Author: Pavani Sairam

    Internet noise

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    Did you ever see a trending article or video and thought this is the DEFINITION of Internet Noise? Like: “Oh my God! Why on earth is this ever created!?”.

    The Internet made it easier for anyone to create and publish their content, without a quality check.

    While this made it easier for unestablished creators to find a larger audience, it also resulted in large amounts of low-value, false and misleading content.

    Earning money by providing free content?

    The Youtube videos you see, the apps you use like Facebook, WhatsApp, the website content you read online, take consistent effort and resources to build. If all of the content on the internet is currently available for free, how are the content makers earning money?

    They get ads money by selling out space on their apps or sites. They also save and trade user data and information for money. If a viewer clicks on the ads on their site, they get extra money.

    The more viewers they get, the more their web- traffic increases and the more money they generate.

    Some people identify only business opportunity here- to them, content quality is secondary.

    Let me explain an example of a businessman- Jerry.

    Jerry’s story

    Jerry decides he would make money on the internet, he has a step by step plan.

    1. Deciding the topic of the site: Jerry researches on what current trending topics are. Examples: WhatsApp status sites, Quotes for your Boyfriend, Video game cheat codes, cute cat memes etc., And chooses a topic that would help him ride on the tide.

    Because Jerry has too many sites to maintain, so he spends as less money, time and resources as he can. He will most likely develop these sites for a while and earn money by selling a product or ads.

    He will sell these sites off for higher returns unless the site tips and becomes a brand- earning very good returns.

    With little practice, one can clearly tell the difference between a site that is carefully created and one which is only made to earn money out of it.

    2. Logistical decisions: Jerry establishes his office in a country where he can pay less for the workforce: countries in South Asia or South East Asia like India are preferred.

    Tim Ferris in his book: The Four Hour Work Week also wrote about this concept of hiring consultants from economies with lower currency rates to cut down operational costs.  They hire employees for lower wages.

    Behind the scenes

    These employees (let us call them Joe) are supposed to write:

    • on topics that are given to them by taking results from a Keyword research tool.
    • a minimum of 3 to 5 articles per day.
    • for a specific (read lengthy) word length.

    Because of the impending time constraints, Joe does a google search, collects data from the first 3 or 4 sites, rephrases the sentences here and there and finishes up as quickly as humanly possible. And then, moves onto the next article to repeat the same routine.

    Statistics in 2018 show that the word length of articles which grabbed reader attention ranged from 1000 to 1200 words. So, Joe is expected to write three to five 1000 word articles per day.

    Ever noticed the long, boring introduction filling the first and last few paragraphs of an article with Keywords on a job site? Joe was just trying to reach the 1000 word target, alright?

    Interesting facts!

    1. The administrative strategy is to employ low- cost labour. I used to work as a manager in a similar firm before I resigned. Can you guess the gender of all fifteen Joes who wrote? Female. Jerry believes it is convenient to hire female employees for low paying jobs.

    2. Ever entered a page that had a really interesting title, went in and saw the content was completely different? This technique is called click- bait. They do this to drive traffic.

    3. There are some consultancies that write fake reviews, favorable comments for products etc. Next time you depend on a review to make a decision, think again!

    Internet Noise affects on genuine writers:

    I once saw a Joe writing about an Oprah Winfrey book, on a book review site; which mostly earns its revenue from running ads and from Amazon.

    Joe doesn’t know who Oprah was or what “Super Soul Sundays” is! If you wanted to read about Oprah, don’t you wish the one who wrote the article knew what they are writing about?

    I’m not saying bad content is only created by bad content creators. Sometimes even good content creators stumble.

    But the writers who create their work as an art, read and write, improvise and edit constantly.

    They spend time, energy, effort and money to train themselves to write and to achieve a level of mastery. And sometimes their work is stolen, rephrased and used by Joe.

    Start by realizing your every action has power, especially on the Internet. There are so many Jerrys who won’t mind creating many sites out of mediocre content just to earn money.

