On the bus home today, the man seated behind us interrupted our conversation to pose a frequently asked question.
“Which is your country?”
“Oh yes,” he said, “Congratulations!”
The generation that lived through the technology revolution are afraid of their relationship with it, but the new generation that came into technology comes to accept it and set boundaries and parentheses to their usage.
Sherry Turkle describes herself as “guardedly optimistic” about our relationship with the internet and with machines. She says the internet is fantastic, robots are fantastic, but machines should supplement human connection not replace it. Adds, “We are people, but we are using the benefits of science to become enhanced people.”
As expected, our overnight bus reached Goa three hours behind the ETA. There’s a large pack of Fellows from Hyd in town. Unfortunately for the ones who traveled for a beach weekend, so far it looks like much of those activities will be rained out. We briefly gathered at the bus drop-off before splitting up into various cabs. Four opted for Bambolim to catch a few THiNK sessions while the rest headed north.
Aside from the fact that I and fellow HYD Fellows have to tote our full packs around the conference hotel, the day is rolling on nicely. I’m currently camped out in the airtel lounge, which is turning out to be a godsend—somewhere to sit the heavy bag, a charging station, coffee, snacks, wi-fi, interesting folks in and out. I’m a bit bummed to have missed Marcus du Sautoy’s session on prime numbers this morning, but the sessions I have gotten to see so far didn’t disappoint. Two favorites from today hit on my interests in economics, development, and behavioral sciences:
- Daniel Wolpert’s discussion on the brain and Bayesian decision theory in the Evolutionary Lab session.
- “Dragon Head, Snake Tail” with Zhang Mei and Arvind Subramanian discussing the future of China’s development.
I walked out of the Wolpert session missing CLP programs back at FU. Sometimes they felt a chore to attend but overall turned out to be one of the best things about the university experience.
Last look at Mehrangarh as dusk approaches. To my left, a kid sets off fireworks left over from yesterday’s Dussehra festivities. To my right, the Maghrib call to prayer echoes throughout Old Jodhpur.
Home sweet Marredpally | “I like the way you talk. Very straightforward.” | When indecisive at a restaurant, I always order dal makhani | Beach ultimate tournament | The first trip on Indian Rails passed by like a film at once mellow and colorful (soundtrack: the new Lord Huron) | Evening beers and storytelling and more beers on a rooftop | Rooftops in general, especially ours, even when populated by a cloud of mosquitoes | Auto(rickshaw) rides but mostly rides when the auto has a sound system | “Girls, what spices are in chai?” | Coffee first thing, always—or we try and try and what a celebration when we score “real” “strong” “black coffee” | I miss receiving correspondence these days, but I haven’t been good at initiating them either | “Adventure!” | J’s book of all things important | The luxury of reading myself to sleep | The luxury of impermanence, that we can choose to live and breathe and wrestle with “India” while having autonomy to leave | To look out from the middle bunk of a sleeper car, witnessing the sun rise over fields and isolated homes, and to realize—or, to decide—I’d rather stay. For now.
Pritam Niwas Chowk, an inner courtyard of Jaipur’s City Palace complex, leads to the Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace), but the public has no access to the palace itself as it remains the Maharaja’s private residence. Most prominent in the courtyard are four ornate gates, each of which represents one of the four seasons. The Peacock Gate stands in for autumn/monsoon season, the Rose Gate for winter, the Green Gate for spring, and the Lotus Gate for summer. The Green Gate is my favorite and is also known as Leheriya, meaning wave.
Care makes accidents rare.
Obey sign. Pay no fine.
Alert today. Alive tomorrow.
Speed and safety never meet.
Always expect the unexpected.
Speed thrills but kills.
Safety first. Speed next.
Safety first, last, and always.
Divorce speed to stay married.
So into Lord Huron’s first full-length, just out today.
There’s a relatively long holiday from school at month’s end, following quarterly exams, and a group of us are heading north for a much-needed change of scenery. Lonesome Dreams for sure will be the soundtrack to those travels. (Travels! At last! I am so thankful.)
I’ve recently discovered that I don’t want to look back on any relationship or moment in my life and discover it wasn’t extraordinary enough to be deemed significant. It isn’t so much how things happened, or when. But rather how in hindsight we felt, and continue to feel, about them. Some things are simply brilliant because we decide to label them as such … Every day we’re making those unconscious decisions to let people into our lives that are going to leave an impression, whether it’s in a classroom or not. We aren’t promised that it is going to be mutual, that it’ll last, or that we’ll even be remembered in return … This, however, does not mean that which appears to mean nothing, won’t prove to be more significant in the end. Next time someone comes to me all tangled up, that may just be my first piece of teacherly advice.
