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Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Reason Why I Left All My WhatsApp Groups

About an year ago, in May 2017, I decided to exit from all the WhatsApp groups that I was part of. A decision driven by a realisation that I was in contact with people, I did not really want to be in touch with. And in turn, I was loosing out on quality discussions with the people who really matter to me. I later gave this cause for the eureka moment an elaborate thought and discovered that not only were these groups creating an illusion of togetherness but were also forcing individuals to be part of a fraternity in which, they perhaps do not willingly participate in. Thus, when a critical observation of the system began, many abnormalities in it, surfaced. 

I think that I could definitely generalise that most, if not all groups, are flooded with terribly framed forwarded messages that are oblivious to the fact that they are either racist or discriminating towards one or another community. If they are not followed with emojis prompting you to laugh out loudly, then perhaps they are slanderous comments backed with a political agenda to glorify one and shame an other. I have my own political views, but that does not mean that I have to shame someone else or degrade their credibility to prove the superiority of my own opinion. I feel that people have forgotten that here are graceful ways in which one could disagree with somebody's opinion. This pathetic trend of mockery that is catching up is an indicator of a deteriorating quality of debates in our country. Apparently, people who educate themselves based on these conjectures shared on social media are often found struggling to make an effective or sensible argument. Not only are they illogical but, sadly, most of the times, they are insensitive. 

For example, during a discussion that I once had around gluten intolerance, somebody mentioned that such a thing did not exist and people today were simply exaggerating the situation. When I told them that my cousin suffers from it and that she faces indigestion problem whenever she consumes wheat products, I got an instant reply that it was common among kids who have grown up eating medicines and lack immunity towards various diseases. During an other discussion on cancer, someone mentioned that cancer was a myth and a term coined by the doctors to mint money. I dared them to narrate their conspiracy theory to a survivor or the family members of a victim. During another discussion on a Bollywood movie called Padmavat that raised a lot of debate in our country, a comment was made that the woman (queen) on whom the story is based upon was after all only a mistress to the king. Moreover, it was observed by them that the main protagonist did not have much to do in the film except for jumping into a pyre in the end, as an act of self-immolation. I found that remark extremely pejorative and sexist. I could only think of sarcasm as a response to that. I told them that the Karni Sena that is protesting against the director, assuming a possible shaming of their clan in the film, should be instead beating them up. However, what is shocking for me is that these posts on social media have blurred our thoughts so much so that many a times, people do not realise that they are passing derogatory remarks. There is absolutely no sense of accountability among those who circulate such information. These ruthless jokes about almost everything, that are complied by oafs and religiously distributed by imbeciles, have created a maze of callous comments in social media. 

On a Facebook post shared by one of my well-educated friends, was an image of an overweight, dark skinned African woman who per the post was presumed to be ugly and wants to marry a person by a certain name, say, for example - "John". The game was to tag all the people you knew by that name. As always, several emojis instructing one to laugh out loudly or roll over the floor laughing were used to clarify that this was supposed to be very funny, just in case you had missed that extremely important detail. Many responded with likes and others left an emoji back in the comments section, thus encouraging the act. Luckily, there was one intelligent man who had chosen to politely educate my friend by saying - BTW, she is an oscar nominated actress. That comment made me very happy because, right there, one could clearly notice how knowledge and awareness could influence our judgement. But, my joy did not last for long. Below that comment, my friend had replied - "And she wants to marry John! LOL." 

Moreover, It was disgusting to see jokes that began to spread within a day after the death of a popular Indian movie star who had accidentally drowned herself in a bathtub. People advised married men to equip their bathrooms with a bathtub if they wanted their wives dead. Frankly, I don't see how this could be funny. Not only that, but theories surrounding her death soon made rounds, reinforcing several fallacies that are carelessly tagged to movie stars. I truly want to meet the geniuses who create these masterfully designed art work about other's miseries. And in a country as populated as ours, these get widely distributed in a matter of seconds, as people share them without giving it a moment of thought. Thus, the emojis are not only ruling our emotions but also manipulating our intelligence, our ability to empathise with one another. Most importantly, Facebook and WhatsApp groups are havens for such malarkey. 