    As most of the staff is inexperienced, non- expert and overworked, the content is generally uninspiring, stolen, rephrased, ungrammatical and curated in a hasty way.

    What you can do about it:

    • Next time you enter a low- value site, do yourself a favour and close it immediately. It gives Google and other search engines a clue that the content is not up to the mark.
    • If you continue using sites with poor content for longer durations, you are essentially improving their domain strength and ranking them up. Aka, your next google search for the topic will return you more results from this site instead of better sites with High- Value Content.
    • Simply don’t open content that you don’t want to read.
    Categories: Social Awareness

    The Endless Search

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    The Search:

    What do you and I hope to find through the money we earn, the history we learn, the journeys we take, the connections we make and the possessions we seek?
    The glories of the past, heroes in the present; the gold in your medals, gifted rose petals; pocket full of money, Read More
    Categories: Poems by Pavani Tags: Tags: ,

    On Plastic Pollution and our Beach Cleaning

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    pavanisairam background

    Beach Cleaning

    Every Sunday, a bunch of us gather at the beach near our hometown and clean the shore. The best part is that we get to do it alongside enthusiastic children who show up week after week after week.

    When we enter the beach, it looks like a long-lost cousin of trash yards. We set a decent target distance. We start with grit and great energy.

    By the time we reach our target, we get unusually tired, thirsty and happy. And the beach looks untouched and remains so till the next half day or so.

    This isn’t just to keep the little Kakinada beach pretty. When we clean, we make sure that the land closest to the shoreline is wiped off of plastic, thermocol and other wastes.

    What is the point?

    A friend of a friend of mine once bluntly declared: “The beach gets dirty sooner than the time you are taking to clean it. It is a waste of time!” I tried to explain but soon we moved onto the next fun topic.

    So, I did what anyone in my place would do. I came home and started writing this. We have all been schooled enough times about how plastic, pollution and absence of waste management are harming us and to all our future generations.

    Cleaning nearby a waterfront is not nearly the same thing as cleaning your colony or your neighbour’s house. While that is settled, let me now get to the indirect benefits of collective activities to protect the environment.

    Let us understand why certain places are more damaged by the same amount of pollution as compared to others. And how different kinds of pollution have varying degrees of effects on different environments.

    Environmentalists among you probably know this. Let us call this- “Variable Eco-sensitivity”.

    Variable Eco-Sensitivity

    In human terms, it means that if you throw plastic waste on land, it won’t decompose maybe for 100 to 1000 years based on its composition.

    But, throw it into a water body and, it will not only contaminate it and cause the usual harm as on land, in addition to it- it kills aquatic life. Including that cute dolphin, you saw last time.

    Ecological Sensitivity near certain spaces like farmlands, lakes, rivers, ocean fronts and underground water channels is very high.

    I decided to not bore you to death about it here. We all know plastic is bad because some kinds don’t decompose for nearly ten to 1000 years, right? Let’s not get into it.

    Let us test our knowledge about Environmental Science. Please, indulge me and answer a couple of quick questions.

    Question 1: Thick plastic or thin plastic: which is more harmful?

    If you ask your mom, she will say thick plastic is always better. Because she can re-use it. If you negate her and say thin plastic is better because it is thin, then the joke is on you.

    I’m sorry mate. Just because it is thin, it does not decompose faster. In fact, thick plastic takes about 450 years to decompose and it is recyclable. But thin plastic is one-time use and decomposes for about 1000 years.

    Yes, your mom is right. Some of you might be thinking: “So what Pavni? I don’t care. I’m not going to be here for 1000 years to witness how bad the earth is going to get.”

    Then congratulations! Your take-it-easy-policy will keep you stress-free for a while. But plastic won’t let you. It is secretly causing changes to your brain functioning and soon, you could get depressed with this thought.

    No, I’m not saying it- research is. Read on.

    Question 2: Why is burning plastic bad for the environment?

    Well, that was an insult to your intellect. We all know it is bad because it causes air pollution and releases toxic gases, right?

