Sep 19, 2009

From New York to New Guinea

Seems to me that, there are two ends to the spectrum of generating new ideas. In one, there's the cliched lone scientist messing about in a dingy underground lab under a bulb, trying to uncover the light. In the other, the innovator is in the middle of a teeming bazaar of smells and currents, a place full of distractions and opinions, where sometimes, there's just too much light.

It's like species evolving in New Guinea and New York. The former allows the relative isolation that allows nature to fork off into completely new directions in the presence of unconventional constraints . In the latter, species are constantly intermingling with each other, smashing into each other and producing new forms in response to more common constraints.

So the New Guinea innovation has more time to blossom, fewer people to nip it in the bud by being critical. But it could be less likely to survive when the more inhabited parts of Earth come visiting. New York innovations get brutally crushed down, but this happens early. The good ones sometimes cross-breed with other ideas from other people, and the ones that survive are hardy organisms, because they just have had to escape being crushed under so many feet.

However, New Guinean ideas are likely to be truly radical, while New Yorker ideas might just make a quick buck on the sidewalk to take advantage of the next flavour of the week. Ideas from New Guinea tend to remain unnoticed unless they are discovered by dashing explorers, while New Yorker ideas can be on TV and in your email.

Books on innovation suggest ideas from the melting pot of New York are more likely to succeed (or perhaps, more likely to fail early). That shouldn't mean there is no place for the life-forms of the remote island of New Guinea, but not everyone should be doing that, for the post-Victorian world has a lot less patience.

However, do most people expect innovations to come out of New Guinea, because it's so exotic? Most scientists would find it easier to live in New Guinea (as long as the pay cheque and the internet bandwidth is assured!), but fewer light bulbs have come out of New Guinea than New York. But if you are looking for a bird of paradise, head down to Oceania.

In the end, it could be comparing apples to oranges: scientists need New Guinea while innovators need New York. The first step to the right island would be to know who we really are.

Gandhi the sceptic

Suggested itself to me during today's BC session:
Why was M.K.Gandhi particularly sceptical during April 1930?
He insisted on taking everything with a pinch of salt.

Sep 12, 2009

Out of Balance

Out of Balance

The phone rang. Once again, she gave it her most cold-blooded stare. It continued to ring.

"Answer it, S, answer it - just so that you can give that bastard what he deserves."

This time she agreed with her mind, so she pressed "Accept".

"Hi". His voice didn't have its usual confidence, which was a good sign - he had better be terrified of her right now.

She said nothing.

"Sweetsie? are you there? hello?"

Let him roast, that dungball.

"Sups - are you there?", he asked anxiously. She was loving every second of it.

She spoke carefully: "you are a slimy liar, you know that?"

"Yes, I know."

"No, you don't. I waited and waited outside the wedding hall. Where everyone could ask me: your fiance has not come?"

"I was tied up." His voice seemed to quiver.

"With what? Rope? Piano wire? You get here, and I'll tie you up, you see."

Despite himself, he seemed to chuckle at that. That should have maddened her even more. But it didn't.

She began to giggle and felt the angry mood wash away in its wake.

"You idiot", she continued, "have you any idea how I felt there, standing alone in that crowd? And you couldn't even call and let me know."

He started to say something, but didn't.

"I felt so miserable. Where were you? Don't ever do that to me, hmm?"

"I'm sorry Sweets". His voice had gained some of its characteristic solidity. "I didn't mean to. Some people had come and I had to attend to them. Business stuff. You wouldn't know."

"That's what you keep saying. Everytime, business this and business that. When will you stop and begin paying some attention to me? When I'm a hundred?"

"I didn't mean to keep you waiting like that, Sweetsie."

"But that's all you do, all the time, you do."

A white silence signaled the beginning of a truce.

"Listen, Sups - I just have about 5 minutes left on this - I'm almost out of balance. I don't want to hear you cry. Or shout."

The anger rose again at this - again, he was ordering her about - it was always about him.

"Your stupid connection - can't you change..."

He cut her mid-way.

"Really, sweets - just talk. C'mon babes, don't cry. Don't yell at me."

He sounded sincere. And sweet. He hadn't been like that in a long while.

So she talked to him (she could shout at him tomorrow?) about the wedding, how the horse licked the wedding cake (he laughed), how over-dressed the bride was (her cousin, she never liked her much), how lovely the moon looked (how do we get it that way on our day?).

