Friday, November 24, 2017

Learning Dispatch - November 25th, 2017 - Books, Films and Medical Memoirs

Notes on Sessions at the Tata Literature Live 2017

The Tata Literature Live 2017 festival was organized in Mumbai from 16th November 2017 to 19th November 2017. On Day 1, I attended a panel discussion titled Reading like a Writer and a debate on whether we were living in a nanny state. On Day 3, I attended four talks titled, 'The mystery of JD Saligner', 'Berlin, London and Mumbai: How Cities inspire new narratives', 'Poets translating Poets' and 'Judging the Judges'. You can read the description of each of these sessions in some of the links provided above or on the Tata Lit Live website. We ended the day with a two hour play on an Irish Freedom Fighter in the Tata Theatre at NCPA.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Learning Dispatch - October 27th 2017 - Notes from MAMI

The 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival was held in Mumbai from 12th to 18th October 2017. There were over 200 films being screened at over 18 screens around the city. 

These are some notes from the few films I got to watch at the festival this year. I have attached a link to the trailer for your reference and further exploration. 
  1. Thelma is a science fiction film about how a girl's super-natural powers to make people disappear affects her life
  2. Loveless is the story of a broken marriage in Russia and its repercussions on the neglected child of this failed relationship. 
  3. Redoubtable is a fictional depiction of the French Filmmaker Jean Luc Godard's relationship with his second wife who was much younger than him. 
  4. mother! is a psychological horror film about how a couple's relationship is disrupted when uninvited guests start arriving at their home. 
  5. Up, Down and Sideways is a film about a group of rice farmers in Nagaland who worked as a cooperative but had a tradition of singing love songs while farming in the field. 
  6. A Suitable Girl was my highlight of the festival. It is the story of three Indian women in their mid 20's. They are well educated but yet face a lot of pressure from their families to get married and settle down. The three women come from different geographic (Rajasthan and Mumbai) and professional backgrounds (Finance, Education, Marketing). But the struggle to choose between their family's expectation of them as daughters of the house and their own dreams and desires is a common theme that unites these three stories. 
I am glad Mumbai has its own film festival. I really enjoyed my time at the festival this year. I wish I could have seen a few more films. But I am glad I got to watch whatever I eventually got to watch. 

October 27th, 2017
Sunday, August 27, 2017

Learning Dispatch - August 27th 2017 - On Reading Murakami


I spent some time reading two short story collections by the Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. The titles of the books were, 'Men without Women' (2016) and 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Women' (2006). A close friend had recommended picking up some of his work after she read his novel, 'The Wind Up Bird Chronicle'. I was first introduced to Murakami through his memoir about writing titled, 'What I Think About, When I Talk About Running' that described his passion for running. I once read a quote by him that said that his writing largely depended on Characterization, Dialogues and Description. I wanted to get a glimpse into his world and I thought short stories was a good way to get started. He commented on his love for the form as follows in a piece about his earlier short story collection, 

"I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Learning Dispatch - August 13th 2017 - On watching Master of None

This weekend I had a lot of free and I decided to binge watch Master of None.

Master of None is a comedy web-television series created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. It was released for streaming on Netflix in 2015. There are 2 seasons with 20 episodes.  IMDB describes the show as a comedy about the personal and professional life of Dev Shah, a 30 year old actor in New York. Without giving out any spoilers, I'd like to write about my experience watching this show. The characters reflected some of your own personal dilemmas. Dev felt what you feel on a daily basis living in a big city. Some themes the show dealt with include:

  • Being an ethnic minority
  • Being in a job you like and don't like
  • Finding time to meet my three best friends
  • Going on a date
  • Dealing with your parents expectations of you
  • Falling in Love 
  • Falling out of Love
  • Falling in Love again
  • Work pressure
  • What do you do in a big city on a free weekend
  • Taking time out to cook
  • Growing old
Saturday, May 13, 2017

Learning Dispatch - May 13th 2017 - Money and Player Value in Sports


I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new insights and learnings. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started. 

How do you determine the value of a player in a game of sport?

Money and Player Value in Football

Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski published Soccernomics in 2014. The books explores some counter intuitive truths about football. There were some passages that made me think about sport leagues and how top sports teams evaluate the worth of a player and set aside money to bring the best to their club/team.

On total transfer fees in 2013
"In 2013 clubs around the world paid each other about 2.2 billion pounds in transfer fees." (Kindle Location 200)

On buying the world's top ten players
"When the club does buy, it rightly tends to focus on 'top ten' players: men who are arguably among the ten best footballers on earth, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa, Fabregas, Alves or Neymar. These players cost a lot, but the risk of their failing is small (unless you buy them when they are getting old like Thierry Henry). Part of being one of the ten best footballers on earth is that your perform almost whatever the circumstances." (Kindle Location 874)

On the money Real Madrid spends
"Real Madrid are of course the supreme consumer of shooting stars. This is largely because the club's fans demand it. Madrid (or Newcastle, or Marseille in France) probably aren't even trying to be 'rational' in the transfer market. The club's aim is not to buy the best results for as little money as possible. When their president Florentino Perez handed over a combined total of 136 million pounds for Christiano Ronaldo and Kaka in 2009, he probably suspected he was paying more for the duo than the benefit he was likely to get in results or higher revenues. But big signings of this type (like Newcastle buying fragile MichaelOwen from Madrid for 17 million pounds) are best understood as marketing gifts to a club's fans, sponsors and the local media." (Kindle Location 436)

On Arsene Wenger's Degree in Economics
"The master of that trade today is Wenger. Arsenal's manager is one of the few people in football who can view the game from the outside. In part, this is because he has a degree in economic sciences from the University of Strasbourg. As a trained economist, he is inclined to trust data rather than the game's received wisdom. Wenger sees that in the transfer market, clubs ten to overvalue a player's past performances. That prompts them to pay fortunes - in transfer fees and salaries - for players who have passed their prime." (Kindle Location 540)
Saturday, April 29, 2017

Learning Dispatch - April 29th, 2017 - On Essays


I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new insights and learnings. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started. 