    Fact: Plastic, when heated or exposed to hot temperatures, may release dioxins, furans, Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls and mercury. These contaminants reach an organism by settling on water sources, enter crops by accumulating on land, into our bodies through food, water, skin more than through air pollution.

    These materials bioaccumulate. Which means they enter your body and stay in your fat cells. Babies get these accumulations from placenta if their mother is exposed to these.

    Deformities in new-borns, cancer, reproductive health problems and mental illnesses occur due to this. The brain requires fats to function. If the fats are contaminated by plastic injected toxins, it might result in a range of brain malfunctions.

    The contamination through the air is less compared to other sources. Next time your neighbours or municipality workers quickly burn waste they might actually give you depression or asthma or PCOS, or worse- cancer.

    Food in Plastic

    Don’t sue your municipalities and neighbours just yet. One of the most rampant ways in which plastic contamination is spreading is through your lunch boxes, those water packets and food parcels.

    The heat emitted from the sun in a tropical country like India is enough to activate these toxins. The water and drink bottles in plastic and packets we drink out of are very harmful.

    Every piece of your food is wrapped in it. You maintain high standards to eat clean but wrap your food in toxins. Our temples give hot Pongal as prasad in plastic bowls.

    Note: When that hot biryani comes into contact with the plastic cover it is wrapped in, all these toxins get activated and seep into the Biryani. You eat it and can’t wait for the next time to consume toxic food again.

    This is one of the main reasons why we should really work on not using plastic at all. But we are all busy celebrating marriages with a five hundred thousand foam cups and two million hundred plastic plates!

    Sorry to be blunt. Essentially, you are giving toxic waste, ruining yourself and others.

    Now you are going to get very upset with me. Because not only did I take out any peace you used to get out of the convenience that plastic food wraps gave you, but now I’m saying if you throw them out, it could also be a problem.

    But wait. I’m also saying that it is a problem if your neighbour or the random stranger uses it or burns it. At this point, your wisdom points out that you can’t control how other’s act.

    How to reduce plastic pollution?

    I also know that you are tempted to say: “This is why I give up trying.”

    Every week when we clean the beach, we end up with heaps of waste. But there are no ways to pick the trash and transport it away from the beach. And we are currently working on finding sustainable solutions to this.

    Listen, there have always been and will always be at least two ways in which great changes could be achieved.

    1. Self-awareness
    2. Institutional changes

    Final thoughts:

    You become aware, don’t use plastic, tell your neighbour, ask your temple authorities, participate in beach cleaning, worry about ways to dispose the waste, bring this problem to the notice of local authorities, fail in all those attempts, try again, set up stalls and marches to demonstrate the effects of plastic and other wastes, give lectures to people on street, give presentations in auditoriums, write articles and poems about it, run the risk of looking crazy, write petitions, approach authorities, work towards a change, keep the faith, find better ways to save yourself, your family, your neighbour, the municipality workers, the street dog and maybe all of the earth.

    We live in a democracy. It is hard to make changes, but the system gave a chance to ensure it is not impossible. The government sets up new oncology centres and hospitals. I also want to watch them take preventive steps and take the plastic ban seriously.

    Plastic alternatives are already there. While we can use organic-leaf made or glass and steel alternatives for a while, we can urge the government to make the institutional changes required to replace plastic industries.

    It is such a relief that Science already has solutions to all these problems. But today, these remain in the science laboratories. Let us strive to get them out of there- to the industries and into our houses.

    Tasha and Cultural Change in the Traditions of Veerabhadra

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    Tasha is a musical instrument played to propitiate Veerabhadra. This is an attempt to understand Cultural Change and Continuity.

    Veerabhadra and Daksha Yagnya

    If you live in India, chances are, you heard about Veerabhadra, know his story. I will recount it briefly here:

    “Sati- the wife of Lord Shiva gets insulted by her father Daksha. A series of events occur during Daksha’s yagnya and she self immolates herself in fire.

    Knowing that his beloved wife is no more, Shiva creates Veerabhadra. Created to kill, Veerabhadra sets out for destruction with an army of soldiers.