At that point, the call ended abruptly.

The last thing she heard could just have been static, but (she thought) it was a peck on the cheek.

"Dumbass", she couldn't help thinking. "Wait till he gets here". She smiled as she wiped a tear away with the edge of her new sari.

"Very touching", sniggered one of the three men standing over him, who took the phone away from his bleeding ear.

"I would have just smoked a final cigarette", laughed the big bearded man behind, who continued to point the gun at him.

"That's because you don't have a girlfriend", said the first man before ducking the bearded man's lunge.

"Enough!" shouted the third man at them. He beckoned to him with a knife.

"Pity - looks like the girl's going to miss you. Get up."

Just like the last three hours, he had no choice but to obey. He didn't notice that as he got up, the phone fell to the ground and knocked itself out.

Sep 5, 2009

Next in line of succession: The glint in the milkman's eye

India loves its dynasties, doesn't it? Monarch or Politician, it doesn't matter. What does is lineage and the 'name'. This state of affairs always reminds me of the Blackadder episode 'Dish and Dishonesty' from the third edition of that superb series. In this, Edmund Blackadder (a remarkably caustic Rowan Atkinson) is butler to the dippy Prince Regent George (a remarkably asinine Hugh Laurie).

William Pitt, The Younger has just became Prime Minister and is determined to bring legislation to provide "a right royal kick up the Prince's backside". Trouble is, the PM is a mere schoolboy elected in the middle of his exams. Soon, both Blackadder (E) & Pitt (P) find themselves plotting to win a Parliamentary seat, which provides the following scene and dialogues (the PM has come to meet the Prince Regent (G), and as usual Blackadder has to intervene in the interests of maintaining sanity):

At Prince's House

E: Your Highness; Pitt the Younger.
G: Why, hello there, young sabre, m'lad! I say, here's one: I've a shiny sixpence here and for the clever fellow who can tell me which hand it's in.
(Pitt just stares.)
G: Hmm? Oh, school, school! On half hols, is it? Yeah, I bet you can't wait to get back and get that bat in your hand and give those balls a good walloping, eh?
E: Mr. Pitt is the Prime Minister, sir.
G: Oh, go on! Is he? What, young Snotty here?
P: I'd rather have a runny nose than a runny brain.
G: Eh?
E: Umm, excuse me, Prime Minister, but we do have some lovely jelly in the pantry, I don't know if you'd be interested at all...?
P: Don't patronise me, you lower middle class yobbo! (aside) What flavour is it?
E: Blackcurrant.
P: eeeeuuuuuaaaghhhh!

Pleasantries aside, they get down to the dirty work of accusing each other:
P: You will regret this, gentlemen. You think you can thwart my plans to bank- rupt the Prince by fixing the Dunny-on-the-Wold bye-election, but you will be thrashed! I intend to put up my own brother as a candidate against you.

E: Oh, and which Pitt would this be: Pitt the Toddler? Pitt the Embryo? Pitt the Glint in the Milkman's Eye?
So, sometimes, to know who will be the next CM of a state, you just have to ask the milkman.

Script text from here.

Sep 4, 2009

Steam funk

Some weeks ago, I was sitting in the evening bus back home when it began to rain. The conditions were sufficiently heavy for condensation to appear on the window panes. As is inevitable when presented with a damp canvas, doodles began to materialise, literally out of thick air.

This reminded me of two movie sequences that used the drawing board of the window-pane (not considering shower doors or other glass panes merely providing 'steamy' vistas). One is in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, where a suddenly serious Hattori Hanzo, confronted by 'The Bride', writes the name of their arch-enemy. The condensation doesn't drip, perhaps suggesting a fog created by means other than water or just multiple takes. It's a little too perfectly etched, though.

The second, however, is more naturally crooked. This is the opening scene of a film. The first shot opens on a blurred background, bluish in colour. A dull noise accompanies the frame, which you realise is the sound of rain. The Bombay rain. A hand reaches out behind what turns out to be glass, and there is cackling.

The hand proceeds to draw a scraggly line to our left, and begins to fill out a rectangle. Followed by diagonals and two more. lines. It's a horoscope. Of Mumbai's. This a police van, and inside it are Sadik Chikna and the Inspectors Pandit & Purohit.

Thus brilliantly, in a haze of condensed air, in the jungle of Mumbai, does "Maqbool" unveil.