My Ten Top Moments of 2017

Life is about living. A small part of it is of course work, as we strive to enjoy the rest of it through the rewards it brings.  The sweet balance of life and work is yet to be achieved, but here’s looking back at ten moments which highlighted 2017, cherished with the slow pace that choices and Calcutta has brought.

1) TAUGHT DESIGN

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The work part, “You Can Sketch” is alive and kicking. While there are hiccups brought by after effects of demonetization, GST and other government induced disenablers; some moments were very special. In the beginning of the year itself, I was contacted by a young girl for advise on NIFT preparation. Yes, she did finally get through NIFT. Yes, she finally got subject she wanted.

2) DESIGNED A CREATIVITY TEST

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A biggest issue I face is the selection of students for my workshops. Many people who want to learn drawing for the first time are unsure where to start. To overcome this, I designed a tool to check the level and aptitude of various participants.

3) MENTORED ON COURSERA

It had been a while since I mentored last on Coursera, being one of the earliest teams of community teaching assistants on this very innovative concept. So, when I was invited to mentor on “Planet Earth & You” course offered by University of Illinois, I took the opportunity to participate in the new offering.

4) MANAGED AN EVENT

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If managing a group of 200 odd people is challenging, managing an all women group of 200 is even more so. Everything has to be perfect. While I was merely a treasurer of this all women support group, I soon found myself to be the quiz master, photographer and documenter for this monthly meet group. Poila Boisakh, is the New Year celebrated in Bengal, and was our theme reflecting in the backdrop, quiz questions, décor and also the dress code. I think I learned just enough to write a longish article on it by now!

5) HONED MY WRITING SKILLS

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Jeffry Archer was promoting his new book and T2, the local supplement of the English newspaper, The Telegraph, held a contest. The challenge was to write a story with a beginning, middle & end, in exactly 100 words. Not a word less. Not a word more. Out of 190 entries received, mine was one of the few chosen by their page editor to be featured on their page.

6) APPRECIATED ART

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Art & Calcutta go hand in hand. On one occasion of visiting an art gallery, hoping to pick up some of the famed art, I found myself the subject instead. I found myself observing a painting, on the front page of the daily, instead.

7) RODE A HORSE

How difficult can it be reaching the race course at 5:15 every morning in early spring? Not very. The air is fresh, it’s peaceful and add to that a like minded riding group and you are all set. The breeches were bought, so were the strong leather shoes and a stiff round riding cap. The trotting was not painful and a horse with a very human name, “ Mr Vijay Kumar” was allocated to me. It was a fine majestic horse with a shiny dark brown body and a tall countenance. After a week of getting accustomed to the horse, I decided to call it quits. The reason? The pain. Not to me, but to the horse? Each horse is held with a harness attached on their mouth, all the way to their teeth and to make the horse “obey” you need to pull the muzzle tight or loose as required. I don’t know whether the poor creature felt the pain, but I felt it every time I wanted to make it “obey” me. One day my instructor told me to whip the poor thing. I decided that it was the last day for me.

8) STAR GAZED

The year’s hyped astronomical event was the total solar eclipse seen after a gap of a century in America. In Calcutta we had an episode of a partial lunar eclipse.  I waited till 1 am to see the complete phenomena and tried to record it.

Then another star caught my eye one evening. Dusk had just descended on the quiet hazy evening. It blinked red, then green and appeared to give out flashes of light. Sirius is its name, the brightest star in our constellation. While my hand did shake to capture on manual mode, the colors it gives out are ethereal and almost unreal as if belonging to another dimension.

 9) THE EYE OF A ROYAL BENGAL TIGER

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The Royal Bengal tiger looked directly towards me. He was half hidden behind the leaves camouflaging his stripes. They are known to be man eaters. But I saw him from the safety of a partition wall, in the zoo. Alipore Zoo was built in the late 1800’s. He also shares the zoo with a white tiger. A lion and a leopard are the new occupants. Can sometimes hear them roaring at night. (I stay close to the zoo.)

10) TRIED DIFFERENT CUISINES   

 

Whether it is the bakers, the Mughlai cuisine or the seafood, in abundance you find it all in Calcutta. If I wasn’t online much of the time this year, I was probably eating some Biryani, the Victoria Vada or savouring an English Tea with thin sandwiches.

Looking forward to more feasts on the last year of the Calcutta exploration!

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The Father of Indian Design Education

” You must visit City Centre in Calcutta” said Prof. Nadkarni.

After a few months he asked if I had visited city center yet.

Not much of a shopper, buying even the vegetables online, traveling 40 minutes away from home to a shopping mall was not enticing for me for the first year of living in Calcutta.

Last week, I received a message from Prof about a book that had been published,

The Design Journey of Prof. Sudhakar Nadkarni“.

One could feel his excitement as a little kid for candy. But, then, he is always like that. His infectious enthusiasm and humorous wit transforms any issue.