    He forages towards the Yagnya, fights, destroys the sacrificial ritual and beheads Daksha.”

    The story goes on. Shiva is called in to stop Veerabhadra and his entourage. Shiva arrives, revives Daksha back to life and reinstates the yagnya. This is the story that, one most likely knows.

    Veerabhadra

    Veerabhadra

    This article in no way pretends to be an exhaustive account of Veerabhadra’s stories. It is based on ethnographic research of the South Asian deity and his Culture in Godavari Districts of Andhra Pradesh, India.

    Pacifying Veerabhadra

    In one of my interviews with a Tasha (a musical instrument played in the ritual processions of Veerabhadra) player, I got to know the following Oral narrative. It is in continuation with the above story.

    After Daksha’s beheading, Asakini- the wife of Daksha with her inherent power stops all three worlds. All the gods headed by Brahma and Vishnu then went to Siva and pleaded with him to restore Daksha back to life.

    Siva restores the life of Daksha by attaching a goat’s head to his body. While everything including the sacrifice got restored, Veerabhadra remained furious.

    This resulted in destructions across the world. Unable to pacify him, the masses prayed and asked him what he wants to become peaceful.

    He replied: Omkaranatham- the sound of Om- is to be played for him. Then, Narada and Tumbura, the two celestial sages well-versed in music, created a human called Veerangeya.

    Veerangeya was to create the sound somehow. He used his creative energies and took the body of the goat whose head was fixed to Daksha and created an instrument called Veeranam.

    He removed the skin and created the membrane on which one plays the beat. He used the intestines as the rope to tie the instrument and started playing it.

    After listening to its music, Veerabhadra got pacified. The gods were relieved and gave boons to Veerangeya.

    Brahma gave him the power to be a creator, Vishnu gave a Chakram (Wheel) and, Siva gave a Soolam (Trident). Veerangeya received all these boons and became a Kummari- Potter.

    Veerabhadra granted a boon to Veerangeya. Every time a ritual procession is held to propitiate him, Veerangeya and his descendants are given the right to play the instrument.

    Veerabhadra Jatar

    Veerabhadra Jatara

    This is an oral narrative about Veerabhadra. It discusses the origin stories of jataras, a musical instrument called Veeranam and the community of Kummaris (Potters) in the region. During my field work in 2015, Komarapati Verriyya – a Tasha player shared this Oral narrative with me.

    Tasha and the Old man

    Veeranam and this community, among others, are said to have an indispensable role to play in the ritual procession or the Jatara of Veerabhadra. Verriyya was seventy- seven at the time when I went to meet him at his remote village.

    I saw the house’s cupboards filled with mementos, awards and pictures of him with prominent people. I was told that he played throughout the country in Arts and Culture programs. He gave a few programs outside India as well.

    His story interested me, it was a good case to observe continuity and change of cultural processes.

    Verriyya got interested in Tasha in his childhood. He said he loved the sound of it so much that he wanted to play it. He went to a famous Tasha player and asked him to teach. The teacher was hesitant.

    You must be wondering why. Verriyya didn’t belong to the community of people who transmit this art from one generation to another. At the time, him wanting to play the instrument meant that he was challenging the existing socio-cultural system at place.

    Tasha is to be played with a group- alongside a minimum of 2 or 3 other Tasha players and other instruments like Veeranam, Ramu Dolu and Sannayi.

    He recounted how joyful he felt when his teacher agreed to train him. His main challenge was not just learning to play it. He had to find a group of people who would accept him to play in their group.

    He shared one instruction his teacher told him: he had to be an exceptional player if he had to break into the circle. He succeeded at it. This is his story of Tasha.

    “Tasha is dead!”

    If you want to know about Tasha, you should understand how it is supposed to be made. Back then, we all made our own Tasha. The surface of these Tashas bought from a shop are made of plastic.

    We went to the butcher shop and asked for the left-over skin of a goat. One needs to clean it, clear the hair, soak it in soap nut water, rinse it thoroughly and let it sun dry.

