As Lady Gaga said, social media is the toilet of the internet…

Over the few days that followed Wing Commander Abhinandan’s capture by the Pakistani army, I was added to a WhatsApp group by a friend who promised me that I would enjoy the kind of political discussions taking place on that platform. It turned out to be an echo chamber of ring-wing propaganda, where conspiracy theories and pseudo nationalist agendas found a home. Apparently, the Congress was responsible for the Pulwama attack and Rahul Gandhi had himself drafted the plan to kill those 40 chaps. Oh, and there was someone on the group who thought that the name ‘India’ was ‘sickular.’ The fact that the terms India and Hindu both have a common genesis and share etymology was lost on this erudite crowd. Continue reading

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The happy coincidence called Serendip

The word serendipity originates from an ancient folktale about the three princes of Serendip – the Persian name for Sri Lanka. This had, from the time I heard it, become one of my favorite conversation starters. It was thus a happy coincidence that my partner and I decided to visit the island nation for our first vacation as a wedded pair. Our trip took us through the cooler climes of Kandy and the hill-station of Nuwara Eliya to the hot and humid beaches of Unawatuna and Bentota. It was a much-needed break after the madness of an Indian wedding spanning three cultures, three cities, and five functions. Continue reading

The Privilege Bias

I remember being a part of a debate in college in 2006 when the government had introduced reservations in institutions of higher education such as the IITs and the IIMs. I was a part of a team opposed to the prospect, and my argument at that point in time was that by doing this, the government was compromising on the kind and quality of students who studied at these schools. Instead, why not focus on grassroot education, I argued. Or work towards providing equal opportunities – specifically access to resources – that would enable students to do well in entrance exams, regardless of factors such as religion, caste, and gender. Continue reading

Alright, alright, alright!

There’s always going to someone with a better house… Someone with more money. Someone who gets the opportunities that you’ve wanted and coveted and chased for the better part of your adult life. There’s always going to be someone to compete with… It doesn’t matter where you go. Or what stage and age you are at in life. You’re going to find someone you’ll despise and engage with in a zero-sum game. How does one deal with this? I don’t have an answer yet and I’m making it up as I go along… I keep telling myself that if I keep my head down and work hard, it’ll fall in place. But there are times when it gets incredibly difficult to hold on to this belief… Especially for someone with a predisposition like mine. What if it never happens? What if I spend my entire life working towards something and at the end of it, I realize that it was only a mirage? What if this is all that I’m supposed to be? Continue reading

Why We Need to Talk About Cambridge Analytica?

One of the things that I do as a part of my three-pronged preparation for interviews is to look up and gather insights about my interviewers from publicly available data on social and professional media. I’ve only given a handful of interviews in my life and hence it is difficult to ascertain whether this works, but it does give me a sense of control over a situation that otherwise – and generally – is uncertain and unknown. Looking up key stakeholders and interviewers on social and professional media becomes a great conversation enabler at times. But I digress… The whole point of this diatribe was to highlight the fact that a cornucopia of information and personal data exists and is readily available for individuals to mine. Now imagine a company that does this – collects and mines social media data – on a mass scale and uses that data to disperse targeted content in connivance with a social media giant, quite possibly influencing the outcome of an election. Scary? You bet! Continue reading