The next week, we did indeed visit City Centre at Salt Lake.

Designed by late Architect Charles Correa, and signage designed by Prof Nadkarni, it was everything you expect from a mall, but seldom get. The architecture lines were square and minimal. The entire mall followed an atypical pattern allowing exploration and movement. Even the friday food carnival stalls were designed with the environmental feel. A tram and horse, along with tram lines, added the touch of Calcutta’s history, placed in the “kund”.

You’ll find pictures of City Centre in this link, but below are some memorable pictures with Prof. Nadkarni.

 

 

 

This is the post that got me over one million likes……

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Some people become coal miners. Others are born aristocrats with a silver spoon dangling so from their mouth, if it falls, is replaceable.

Look at the world. We have divided ourselves into nation states. Nation states whose boundaries are formed by the blood of other men, whose territories were annexed or our own which we fight to defend. Others, still are in the midst of fighting, fuelled by the generous doses of capitalist dreams. And finally some …… some still seeking their historic identities.

Do we really like to fight? What do we defend?

Humanity it appears, is on the edge.

Are we living how we intended to live?

With overloads of information and overdoses of media’s sensorial enrapture?

Sense, is a simple word. Sense may mean our human sensory organs. Sense may also mean our understanding in spite of them. Our Sensibility.

Animals also have sensory organs and instincts. We have sensory organs, but also sensibility.

Funny it is, we are slaves to our senses, not to our sensibility.

Each time we see that notification, a “like” we get, or a generous reply, it lifts us with enough dopamine for the minute. The minute over, we again check our status on our various sensory (social) media sites.

At the traffic signal, we take the time to answer our various communications, many of which can wait and many of which are not worthy of our time, but our giving it time, makes it worthy of us. At the same traffic signal, a teenager would pass nonchalantly with eyes fixed on a smart screen and ears tuned to the radio waves emitted by the sound signal on their smart device. Sometimes meeting with an accident mid road. Can we sense our worth now?

We take pictures not to keep memories by as a visual record keeping of our every minute of the lives. Sometimes we pose, and while posing dangerously, many also die. (selfie deaths)Then we exhibit these so called pictures on our sensory media sites and await the feeling of dopamine rush.

We wait. We wait.

The first like and we breathe a sigh of relief!

10 likes and some comments, we feel socially included.

100 likes, we feel socially honored.

1000 likes or more, we feel socially elevated. We revel in our sensory social position like demi – gods.

What have we become? A race of disconnected individuals? Our connection far greater to our devices than even to ourselves.

What does your sensibility say to you?

“Don’t do this…”

Doesn’t it?

That is proof enough of our being highest in the living hierarchy.

But, if it isn’t what you hear in your mind, I have no words left to describe you.

I shall not pose further questions to you, but continue my monologue.

The question itself is the crux. It’s the source of our identity. We base our identities on geographical areas, age, gender, profession, occupation or social and financial position. Our acceptance in those categories are crucial to our existence. Or so, it would seem.

Some time back, we were told that every human on earth has a unique set of fingerprints. Only suspected criminals were tested for fingerprints. Then our monitoring grew and we now have full biometric identities. India is trying to make the largest database of biometric identities of humans on this planet along with also very successfully increasing its real population to the largest in the world. I can’t own a phone connection (communicate) or a bank account (transact my savings for subsistence), if I haven’t shared these details with our nation state governance. Nor can I use an ISP to self-publish this article. (Share ideas)

What every marketer trying to sell us a frozen packaged preservative cocktail or a sugar laden drink, both of which our sensibility tells us isn’t right; revolves around our grouped identities called a “target set” or our forced grouping formed through these sensory inputs.

I go ahead and guzzle litres of fizzy carbonated drinks, thawing the chemical soups packaged for my “convenience” for the rush of mood elevating hormones released and which the “pretty” girl (usually) on TV alluded would make me a socially elevated demi god and a super mom.

We fail as humans and succumb to our senses.

Digital media wins. Over distance. Time. Social space. And us, the Humans.

Then we often make a mistake and offer the excuse,

“I, after all…… am human!”

 

PS: As you can see, I did not get any likes for this post. That was to engage you as an audience.

 

 

 

 

Should you let the Lions sleep?

While at NIFT, a major part of my job became pushing files with lingo such as post facto, ex post facto, pro bono, status quo and the sorts. (Why a “fashion” institute is still stuck with an ancient method of record maintenance is still a puzzle to me.)

The word status quo came towards me from many directions.

“Don’t challenge the status quo” came again from the HR in a private jewellery company, as I experimented with changes in the branding plan. That actually pushed me a step further towards the door.

“Let the lions sleep” advised another colleague in another firm.

But there have been some lessons which I share.

Innovation vs order

If you are in a job, you have two options. One is that you try to change things for the better and the other is that you try to maintain the “status quo” and work within that constraint.

