Capstone Project for Data Visualization Nanodegree

Context: I’m putting up a blog post that I wrote as a part of the capstone project for my Data Visualization nanodegree at Udacity.

Hans Rosling – the Swedish doctor and self-taught data visualization expert – better known for his TED talks – calls out an interesting example of what he calls the size instinct in his book Factfullness. The size instinct, in his own words, is, “to look at a lonely number and misjudge its importance.” And to that effect he gives an example of an environment minister from a European country who stood up at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017 and stated that China and India were accelerating the pace of climate change with their emissions.

“The forecasts show that it is China, India and other emerging economies that are increasing their carbon monoxide emissions at a speed that will cause dangerous climate change. In fact, China already emits more CO2 than the USA, and India already emits more than Germany.” The developed world and high-income countries often put the onus of combating climate change on developing countries using this argument. The visualization presented below tell a different story, one that is based on per capita emissions and not on emissions at an aggregate level – a fact that is often lost in the us-versus-them rhetoric.

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The Pointlessness That is Mumbai

The romanticized version of Mumbai that folks read about in books such as Shantaram and Maximum City hides a bitter and terrible truth – that this city is the bastardized version of what it actually wanted to be. That somewhere along the way it lost the plot and we’re all paying the price now. With our time and our health. That its crumbling bridges and thoughtless infrastructure are adding, not to its reputation as maximum city, but its non-utilitarian and frustrating façade. That this city is not the cafes of Colaba and the bourgeois lanes of the suburbs, but the muck and the garbage that floats in its waterlogged streets during a moderate bout of rain. That its famed ‘soul’ is not the Queen’s Necklace at Marine Drive. That its ‘resilience’ is nothing more than a pair of tired legs following the herd on an FOB at a station, waiting in a queue to find a taxi, hoping to reach home on time. Only to repeat the same thing again the next day. And in my frustration, I can’t help but think about the young CA student who died in the stampede at Elphinstone Station in 2018. Life’s cheap and time is expensive in this city… And one day, we’ll all become a part of this pointlessness that is Mumbai.

 

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

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