Here are two of my favorite wordsmiths: Zadie Smith reads Frank O’Hara’s “Animals.”
“Happy Gandhi Jayanti!” read Tuesday’s first email. It was a national holiday, but my school was in session to make up for being closed on Monday—another week, another bandh, you see. If you’re wondering how anyone accomplishes anything here between bandhs and power outages and festivals and two-hour lunch breaks, then keep wondering because I don’t have an answer for you.
Wearing a kurta for the first time in nearly a week, I bussed to Jagathgiri Gutta for work while the rest of the cohort likely slept in or enjoyed the day’s first coffee somewhere cozy. But by “work” I mean only that I was present in the office—in a chair I adjusted to get a view of the rain flooding the grounds, writing a list of emails to s
end, and chatting with the office clerk. Seemed like only half the students showed up. “It’s a mess! Students not coming,” the clerk exclaimed when I arrived. We exchanged hello’s and how-are-you’s—everyone is always “fine”—and eventually fell quiet, listening to the rain. I’d throw in the occasional comment about the upcoming quarterly exams. She’d shrug to signal she didn’t understand my English.
So it goes.
Imagine this: always connected, never grounded.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been relatively unrooted these past few years, moving and readjusting each summer or summer’s end, not knowing for sure in January where I would be by August. I’m thankful not because it has been one hell of a party—actually, those same years have been my hardest—but because there is value in instability. Or rather, it helps you realize what it is you value. Such as: internet. (Seriously)
On Saturday night I had the pleasure of catching up with J via Skype—a (virtual) reunion that was long overdue, much needed, and as usual just the most wonderful thing. We exchanged stories and paused to laugh at how different our ex-pat experiences are, e.g. zipping up and down London’s slick alleys on a bicycle versus sharing limited sidewalk real estate with cows. He brought out the uke and spontaneously learned the chords for “Tonight You Belong to Me.” I sang along, poorly.
(Let’s all learn it.)
I paused mid-run to capture this view—also, to breathe because clearly I was dying from not having run in awhile.
Thoughts that occur during my morning commute:
- How come everyone understands a waving hand means hello/goodbye? Does everyone understand a waving hand to mean hello/goodbye?
- When you die, your memory dies with you. Or so it was until, you know, science.
- People blink. All the time. It’s fascinating if you pause to notice but only for about four blinks, after which it’s nail-on-chalkboard. But people will keep blinking and there’s nothing you can do about it.
One morning I climbed into a Bus 30 and found myself in the same seat of exactly the same vehicle that brought me back to Secunderabad the previous evening. I recognized the bus by a particular stain on the second row’s window seat, the same stain I noticed the day before. Soon as I sat down, an excited hand waved a 13.00-Rupee ticket in my face, and I looked up to find a familiar face, all smiles, that belonged to none other than the previous day’s conductor (ticket agent? ticket master? ticket clerk? ticket (wo)man?). I smiled back, all the while wavering between happy and disappointed that the commute had become routine enough for me to get recognized like so. Like a regular.
When I relayed this bit to a friend, he saw no reason for disappointment and instead went on to express how much satisfaction he feels from settling into a routine—for instance, becoming enough of a regular at a bakery down the street that within a couple of minutes of walking in, he receives the correct order without actually ordering.
Later I considered the difference between routine and ritual and realized the issue isn’t repetitiveness but my own framing. I don’t mind repetitiveness; there is comfort in it. But “routine” implies an obligation or the mundane, while “ritual” just sounds…elevated. More could be said here, but in the end, what I need is simply to reframe the commute as part of my morning ritual, if not as the morning ritual.
Adrian read my mind before I could ask about a li’l bear fall mix.
a new mix! this one is kind of weird because i started it yesterday morning when it was cold and rainy, then finished it last night when it was hot and humid. in any event, i fear that summer is ending. and quickly.
It dawned on me much later that evening that our truest, most private moments, like our truest, most private memories, are made of just such unreal, flimsy stuff. Fictions.
— from Andre Aciman’s “Intimacy”
Fiction gives us everything. It gives us our memories, our understanding, our insight, our lives. We use it to invent ourselves and others. We use it to feel change and sadness and hope and love and to tell each other about ourselves. And we all, it turns out, know how to do it.
— from Keith Ridgeway’s “Everything Is Fiction”
ERNEST HEMINGWAY, THE ART OF FICTION NO. 21, interview by George Plimpton
INTERVIEWER: What would you consider the best intellectual training for the would-be writer?
HEMINGWAY: Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.