Essential reading on Trump win

Donald Trump has won the 2016 US elections. Here are some pieces that will help you make sense of it.

1. Michael Moore‘s Trump Will Win:

2. David Remnick‘s An American Tragedy:

3. Tim Urban‘s It’s Going to be Okay:

4. Michael Moore‘s Morning After To-Do list:


Read Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo by Anjan Sundaram

A doodle of Democratic Republic of Congo from Anjan Sundaram's Book.

A doodle of Democratic Republic of Congo from Anjan Sundaram’s Book.

Earlier this month I quit The Economic Times to start my own media company. A colleague gifted me a book called Stringer: A reporter’s journey in the Congo. I’m a very slow reader but this book is so fascinating and grounded that I read it in about a week.

I’m a big fan books authored by journalists. Some of them are legendary (read my listicle of journalists who have become great authors). There is usually a tone of certainty and clarity that makes their writing great. They also tend to write in a matter of fact manner, devoid of fatuous prose.

If I were to make a list of some of the best books written by journalists, I’d add this book written by Anjan Sundaram right on top.

The book, set in Congo during the historic 2006 elections, is a first person narrative by Sundaram, a rookie journalist at the time. He was born in India and went to IIT-Madras for engineering and later to study Math at Yale University in 2005. He then decided to launch a career in journalism, from one of the most unlikeliest places on earth– Congo, a country ravaged by civil wars, dictators and colonial powers for years.

Anjan Sundaram

Anjan Sundaram

Him being broke and poor in Congo, working as a stringer for Associated Press while trying to support a family he was living with, the elaborate description of Congolese cities, its people and personal observations remind me of Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. The book is very personal, so it appeals to a lot of us who crave deeper experiences that make life more meaningful.

The book has done extremely well and is critically acclaimed.  Rightly so. But at some points, I wish it had emphasised as much on Congo’s history, economics and where it sits in a geo-political context as on Sundaram’s precarious life in Congo. Because I’m pretty sure this will probably the only book I’ll read on Congo unless I want to become a specialist.

If you are looking for a good read, a book to inspire you, go on and pick up this book. Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City is another book that I like in this genre, although it has nothing to do with wars. Mehta chronicles the life of exceptional people in Mumbai– the bar dancer, the Jain businessman who gives up everything, the shooter, the drudgery and small joys that make Bombay the city it is.

The hard work that has gone into the book is evident to anyone who reads it. Sundaram’s mastery of local nuances, capacity to endure extreme conditions, observe and document them in great detail combined with a sense of higher purpose makes this book a must read for journalists.

New Media Jobs Be Like

I’ve been preaching about the skills required for new newsrooms for a while now. They are easy to acquire if you put some effort into it but even the best journalism schools in India can’t teach you most of these skills.

Traditional newsroom jobs are dying. Or they are getting a heavy makeover. New kinds of journalism (or rather content) jobs are being created by new companies like Upworthy and Buzzfeed or even old media houses that are trying to come to terms with the Internet.

I’ve been meaning to write a more detailed post about what would a typical new newsroom job look like. So when Pankaj shared this job description for a writer at Upworthy, it just made my job very easy.

Here’s a quick summary of what they are looking for. I’ve made some comments in italics.

Writer, Trending Team- at Upworthy (View all jobs)

Location: Anywhere (Teams are more global these days and are writing for a global audience.)

As a completely virtual workplace, our staff is spread out all over the country, and we’re looking for candidates from diverse backgrounds.

You’re fast. You have incredible instincts for how the Internet will respond to the conversation of the moment, and believe that together, we can move that conversation in a direction that makes the world a better place.

You have a sharp eye for storytelling in all forms on the Internet including writing, visual communication, and savvy packaging. You are flexible in your voice and writing style, and can jump into trending topics to highlight the most important angles and ideas with ease.

A fantastic trending writer is self-motivated and accountable, thrives on teamwork in an online environment, is focused on the big picture but can break it down into actionable pieces, and is passionate about furthering Upworthy’s mission.

What A Trending Writer Does At Upworthy

– Monitors the Internet for trending topics, events and ideas that Upworthy can uniquely elevate, or respond to

– Pitches ideas for original stories and angles on current trends that help elevate the public conversation

– Fearlessly takes on any story assignment from their editor (This is the same in all newsrooms, new or old)

– Quickly builds story packages on trending topics

– Dreams up and builds basic graphics and/or visual story components (You’ll be lucky to have a separate design team). 

– Develops thumbnails, headlines, and other clickable, shareable visual and verbal clues for each story (Again, you’ll be luck to have a rewrite desk or copy desk). 

The Ideal Candidate

– Is fast but detail oriented. Responds quickly. Writes clean copy.

– Willing to take on any story and make it soar. (This is where you’ll need to learn how to distribute your stories smartly).

– Flexible. Willing to roll with changes to processes or goals, and eager to learn and employ new skills (Processes change very often in startups and new media companies).

– Has a vibrant, active presence on social media, specifically Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. (If you don’t have one, start now).

– This is a writing position, so show us your writing talents: please include a cover letter showing us that you can write in a voice that would shine at Upworthy. (When blogging, or working for one of these companies, finding your voice is the first thing you will have to work on).