After working in mostly jewellery companies, I realized that innovation comes not just from products, but also from process; and also from systems. System innovation sounds quite technical, but as I see it, it could be as simple as instructing your back end to do a certain task, or a single person incharge to do a single thing more (or less).

Productivity vs change

While you endeavor to change things around, there maybe resistance to change. Changes in work process without senior most management push, is an uphill task. Many areas that actually need changes are grey areas often between different departments. An ideal scenario would be to identify leaders from each department and enroll them as change agents for the larger innovation. This however also leads to those resisting change to react adversely.

What you think vs group think

When coming up with ideas, innovative thinkers may come up with ideas which appear to be so crazy, so mad, so eccentric that the larger mass of thought might not be able to accommodate it. New ideas are risky, because they have not been tried out before. Getting people apart from yourself out of their comfort zones and  fixed routine might be a huge challenge if you really do believe in the worth of your idea. But if it doesn’t work, its your neck on the line and that is the single biggest deterrent to individuals, our non acceptance of failure.

The conventional employee would let the “lions sleep” and the innovator? What would the innovator do? Would you let the Lions sleep?

Sierpinski’s triangle & Fractal Gupitar

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Yesterday something happened. Remember that feeling when what you have always believed in your life gets refuted by a new finding and suddenly the world doesn’t look the way it always did? That something happened.

The trigger was a mathematics professor of Santa Fe university through the online mooc on Complexity Explorer.

The birds chirp outside on a tree blossoming with red spring flowers. A tributary of the Ganges flows near my backyard. On the other side of the house,the Victoria Memorial is sometimes visible through the haze.

Till last week I was teaching students of my drawing workshop I hold, that there are three dimensions. Yesterday, a non integer dimension was proven by this professor. Sierpinski’s triangle, Koch curve and the snowflake. Imagine a dimension within two given dimensions, the monodimension (single dimension), duo dimension (2D) and the third somewhere in between.

While, I won’t get into the details of the explanation, he has provided quite well in this open mooc; things he said triggered further thoughts.

” ..imagine…” he said, “if I had a magic box and could blow up the cube to double its size….”

Things doubling up, or blowing up triggered interesting memories. Remember the movie, “Honey I shrunk the kids” or better still “Honey, I blew up the kids”?

Hasn’t every kid five years of age wished that the cake/icecream/chocolate in their hand would magically double its size? A table laden with goodies would “magically” appear from somewhere. If there is a Gulliver, can’t there be a Gulliver of matter?

So, have we tried blowing up anything? Maybe yes. Thermacol looks closely possible. A plastic. Maybe there are others.

What if we can add a fractal space into a cube? The cube would expand and blow up? What if we added a sierpinski triangle space into a gold bar? Would gold start floating in space? What if we expanded the space further and further and further? Can we make it so big that we can star living on a Gold planet. Maybe call it Gipinski or Gupitar.

What if we used a stronger material. Spider’s web? And created a planet out of that? Can we one day be actually staying there instead of on Mars?

Image source: WikiSpaces

How Colour Branding is working in Politics

Elections in India have become a huge gala of sound, noise and drama. Add the songs, events, digital marketing and you get a full 360 marketing campaign.

Today’s public held swearing-in ceremony at the state capital Kolkata, was fashionable.

The newly elected party had in huge doses, a political brand presence. It demonstrated people power, by the sheer number of human population surrounding the event and an association with a certain color scheme, liberally used in the decorations. For a State that boasts of as much  land territory and population as that of a small country ; a state language (Bengali) which has 211 million speakers in the world; a grand event did not seem unusual.

A creative like me with absolutely zero to borderline interest in the political scene, was surprised by the recent election campaigns used by various political parties. I grew up in the New Delhi area in the 80’s and 90’s, when every national event or visiting dignitary visit (there were plenty) had elaborate doses of tri-coloured flower & leaf arrangement or the “many-flowerpots-arrangement” of the horticulture department. While Marigold / Dahlias were usually denoting the Orange, the Leafy Palms represented the Green band in the national flag. I am forgetting what they did about the whites. Petunias, maybe.

In the national elections a couple of years back, while one party; (represented by the holy saffron hue bordering on fanta orange), tried to bring in the green and white in many places in its ad space, it was perhaps  primarily seeking to be identified with its lotus orange usp. Fanta, Vodaphone and other brands have successfully used the orange colour to show excitement and cheer in their logos.

The Bengal party, after branding the city with Blue and White (seemed to be borrowed from the sari of the Missionaries of Charity) and now adorning everything from lampposts, railings to the great event itself; exemplifies the success of its understanding of colour perception.

What remains unbranded perhaps is the rest of the contingent of the political nobles. Will it be a wonder if lack of symbolic colour translated to the lack in its personality? Or worse, the choice of a wrong colour could signal contrary emotions? Let’s wait and watch.