethers, holidays, jamborees and surprises galore.  Some year endings are painful and others come with a surety that what’s coming … Continue reading Oh, December!

To whomsoever it may concern,

I think we have a problem. My electricity bill is twice what it used to be.

I pay GST every single god forsaken month. In fact, I pay GST (in illogically varying percentages) every single day for every single purchase I make. And then I top it all off with some income tax as well.

I feel mounting dread each time I venture out in my car and find myself looking at an almost empty fuel gauge. I hunt for ATMs that actually dispense cash and, more often than not, i find myself stuck with 2000 rupee notes. Thankfully, they are handy at the petrol pump since money flows like an infected tummy run. I don’t like paying by card because …

My credit card got hacked. I was being encouraged to use it across the board but no one warned me of the potential dangers. I had to survive for a week without a card. 

My building society wants to extort more money in the name of repairs. 

My phone network rarely allows a call to complete without dropping a frustrating number of times.

The roads are a joke and the traffic is a laugh riot.

Stepping out of the home is fraught with  unforeseen dangers, potential road injuries or respiratory illnesses (courtesy the air pollution) leading to potential hospital costs that could wipe out all my savings; cancelled flights because of striking pilots or worse still … drunk ones; fake news and misinformation causing sudden stupid riots; good, reliable education is like the unicorn – a fantasy … the list is endless. I think you’re getting the point, hopefully.

I’m not even sure what you can do but if things don’t improve I may have to resort to stand up comedy … cancel that … I’m not too keen on jail. 

So that leaves me with a couple of options … I could borrow a boat from a fisherman (since they are now steadily losing their fishing areas in the name of development) and sail out like Pi. Phir dekhi jayegi.

Or I could team up with some scamsters and make a lot of money from the clueless banking system and fly out of the country and spend my life as an infamous, rich socialite. 

Hmmm. This exercise has helped.

Thank you. Next.


#MeToo

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I tried writing this blog from the POV of a sexual predator but I gave up after a few attempts. I couldn’t get myself to think like an entitled imbecile who throws himself at women and believes that their gratitude for this attention should be paid by servility and sexual compliance.

This grey zone of sexual harassment is a judgmental space. It’s a zone of judgement and opinions. Men and women both get summarily dismissed by colleagues and observers for the ways they behaved or failed to behave at work.  From allowing a hand on the thigh to drinking with a male colleague to being someone’s favourite at work to consistently dipping into the office pool to hone their marksmanship… the list is nuanced and long. The enforced bonding on projects and long hours at work have made the workplace a hotbed (pun intended) of potential exploitation in this desire for power and possession.

However, what constitutes sexual harassment? In my considered opinion, it is anything that involves :

  • Stalking
  • Preying
  • Luring
  • Baiting
  • Using aggression, blackmail, power, promise of retribution, fear, undermining someone’s spirit … All for sexual dominance.

So, to clarify …. Gentlemen predators,

  • If you believe that you own the women who work for you or with you …
  • If you believe that women are basically dumb props and have made themselves available because they stepped out of their home to earn a living
  • If you believe that women exist for your pleasure
  • If you believe that women cannot achieve their goals without your proprietorial hand on their ass
  • If you believe that your female colleagues need sex education
  • If you believe that you are populating your personal harem while employing young, fresh ’talent’ then …

You are about to have your mask ripped off. And the world will see you for the self-entitled oaf you are. Because your Time is Up and you had it coming.

This applies to predators across the board, irrespective of gender or their leaning.