Insights

Hygge by the Seine

I didn’t want to write this post but George Whitman’s words illuminating over the bookstore made me realize that if I want to be frère lampier then I have to be ready to light the metaphorical lamps.

The visit was akin to a pilgrimage for me. Situated by the river Seine in the latin quarters, the store does nothing but embellishes the bibliophile quotient of the city of lights.IMG_20170816_100829

The store is enormous and it holds so many books that it seems the place has achieved the best Weissman score for its compression algorithm. Initially the store was at 12 Rue de l’Odéon and was used as an office by Fitzgerald couple, T.S. Eliot, Hemingway. The owner of the store, Sylvia Beach, was the one who put James Joyce’s Ulysses into publishing.

The place has a beautiful cat that is not to be disturbed and I really admire the concept of no photography inside. At the entrance or by the bench one can find those tourists, with DSLRs larger than medieval cannons, looking through the eye piece of those massive devices and asking their friends/families/fellow travelers to pretend reading a book. How many photos and what types of photographs they are aiming at? Ich warum nicht!! Despite all this harakiri, there is a vibrant energy here that is scarce to find. The bookstore has rooms like chapters in a novel and Whitman had rightly described it by saying  “Where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.”

It is a place where entire world comes, stays for a while and then leaves and for whatever time I was there, those moments were moments of Hygge for me.

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Newton

I feel happy when I find such movies coming out of the Indian production houses. When you watch a movie you are investing your time in an experience that you would like to cherish. There can be many reasons why a writer, director, and other members gather to create a motion picture. It can be a message they want to pass across, want to portray a character and its development, financial reasons and many more. The movie Newton succeeds on many levels such as acting and storytelling. It is about a young Government officer who has been sent to a naxal infested area for conducting elections. He is single minded and would do anything to see that his job is done. The moral fiber and integrity of his character are exemplary of how one should act. The film reflects on various aspects of elections in the largest democracy in the world in a dark comic fashion. The dialogues of Raghubir Yadav are punchlines and the constant bickering between Aatma Singh and Newton is one can relate to the experiences one might had in the Govt. offices.

Before Issac Newton proved the three laws of motion everyone had their own laws – church had its own, other astronomers had their own, and rest of the people believed on what they chose to believe. Issac Newton showed the world (earth is an inertial frame of reference) that the same law is applicable to everyone and we are bound by the same laws and the same message is passed by the film.

Klumpfisken

I sometimes wonder why Scandinavian skies are so dreamy. Whenever I am there it feels I am in a limbo.

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Photo Credits : Wikipedia

Last week I watched this movie while having my early dinner. Klumpfisken or The Sunfish, a Danish movie. The sunfish also known as Mola Mola is the heaviest bony fish on earth.

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Photo Credits : National Geographic

Coming back to the movie, there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the movie as it isn’t pretentious. In today’s world that is extraordinary. It’s a story about a fisherman and his struggles, a marine biologist and her perspectives. The beautiful sky, the virgin beaches, and life like emotions add to the plot of real people with real life and real stories. If that’s not how movies should be then I don’t know what movies are for.

Indian Women and Independence

Point 1 : I didn’t have a better title for this post

Point 2: This post was in the draft mode in an open Chrome window for more than 2 months.

Point 3: A phone call with my cousin made me realize that the post is in draft mode

Few weeks ago I was analyzing the web content, its relevant data and the investments in the TV and digital channels for advertisements. Eventually I ended up watching the old advertisements from India in 90s to reminisce the good old times. Even Lithuanian writer Giedra Radvilavičiūtė agrees with me that Happiness is reminiscing. One thing that was very stark in those ads and even the ads that surface today was men were shown purchasing cars and taking loans for the houses while the women were shown happy in the kitchen and taking care of what goes into family members’ bellies or how white the shirts are. The competition among women wasn’t about who will write better python code but who will produce whiter shirts. Shifting the focus to movies and most of them fail the Mako Mori test ( film should have at least one female character who isn’t supporting a man’s story and she should have her own narrative). Almost all of them were rarely ambitious beyond getting married to someone they loved, no career, nothing. Jewelry is sold under the pseudo emotional statement that it makes a woman happy and having gold is associated with domestic stability. Being in a couple is the only approved way to live.