    We repeated this process until we know the membrane is ready. Then this membrane is fitted onto the frame using natural gum and rope. The frame is made out of clay, wood or iron.

    A Tasha made in this way is a second life for the skin. Its skin is significant due to the story of Veerangeya as well. It has a characteristic sound- lively and louder than the plastic ones.

    The plastic covering is readily available for thirty rupees and its durable. So, everyone started using it. But it’s sound is not as rich, it feels lifeless.

    The story and the philosophical meaning that comes along with the repurposed skin Tasha is being neglected. Now the process of preparing it, which was passed on from generation to generation is nearly extinct.

    I spoke to authorities in Ministries of Culture to not enable plastic ones at least in their performances so the knowledge can be preserved.I ask my fellow players to not use the plastic ones.

    No one pays heed to it.

    Tasha is played in a group. As the sound needs to be in sync, we can’t use different kinds of Tashas at a time.

    So, I unwillingly gave up and play the plastic ones alongside them.

    Tasha sachipoyindhi- Tasha is dead!

    This is Verriyya’s story of Tasha. It is a window to the bigger Cultural processes at play- a story of Continuity and Change.

    Tasha and Cultural change

    Continued existences form the central theme in the tradition of Veerabhadra. It is believed that some dead children can continue their existence in the human realm as a Veerabhadra.

    Using the skin of a dead animal to please these Veerabhadras during rituals has a significance to it. The story of Veeranam mentions the significance briefly, but not directly.

    Just as becoming a Veerabhadra is a second life of the dead child, so is Tasha to the dead skin. It is a symbolism that represents life after death and continued existences.

    As Tasha continues to be played in ritual processions and performances, the way in which it is made changed. Along with this change, the Cultural meaning attached to Tasha has also changed.

    Its meaning shifted from a Cultural symbolism rooted in the stories of Veerabhadra to a plastic musical instrument.

    Verriyya’s story of standing against caste differences to play Tasha is a good case to understand social change.

    Any social tides didn’t turn just because one person was allowed to break the convention. His story became an exception- not a rule. He loved the instrument, convinced his master to teach him, mastered it and years later became a renown Tasha player.

    By playing Tasha at a time when certain communities were only allowed to play it, he represented a possibility. A possibility that didn’t exist until then.

    Bands and, music-cum- dance groups are slowly replacing the strict caste-based guidelines and communities.

    One can study the life cycle of Tasha as a microcosm to understand certain Cultural and Socio-Economic processes.

    A while back, I wrote another story about the multiple identities of Veerabhadra and, the story of a Gate Keeper in Pattiseema temple. Read it here.

    Categories: Veerabhadra

    Shifting Perspectives: The Tale of Dead Poets, Caves and Three Fish

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    Shifting Perspectives

    As I sat in front of my writing desk, trying to pick an article idea for my first post from five dozen drafts, I stumbled upon a response paper wrote during my Master’s. It was a critical study on the Socio-Philosophical aspects of the Virashaiva poetry- the Vacanas, a story of Shifting Perspectives. 

    Its structure was unusual. It had a prelude that doubled as a personal note unlike other response papers I usually wrote back then. It described an intriguing incident in the life of A.K. Ramanujan.

    A.K. Ramanujan and the Dead Poet:

    He is a famous scholar, translator, poet and folklorist. Ramanujan translated kannada Vacanas in his book Speaking of Siva. I was using this book as a source to write my response paper at the time.

     Speaking of Shiva

    As all researchers do, I started reading up every bit of available information on the Vacanas, Veerashaivas, Ramanujan and Shaiva philosophy. In the course of reading, I stumbled upon a poem authored by Ramanujan.

    The footnote of the poem revealed an incident in his life. He was once translating a book of poems written by Atmanam. He was so impressed by the poems that he felt those were probably the best poems in Tamil.

    “I had some connection with him that I couldn’t quite define.” Amidst translating, his intrigue led him to read the biographical note at the end of the book.”

