Monday, May 30, 2011

A R Rahman Show

An A.R. Rahman show was organized on Sunday night at Palace Grounds, Bangalore, and Times of India was one of the sponsors.  TOI today of course covers it in great detail.


Some excerpts: "all roads lead to Palace Grounds", "people flocked to watch", "the crowd felt special", "the view was spectacular", "larger than life", "turned the stage red-hot with his sizzling performance", "greeted with thunderous applause", "create a halo on stage", "spectacular interplay of light, visuals, and sound", "the techno… was wrapped in … singing and choreography", "the singers made it a point to include a message of anti-corruption (Anna Hazare)".


The rest of the review of the show is inserted as fillers in between these gushing phrases.


One of the tests I apply to see if any piece of text is full of fluff and vapid nonsense is to imagine replacing the main protagonist or event being described with someone or something else and imagining how it will read. In this article I could replace Rahman with Sachin Tendulkar, the music concert with the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, and it still reads authentic – to the extent the above piece can be called authentic, that is.  Apply this test to whatever you read, and think about whether any piece of writing is worth anything if it passes this test. You will come across several such instances.


TOI is a sponsor for the event, and TOI covers the event later. The article reads like the adoring description of a devotee who has just come back from a darshan of her God, the Baba, and is describing the experience to fellow devotees. There is too much money involved here – how can it read anything else? The sponsors and the co-sponsors want their money's worth, and they want to convince themselves (and their bosses) that the event was worth the money spent. This article is more for the organizers to convince themselves that they did a great job and pat themselves on the back, than any real critical analysis of the show. Which is fine, the organizers are writing this for themselves, but what are we, the unsuspecting public, doing reading it? Think about it – many pieces of writing that cross your desk are likely to be of this variety.


Take the sentence "the techno…was wrapped in … singing and choreography (some words in between excluded by me)". The show is supposed to be a music show. We all know that all such shows are less music and more dance with choreography, so let us excuse that one. Now it seems that it is less about music and dance and more about "techno" – special effects, 3D, sci-fi, the works! Which is fine, but we will still insist on telling each other that we watched a great music show, and feel good about our support of music and all things musical!  You can see the same logic in different settings, different contexts all the time. A lot of the events that we are part of are characterized by such insidious shifts in objectives.


As to denouncing corruption, and supporting Anna Hazare, I am of course a whole hearted 100% supporter of the anti-corruption cause. I even lecture my family about it at dinner every day.

Friday, May 13, 2011


There's a new meter that measures

The value or worth of anything.

Based on hits, and on-line searchers,

Google's is the final verdict.


The giant brain at internet's core,

Is fed by millions of mouse clicks.

With each click it gains in power

Gaining wisdom on what the world thinks.


It has eyes that scan the whole world,

And its ears where sounds emanate.

All this in bits and bytes is stored,

Which are matched in turn to patterns make.


The more it knows what people want,

The more it is wired to their thoughts,

The more it tracks things that leave their trail,

The more it comes closer to being God.


Omnipresent, due to the Net,

Beseeched by million supplicants;

Omniscient, since all knowledge leads

To, and through, its databanks.


Omnipotence, just a step away

From controlling the fates of people.

Google will control, we will obey,

In bit-sized chunks, give our lives over.

(written on 16-August-2009)