This past week, I stumbled across this link to an article titled, '40 Best Essays of All Time' on a blog called

I've always been fascinated by the art of Essay Writing. Michael de Montaigne one of the pioneers of the form first published his 'Essais' in 1580. The term actually signifies 'attempts'. Attempts, Attempts! I already liked this. An attempt to discuss a matter, express a point of view, persuade us to accept a thesis on any subject or simply entertain. 

In the book he writes essays on topics like, 'Of Illness' and 'Of Sleeping'. This completely blew my mind away. I've always wanted to read written material on subjects like this. The names of some well known essayists include Francis Bacon, Alexander Pope, William Hazlit, Charles Lamb, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Joan Didion, Atul Gawande and Oliver Sacks. I spent the last week just reading through some of the essays mentioned in the above link. It was so much fun and there was so much to learn from these writers. 
Saturday, April 1, 2017

Learning Dispatch - April 1st 2017 - Mumbai Observations, Films and Plays

Why the dispatch? - I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new insights and learnings. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started.

Ola Auto-Rickshaws in Mumbai
Mumbai Observations

I was in an auto rick-shaw in Mumbai and suddenly struck up a conversation with the driver. He told me that they fill gas to run the auto-rickshaw two times in one day. They do it at midnight and then late in the afternoon. These two refills normally last them the whole day as they pick up and drop passengers. But the line at the petrol pump or refill centre is often very long because most auto-rickshaw drivers go and fill it together.

I then realised why some of these auto-rickshaws drivers did not stop for me in Mumbai when I wanted to travel shorter distances. They were often weighing the opportunity cost of taking a passenger from one point to another. In Economics, 'Opportunity cost' refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. So it makes sense for them to get more returns from one passenger rather than getting the same returns from several passengers. So they choose passengers that would normally give them higher fares or a 'lamba bhada' in Bombay talk. They are trying to maximise their returns from every refill of gas. They also have the additional pressure of competition from the more sophisticated Uber and Ola drivers with their air-conditioned cars, online network of repeat passengers and higher fares.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Learning Dispatch - March 3rd, 2017 - Watching Arrival and Collateral Beauty

Why the dispatch? - I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new things we have learned. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started.

In the movie, ‘Collateral Beauty’ (watch the trailer here), the protagonist, Howard Inlet (Will Smith) is a successful advertising executive. The movie starts with this statement by Howard,

‘What is your why? Why did you get out of bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?….The big why. We are certainly not here to just sell chit. We are here to connect. Life is about people. Advertising is about illuminating how our products and services will illuminate people’s lives. Now how do we do that? Love, Time, Death. Now these three abstractions connect every single human being on earth. Every thing that we covet. Every thing that we fear not having. Everything that we ultimately end up buying. Because at the end of the day, we long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.’

The scene then shifts to a time period three years in the future. Howard is now divorced and his 6 year old daughter has passed away. He is not able to focus on his work and this leads to lots of problems at his workplace. During this time he writes letters to the abstract ideas of Love, Time and Death. His partners at the agency are worried. They hire three actors and a private investigator to prove his instability with regards to his mental health. These actors meet him as Human Representations of Love, Time and Death. The private investigator plans to record his interactions with these actors to document instances of his mental instability.

In the movie, ‘Arrival’ (watch the trailer here), 12 alien spaceships decide to pay planet earth a visit. They park themselves at 12 different points around the planet. Each country where the spaceship has landed launches an independent investigation into tackling these visitors. 
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Learning Dispatch - February 10th, 2017 - The Adele Bloch Bauer Painting

Why the dispatch? - I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new things we have learned. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907. Oil, silver, and gold on canvas. © 2015. Neue Galerie New York/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

The Story of a Painting

The 'Portrait of Adele Block Bauer I' is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt. I recently got an opportunity to visit the Neue Gallery in New York where this painting is on public display. On the way to the gallery, my sister told me about the story behind this painting. I was intrigued. I did not know paintings had stories to tell too.

The Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I, is like the Mona Lisa for the people of Austria. It belonged to a prominent Jewish Sugar Merchant who lived with his family in Vienna, Austria in the 1900's. His name was Ferdinand Bloch Bauer. In the summer of 1903, he commissioned the painter Gustav Klint to paint his wife's portrait whose name was Adele Bloch Bauer. 

This painting was forcefully taken away from the family, following the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer had to flee the country and settle down in Zurich. The painting was never returned back to him during his lifetime. The name of the painting was also changed to 'Woman in Gold' because of Klimt's heavy use of gold to depict Adele's outfit. The Neue Gallery website describes how in the painting, 'her hands are folded in such a way as to conceal a deformed finger, yet the gesture only adds to her mysterious grace.'