Archive for August, 2015

Refugee
August 28, 2015

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Leaving home has never been easy. So imagine the plight that takes people from the arid climes to homeless living on frosty Scandinavian streets.

This week in Stockholm was a peek into the brewing migrant crisis. There were conversations around growing local consternation and floating empathy for illegal immigrants from the fragile worlds of Middle East and the Balkans.

A middle aged man, possibly a father, sitting on the pavement with a wry defeated smile. An elderly headscrafed women seeking alms with defiant hope.  These vignettes brought poignancy to fashionable streets where people walk briskly into their languid lives.

Then came soul crushing front page images in today’s International New York Times of a little boy seperated from his migrant parents amidst police action on Macedonia border. The Wall Street Journal captured pictures of Syrian refugees breaching fenced borders in Hungary as police waited on them.

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Prosperous European nations like Germany, Sweden and UK, also with some of the best social welfare schemes, is grappling waves of refugees fleeing economic distress and crusading fundamentalists. Europe has witnessed surging right wing nationalism, possibly the most threatening since WWII, as a backlash to these pouring immigrants.

German chancellor Angela Merkel was booed by ultra nationalists as she visited refugee centres earlier this week. “There is no tolerance toward those who question the dignity of other people. The more people make it clear… the stronger we will be,” she was quoted in WSJ. Some grace it was.

People leaving homes in search of elusive hope is a cruel predicament. A reminder of the volatile living. As Murakami said, “be kind, life is more fragile than we think”.

Three Friends
August 18, 2015

August 16, Sunday. A night out at Karnataka State Cricket Association Club in Bangalore:

Three colleagemates, in their early 40s now, order brandy on a wet weekend. We have been friends for nearly 25 years. Our conversations are mostly nostalgic  — great films of yesteryears, college revelry in balmy Chennai and girlfriends we lost or never had.

But we are on unchartered waters this night. We spoke about rising communal feelings, about religiosity becoming the counterculture. All three, originally from Kerala, a state with remarkable social cohesion, couldn’t believe it’s falling apart there too.

Cold night reveals vulnerabilities. One of us said, “why would our kids stay in this country?” A few generations would drift with the social polarization, I said, influenced by Turkey and Orhan Pamuk. The idea of majoritarianism (of any kind) left ordinary men and women helpless.

A career business journalist, I have been swamped by talk of development imperatives in a country held back only by its timidity. The irony of emerging markets economic euphoria at the cost of basic freedoms (or choices) never had my vote.

A Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian have been friends for long. We, three imperfect men, never romanticized our togetherness. We were free. Tonight we’re brooding in a buzzing club.

Good morning
August 11, 2015

Unwinding to sleep well past midnight, I am bedding my thoughts on print media’s growing irrelevance in global news breaks.

My colleagues would have just wrapped a special coverage on Sundar Pichai, the India born, new CEO of Google, which was subsumed by a new parent in a surprising corporate rejig almost 24 hours ago.

I have already read the best news analysis and listicles some 12 hours ago. The special coverage across Indian print media, reaching your doorstep possibly in another 6 hours, is trailing the event by nearly 30 hours. A news consumer interested in Pichai is awaiting you eagerly, is it?

Unlikely. We’re dealing with fast moving news consumers in a young, mobile first country. We know but we don’t get it.

Imagine. Some of the best human productivity in the field wasted in showing up with dated content. That too mostly inspired by masterly work originating from the epicentre. The disappointment is bigger than the frustrating ‘developing world outlook’ of taking credit for every diaspora success.

I feel good for Pichai. But can I put my time lines to better use, especially when most of the world has moved on?

I am still hoping for that one uplifting story, one fresh perspective that I have missed one full day and night. Bring it on.

Good morning!

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