What else can you expect from the patriarchal, myopic society of India where women have been marginalized for centuries and have played only certain roles in the society barring a few outliers. Few days ago I was at Vasa Museum in Stockholm, a museum of Viking ship from 1626. The ship sank and so did women and men aboard. The women were identified as Beata and Yvla(made up names given by Archaeologists). I learned while sati was the only ‘chaste’ choice for a widow in India, Svenska women enjoyed far higher rights and sort of absolute freedom post the death of their husbands (Beata was probably a widow)

Clearly, we have a long way to go.

 

End!

Few days ago a friend of mine was telling me about a playlist of songs on death; it can be unnerving to some and gratifying to a few. People slow down at the end, just like when you are reaching the end of a book, you would try to absorb as much as possible and adjust your pace. May be this calibration manifests because we aren’t ready to break the bonds with the characters of the book, yet or self correction due to guilt consciousness.

One of J.D. Salinger’s characters shoots himself at the end of the story – an unpredictable end. Reader is caught off guard. Ending a book on death is anachronistic and the contemporary modern art affirms that it is here to help us forget the proverbial end.

Trois Couleurs: Rouge

A wonderful French movie from 1994 directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski touches upon the subject of loneliness, old age, friendship and one of the few film that has 100% ratings on both metacritic and rotten tomatoes.  It revolves around a retired judge whose experiences of life has made him cynical, although he is insightful and anecdotal. Enters Valentin, a young woman who is a runway model, in the judge’s life and the movie goes into a different realm. Their friendship blossoms and they share a unique bond. When we get experience of life, the joys, the sorrows we start viewing the world with a focused eye and with some predefined rules set in our minds but it can always be fruitful to come in contact with those who are viewing the world with a different perspective.

The movie is worth watching for how relatable the concept is and for the acting of Valentin. There have been many movies that explore the friendships with major age gap such as Harold and Maude, Bhuvan Shome ( A master piece ), Leon the professional, Cinema Paradiso, Thelma and Louise, Ikiru, Mrs. Palfrey at the clairmont etc and one realizes how the two people grow in the process.

A memorable dialog from the movie:

Valentin : I love him. If only I could help.

Judge: You can. Be.

Valentin: What do you mean?

Judge: That’s all, be.

 

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus – False

Being from analytics world, I enjoy keeping myself abreast with the problems that can be solved with data. Psychology is one such field that finds its roots in mathematical techniques employed to make predictions and test the foundations of assertions propounded by the society or the hypotheses of social experiments. Designing the experiments is of utmost importance and should be done meticulously as the outcome of the experiments makes the prediction for the entire population based on the sample selected.

Last week I skimmed through a book called Experiments with people by Abelson, Frey, and Gregg and I enjoyed reading the premise and the conclusion of various social studies conducted in the 20th century. One of the study was by Matthew Ansfield and the conclusion was if you want to sleep and someone is playing loud music then the rational thing to fall asleep early is try to keep yourself awake. I will definitely try this one when my juvenile delinquent neighbor will have a late night party. Another experiment conducted by Solomon Asch in 1955 dealt with the idea that how people change their behavior to conform to the groups. A group that knows the right thing to do ends up making more mistakes if there are agents present in the group who want to take the wrong steps. The desire to be liked is a dangerous one and as French sociologist Gabriel de Tarde said “Social man is a somnambulist”.

There was one very interesting experiment conducted in 1990 that caught my attention. It was called “Ackmians Are From Mars, Orinthians Are From Venus: Gender Stereotypes as Role Rationalizations”. Curt Hoffman and Nancy Hurst tried to show that gender stereotypes can arise as a direct result of two groups taking on different social roles ( jobs, household care etc), even when the members of those groups share similar traits. The chapter started with an image of a man and a woman both with stethoscope around the neck and a question in subscript, doctor and nurse or nurse and a doctor? Very keen and interesting question it was. Alice Eagly had studied in 1987 that the underlying differences between a woman and a man are typically small. They become magnified, however, because men and women tend to take on or be assigned to different social roles. The researchers claimed that the differences between men and women are too small for people to detect them. In the society, agentic roles that require assertiveness and independence are attributed to men while communal roles of nurturing, social care are attributed to women. This role assumption has given rise to gender stereotype despite there being a trivial difference between a man and a woman. When it comes to assuming an agentic or a communal role, each gender can perform it with utmost perfection given a chance.