    – A.K. Ramanujan

    He was shocked to read that Atmanam committed suicide in 1983. Before attempting suicide, Atmanam was reading, day and night, his book Speaking of Siva, to find solace. This discovery shook up Ramanujan.

    I handpicked the best books written by Ramanujan. He translated folktales and poetry in the time he was alive:

    1. Here is his translation of Veerashaiva poetry: Speaking of Shiva
    2. Ramanujan’s best works of his lifetime are available in his Collected Essays.
    3. Understand and express love from his translations of fantastic poems from Love Poetry.

    What he read in that moment introduced him to a different world in which he was unaware of his participation. That is when he wrote the following poem.

    A poem, which was incomprehensible to me until I read the footnote which contained the story of Ramanujan and Atmanam. A poem, which I thought would undoubtedly double as a brain teaser before I got to know the backstory.

    Twenty years ago,
    the saints who sang ten centuries ago about Siva
    without any thought of me,
    I didn’t have any thought of
    a young man in Madras ten years ago
    who would read them through my words
    night and day his hand toying with pills
    his eyes with colours turning on a wheel
    Swallowing them
    with the poems that had no thought
    of him or me who had no thought of him
    gasping in the mist between day and the needles
    in the wrist between to be or not to be…

    A.K.Ramanujan

    Let me quickly share a similar experience of a Korean monk- Wonhyo before I get back to Ramanujan’s story.  

    The Monk in a tomb:

    In 661 A.D., a Korean Monk- Wonhyo- was accompanying another prominent monk- Uisang on a journey to China. This journey would later be recounted for centuries in innumerous tales.

    Due to the political tensions among the three kingdoms of Korea and with Tang China, Wonhyo and Uisang’s journey to China got disrupted a few times. According to the Sung Biography of Eminent Priests, both started again in the year 661.

    They were supposed to board a ship from Haemun as a part of their journey. But, as fate would have it, they had to halt the journey and take shelter in a nearby cave. In the darkness and unfamiliarity of the cave, Wonhyo searched for water to quench his thirst in the dead of the night.

    Finding a bowl filled with sweet water, he drinks from it. In the rays of the morning light, Wonhyo finds that the cave was, in fact, a tomb. The “pitcher” from which he drank the sweet water was a skull filled with disgusting fluid.

    When Mind is generated, various laws arise; when Mind dies away, the earth mound and the old tomb become the same.”

    Wonhyo

    Wonhyo never went to China- not because he got inflicted badly by disease- but because he got enlightened about the nature of existence. He didn’t find the need to go to China anymore. He returned to Korea and developed his philosophical theory: the One Mind Philosophy.

    Wonhyo in the Cave..
    Stormy nights and Dark caves..

    One would want to delve deeper into his philosophy. You can read about it from his book: Wonhyo’s One Mind. If you are interested in Wonhyo’s explanation of Buddhist Sutras, I recommend reading: Vajrasamadhi Sutra.

    There are several versions of this story of Wonhyo, the stormy night, and the cave. But a common theme runs across all those retellings- his One Mind Philosophy.

    The mind is the origin of all objects. The meanings we attach to the objects like profanity and sacredness are non- existent. They are not a property of the object, but a result of the mind’s fabrication.

    One Mind philosophy

    Korean society, at the time, had strict social codes and hierarchies. These hierarchies extended to Buddhism as well. Bone- rank system was applied to religion.

    It only qualified people who were aristocrats, rulers and monks to monkhood and moksha. Laymen and householders did not practice Buddhism as it required them to practice certain professions or renunciate.

    Wonhyo was the crazy monk who renunciated renunciation and returned to laymen life after his realization. He understood that Buddhahood was a state of mind and can be practised by anyone regardless of their position in the social ladder.

    The unreality of the world is a notion from a relative point of view!
    Yoga Vasishta: Unreality

    According to him, impurity or purity are mentally constructed concepts. He smashed the following concepts as the qualifying criteria for attaining spiritual realization, which existed then:

    1. Social order given at birth by the Bone Rank System. 
    2. The profession one chooses to be in for daily sustenance.