I would wake up every morning only to learn that some of my friends and relatives have wished me a good day, like every other day and in other groups, people are celebrating the birthdays of distant relatives or friends whom they haven’t met for ages. While on one hand, one does not want to begin a habit of sending birthday wishes to uncles and aunts to whom they have never wished in their life before, on the other hand, one fears the consequences of remaining ignorant, which could simply equate itself to rudeness. Even the groups that I had created, hoping to reconnect with a few friends, after a few days, turned themselves into graveyards of jokes and motivational thoughts. Well, I truly do not understand this obsession with motivational thoughts. Does everyone think that all of us are in constant need for psychological help to boost our moral? I know that ignoring them would be easier but the mute button did not seem to help me either. 

The sight of long list of unread messages bothered me more than the messages themselves because, it meant that I had tasks to do. Scrolling to the end of every message list without reading them, in every single group that I was involuntarily a part of, seemed like an inane task that I wished not to diligently follow. Hence, annoyed by the frivolity that seems to persist in such groups and at the expense of sounding rude, I wrote a blatant exit message and posted it on every group that I was in.  Apart from one group that only discusses reunion time and venue, all other groups were deleted. Because, I simply did not want WhatsApp to decide with whom should I remain in contact, on a daily basis. That was solely my right! Moreover, I had to come out of the common misapprehension that exchanging forwarded messages, liking or responding to them was a way to stay connected with people. On the contrary, I  think that there is a reason why we are not in touch with so many people at the same time. Anyways, as a result, with the groups now gone, I began to see a new kind of interaction between me and my friends.

As soon as I quit the groups, few of my friends messaged me in private and congratulated me for the bold step that I had taken. They told me how they could not dare to do so as they feared appearing impolite. However, there were a few who were angry by this behaviour of mine and some of my colleagues I understand, spoke about it to the HR manager in a complaining manner, which I found to be ridiculously silly. Nevertheless, for me, things began to turn around. From exchange of forwarded jokes, we moved to a zone of quality conversations. 

Friends messaged me or called me and vice versa because we wanted to talk to each other and not because we had an opinion about a forwarded joke or news. Slowly, my interaction with people went back to being similar to those that existed before the social media mania had begun. We discussed books, music, cinema and shared our travel experiences like we used to, in the olden days. We talked about things that really mattered to us or things that connected us together. We were not forced to discuss politics or current affairs or present an opinion about an event that had occurred in some part of the world. Eventually, my relationship with my friends began to ameliorate. I remembered my old theory of wanting to develop a special bond with few of my friends rather than having futile interaction with hundreds of them. If there was a message tone ring on my phone, I knew that somebody was remembering me in particular. That not only made me happy but I knew that it was important and I had to attend to it immediately. I also noticed that now, I had more time for myself and hence concentrated more on my interests - Art and travel. Eventually, I applied my learning to my Facebook profile as well. 

I deleted all my old posts, pictures and retained the account simply to stay connected with people, in case of emergency.  As a result, I got less attention, which was gladly accepted. Consequently, on my birthday last month, I received wishes from only those friends or family members who needed no notification to remember it. They had been wishing me since my childhood or college days and they continue to do so without any extra effort. In a way, I felt like I was returning back to the era of letters and telephone calls. Additionally, I felt relieved that I had less information about everyone else's life. The process of tracking the updates of my friends, relatives and acquaintances now seemed rather irrelevant and burdening. Albeit, I have been extremely critical about my thoughts on social media, I do not completely condemn its use. 

Of course, I acknowledge the importance of technology in our lives and the use of apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook. It surely has made our life comfortable and eased the process of communication. Of course, there are some really intelligent jokes or thoughts that I don’t mind sharing with my friends and would want to have a laugh or discussion about. So, I am definitely not initiating a propaganda against social media or its usage. 