Why do such stereotypes exist? In short – they are explanatory conveniences that allow people to justify the social status quo. Researchers exposed the participants to fictitious species from a planet and they named the two members of the species – Ackmians and Orinthian. They were told that the members of the two groups were either child raisers or workers involved in high tech business etc. The result from the experiment – Ackmians or Orinthians were considered agentic if most of them had a job such as business, high tech etc, or relatively communal if most of them were child raisers, even though no group personality differences existed to corroborate such biased impressions. Not only gender but racial stereotypes also have no roots but they are there and segregating and hollowing the society for ages. There were many extensions of this research and it turns out that gender stereotypes were unaffected by ethnicity. In a study by Niemann and others in 1994, women irrespective of African, American, Asian, Latin American descent were found to be gentle, pleasant, and friendly by the participants while men were taken as tough, alpha creatures.

The book “Men are from mars and women from venus – by John Gray (1992)” amplifies these differences to preposterous proportions. It obsesses with gender differences. Had Phyllis Schalfly read it, she must have been overjoyed for she found another follower of her conservative thought process. Let’s take height as an example, on an average men are taller than women but there are many women who are taller than men. Do we go on and make the unwarranted conclusion that all women are short while all men are tall? No, we don’t. Then why is there a black and white stance when it comes to jobs in the market? The recent incidents at Uber show how sexist the workplace can be. Susan J Fowler’s blog will tell you how a typical male chauvinist, sexist work culture might operate. The number of CEOs in the job industry is highly skewed towards males; people say that CEO is a high risk job that requires certain skills females don’t possess while the truth might lie in the fact that women have been assuming the communal roles for too long and that’s why they are not taken as assertive and strong.

This is a classic case of the logical fallacy – post hoc ergo propter hoc ( after this therefore because of this) and it is high time that we abolish such hypocritical stance and build an unbiased society.

Chandidas and Rami

Ghazals are one of  the purest form of expression I have experienced in my life till now. The metaphor clad meters chalk out the palpable  feelings of lovers howsoever hyperbolic and exorbitant they may seem. They are all so foolishly romantic that they seem incredible and prodigious.

In one of the ghazals of Ameer Minai performed by one of the artist, he recounted the tale of Chandidas and Rami. Chandidas was a poet famous in the medieval period and his poems are many times used to draw parallels between human and divine love. Then, Chandidas was a priestly class while Rami was a washerwoman and the love between them was not only frowned upon but impossible in the era of division and class. They took their love as sacred as the love between Radha and Krishna; Chandidas refused to forgo his love for Rami and also his priestly duties in the temple much to the despair of his family. Many legends say that he was arrested by the queen and later whipped to death but no one knows the true story.

Why the story of Chandidas and Rami holds significance? Much of later Bengali literature, art, and societal thought found its foundation in the legend. The urge to show the face of society and the characters involved without any exogenous and dramatic variables became an integral part of the art. The spirit of defiance and being recalcitrant in the time of social disapproval might have carved the room for breadth in the thought process.

THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU

When I decided to watch this movie I thought it would be a dark comedy like In Bruges or Clerks but after watching, it came out much more than what I had expected. It is one of those few films that let the events unfold by themselves without any human or dramatic intervention. It falls in the genre of the movies that lives in the moment, witnesses the reality as it is untouched by any exogenous factors, concludes nothing, and shows people living their lives from one second to the other.

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The name of the character Dante Remus Lazarescu seems a satire, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, Remus, the twin brother of Romulus, was one of the founder of Rome, and Lazaraus was brought back to life on the fourth day after his death by Jesus.

The Romanian (Remus connection) movie deals with the overworked medical staff who are shown as human beings, not as saints. They also stress out, smoke, use cell phones, refuse treatment to patients etc. After circling (circles of hell in Dante’s treatise) through three hospitals, the fourth hospital (Lazarus was brought back on fourth day) accommodates the patient eventually and the ambulance driver along with the nurse, Mrs. Mioara could take a sigh of relief. The viewer is left wondering whether Mr. Lazarescu lived. The role of Mrs. Mioara played by Luminita Gheorghiu is something we can relate to from our experience. She represents the element of sincerity and humanness in us. Despite the high handed behavior of doctors with advanced ‘degrees’, she maintains her composure and makes sure that the job she has undertaken is seen through. I kept on wondering where have I seen her before and the words ‘pose and job’ kept striking me till I could trace it back to Child’s pose – another wonderful performance  from the actress as a wealthy matriarch in post Ceausescu Romania.