    Wonhyo made Buddhahood accessible to everyone.

    He advocated for equality in the realm of spirituality in his day and age, though he was unaware of it. He did this not by starting a revolution. It all started with Wonhyo undergoing a shift in his own perspective and arriving at the One Mind Philosophy in the tomb on a stormy dark night.

    Ramanujan, Wonhyo and Water:

    I’m not writing to prove that the universe is connected; neither was Ramanujan. I do not pretend to make sense of all the innumerous connections and impact chains we are unknowingly participating in this world, as we continue our insignificant existence on this planet within the galaxies which are constantly expanding and collapsing.

    I’m not preaching about religion, equality or dogma; neither did Wonhyo. Wonhyo simply discovered a new way in which he could experience the world and that idea tipped. He shook up the social dynamics of 7th Century Korea by drinking the disgusting skull water.

    Most importantly, what I’m definitely not doing is endorsing drinking mush water to reach spiritual realizations. Let me clarify my intent with an excerpt from the commencement speech delivered by David Foster Wallace (Disclaimer: It is about water.).

    There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

    Wallace was a thought leader who wrote extraordinary novels and taught creative writing during his lifetime. You must have heard of the books: “Girl with curious hair” and “Infinite Jest”. Both are written by Wallace. Find these works and more here:Wallace’s Writing.

    The young fish eventually discovered water- their default setting. Most of us continue to be oblivious of our default settings: the sea of ideas we swim in throughout our lives.

    The stories of Ramanujan, Wonhyo and the three fishes have a similar arc. All start with certain ideas about the world in which they live- a default setting of operation.

    Water?
    Oblivion…

    We tend to continue being unaware of the water of notions, pre-conceived judgements and habits we practice day after day after day. And someday, we see the water and may break out of one out of many cycles.

    Being aware and understanding the operations of our default settings is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think.

    David Foster Wallace

    Sometimes, this breakthrough could change your life. And most times, your life is not altered upside down and you are not selling a Ferrari to go to snowy Himalayan peaks. 

    But what it does is make you more aware of the Water that surrounds you. It will make you discover water once-in-a-while, where there was only swimming.

    And then something happens outside the realms of this setting, resulting in a shift in their perspective.  That is how all breakthroughs that the world has ever witnessed start.

    Shifting Perspectives: My Water story

    A few years ago, I also had a similar shift in perspective about the way in which research is written and understood. At the time, I thought academic works and research writing needed to possess a quality of dry sophistication. I thought academic writing and storytelling never coincided, so did a few other intellectuals.

    When I first read Ramanujan’s story, it sparked intrigue in me. As interesting as the story was, at the time I didn’t think I would use it. I thought it was safer to stick to the default mode of academic writing and stay away from direct speech as I did for other papers to appear “scholarly”.

    It is not just upto the politicians to improve the fairness and quality of India’s History. Unless Indian historians learn to make their work intelligeble and attractive to a wider audience, and especially to their own voraciously literate middle class, unhistorical myths will continue to flourish. 

    William Dalrymple 

    Thankfully, the Professor assessing that paper was my mentor Professor Aditya Malik, so the idea was not thrashed. He was a scholar who knows his way around water and would encourage us to operate outside our default setting as well. 

    His works on South Asian History and Religion are brilliant. Among many other themes, he worked on Oral Histories, Divine Embodiments and Hinduism. You can get them here: Aditya Malik’s works.

    I could think of ways in which I could incorporate it into the body of work without compromising the concept of the essay, but I wasn’t sure till I finished writing it.

    Somehow, my perspective shifted from trying to conform to the default academic writing style to the realization that the syntax and style we adapt to speak about a topic can’t take away the concept, content or intent of the work.

    It was not a breakthrough then, it was just a simple thought sparked by intrigue. It was one of those initial impact moments when I realized the need for Research Story Telling. It is one Water Story.  

    Do you have a Water story?

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