Alienating oneself from new technology and its benefits is not the idea of this article. Instead, all I want to say is that in the process of communicating let us not ignore the basic quality of analysing things, verifying our sources before forming an opinion or most importantly, sharing them. Because what we share is what we think or simply what we are and we could be easily judged for it. A few emojis in the end to indicate light-heartedness of the content shared will not really deceive a shrewd reader. Further, let us decide for ourselves, with whom we wish to stay connected and with whom we wish not to. As a result, I think people would learn to use technology effectively; for their own benefit and prevent the technology from using them to eventually promote itself. Would it not be necessary for us to be aware of the miscreants who make constant attempts to blur our thoughts and tune us all into thinking alike? Therefore, with this awareness and profundity in our own act, we could perhaps fight against this invisible invasion that the media has launched against our minds. If we do not act now, perhaps we are soon to loose this battle that is affecting our intellect, our ability to comprehend and assert ourselves. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Turahalli & Omkara Hills

On 5th Of August, I rode my favourite Bicycle route again. Beginning the ride at 5 AM from my house, I headed towards Turahalli forest, off Kanakapura Road. It remains my favourite place in Bangalore to view the sun rise. There has been some changes to this place now though. The place has been fenced and any type of adventure sports here is prohibited.






After relaxing at the hill for a while, I took the trail to the other side of the forest. This is a shortcut to the village on the other side and connects to the road to Omkara hills. 



At Omkara hills, young Vedic students were chanting Stotras. Here, I took a break to eat some tasty Theplas that I had packed and after which, I heading back. 



Bicycling time - 3 Hours for 27kms


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hand Painted T-Shirts

The idea of painting a T-shirt occurred to me first in 2014, while I was walking by the Kovalam beach. Among several shops by the shore, there was this small outlet filled with hand painted T-shirts. In the middle of the store, sat the artist, immersed in his work, oblivious to the window-shoppers. The idea of painting my own T-shirts seemed fascinating. But then, as usual, I procrastinated its execution for a long time. But, once things are on my To-Do list, no matter how long it takes, it is always executed. So, finally, I managed to gather some confidence to experiment on some, not so expensive T-shirts. I chose to paint with Artist Acrylic paint. 

At first, I tried the multi-layered Tree; a technique with Filbert brush that I have learnt recently from a Youtube video. 





Then it was time to try something more. How about a Minion?



And later, it was time to get a bit more creative and create something original. Splash!





Friday, August 03, 2018

Tikona Fort



Next morning, Ganesh Bhai, Deeksha and I woke up early and left the farmhouse at around 7 AM. We directly drove to the starting point of the trek to Tikona fort and became the first ones to be there. Intermittent rainfall did not seem to bother us much. After all, the view was spectacular and the air was fresh. It was an enjoyable trek. I think, I shall let the pictures speak for itself.












At the last leg of the trek, slippery staircases and steep climbs made the hike seem challenging  Thankfully, ropes tied to the walls aided the climb. 



At the summit, it was just us and two other small groups. Drifting clouds seemed to play hide and seek with us, constantly covering and uncovering the view below. 




During our descend, we came across several people who were making their way up the hill. It was a pleasure to meet Jyo, with whom I had been on a trek, the previous year (Ratnagad to Harishchandragad). She is now a trek lead with the group that had organised that trek. Thats great!




After breakfast, we decided to head back to Mumbai early to avoid the traffic. We stopped near Lohgad for some Bhakri lunch before heading back to Panvel. 




Trek Video -

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bedse Caves

I was in Mumbai a few weeks ago. On a weekend, along with my sister, my niece and a friend of ours, I drove to Tikona. The day had to start by tasting some delicacies at the famous Datta chats in Panvel. It would be a sin to return without tasting these dishes in Mumbai -

Vadapav


Misal Pav


Kothambri Vada


Khanda Poha


Karvas


The monsoon had painted the Sahyadris all green and one breathed freshness in all direction. Every year, I try not to miss this nature’s work of art. 



On our way, we stopped at Bedse caves. A short walk of 20-30 minutes from the car park will take you to this magnificent Bhuddist caves built around 1st century BC. 







At the base, we stopped for some quick tea and pakoda at a Tapri, it was an idyllic setting out there. 


Later, we drove the farmhouse - Sadabahar moments in Mulshi district. It was already 2 PM when we reached there so we headed directly to have some much needed lunch - Bhakri, Junnka and fried eggplant dish. 




After lunch, we played snooker and took a short nap before heading to the Sai Baba temple. It seemed appropriate to join the devotees in ending the day with prayers.