Booker winner, Madrasi, on getting laid and stalking in Delhi

Booker prize winner, Aravind Adiga has a nice essay in Mint where he talks about the capital city Delhi. He talks about, his friends advice on how its difficult for you to get laid in Delhi if you don’t have a car (blurb calls it class barrier) and how Delhi told him what he wanted in life.

Interesting bits:

1. “Champ: everyone wants something.”

2. Meeting women in the Capital could happen only in the classic Delhi way: through a scam.

3. “New Delhi is full of beautiful, sensitive Sikh women interested in painting and music. And they are stuck with these big hairy men drinking Royal Challenge. They’re all looking for south Indians to have affairs with, trust me.”

4. Years ago, when the Indian economy opened up, he had figured out that Delhi would soon be full of lonely Swedish businesswomen looking for someone to talk to. His insight had paid off handsomely. “Keep away from Danish,” he said—he was learning that now. “Go for Finnish. Icelandic.”

5. “Then (If you dont have a car (italics mine))  you can kiss your chances of getting laid in Delhi goodbye,” she said.

6. Most of all, during my (Adiga’s) time in Delhi I understood what I was meant to want on earth. More than money, fame, or life—O, much more than life—I wanted to write.

7. Aravind Adiga’s new novel, Last Man in the Tower , will be published in 2011 by HarperCollins India.

Read the full essay here.

RIP A Ayyappan (October 27 1949- October 22 2010)

With great sadness, this blog records the death of A Ayyappan, a Malayalam poet. Perhaps the last of the bohemians that wandered Kerala’s soil and perhaps the last remaining icon of anarchism.

His body was found abandoned in the streets of Thampanoor, Trivandrum on October 21 2010. He was on his way to Chennai to accept the Asan Puraskaram (the highest literary award in Malayalam) on October 23.

Through the poem in the video below, he had a message to deliver– to those who would carry his funeral casket to the grave.

Garden City Loadown

Hey guys,

This piece I wrote sometime back came in Discover India‘s last issue. Thanks to Anushree Basu. Hope you like it.

On a fine Friday at two in the afternoon,in the month of June. Just before sitting down to write this, I was staring out of the window. There is green all around me and the weather is playing… ‘the weather’. Like the whole vastness around me is conspiring to make me believe that this is where I want to stay put. For a long, long time. But that’s a different story which merits more time and space. For now, allow me to wax lyrical about how I’d spend a typical evening in Bangalore.

My evenings, whenever I manage to sneak out of office early, begin with a customary visit to the Indian Coffee House. There, I’d mostly be greeted by a bearded friend who writes for a living. He’s an old timer here. The Coffee House had to shift to a stuffier place recently but some of us still hang around for old times sake. Coffee and hours of talk, and not so expensive food is on the menu. Talks, depending on what one thinks is wrong with the world, are usually about politics, corruption, media, philosophy, music and a variety of other things. One too many evenings have been gladly wasted, sipping coffee, planning coups and seeking ways to change the world.

Dylan is my favorite on such evenings. He once sang, I gave her my heart. But she wanted my soul. The rest of the song tells you that he saved his soul from her. I, for a change, gave my soul too. And I have no regrets. That’s the beauty of falling in love with a city like Bangalore, a city that sleeps early. When you think of the splendid morning that awaits, the prospect of sleeping early is not so bad. Instead of waking up in a scumbox to the stench of industrial waste or noisy, rabid traffic, with luck, one can look forward to waking up to the sights and smell of a good morning in Bangalore.

Things are changing though. For better or for worse? I don’t know. What once used to be the pensioners paradise has transformed
into something they like to call ‘India’s IT capital’. The number of autos, cars, buses, bikes, people, malls, multiplexes, apartments are going up. Trees, birds, lakes, water bodies and heritage sites are disappearing overnight. You know where this is going. All this talk will lead to more depressing talk. Let’s get back to the evenings.

Another place, I like to spend time at, is Koshy’s — a 70 year old restaurant on St. Mark’s Road where a bunch of us journos, the arty folk, yuppies, celebrities, wags and quite a lot of normal people pile up. I am told that people like Queen Elizabeth II, Nikita Khruschev and Nehru have dined here. Just to think that perhaps you are squatting on a chair, on which, once upon a time, some really pricey behinds were parked, makes me unnecessarily proud. There is some poetic justice in it.

As the night grows older, familiar faces walk into the restaurant. The hedonic fix lasts a few hours till about 11.30 pm — the closing time prescribed by the oligarchy we voted to power. It is time to carry our gig elsewhere. Home, friend’s place etc are all options… after all, for many in Bangalore, home is where the server is.


Happy Birthday– Robert Allen Zimmerman

An old and unforgettable friend introduced Dylan’s music to me. He even gifted me a disc- The best of Bob Dylan back in 1999, but Bob Dylan goes way back to the ‘60’s. On 19th March, 1962 Columbia records released the first album by a novel artist- Bob Dylan and now he is universally recognized as one of the most powerful original artists of our times. County music has never seen so much light before. Music lovers have never had enough of the deep throbbing nasal voice and the deeper lyrics- not even 5 decades later.  Yesterday was his birthday (May 24, 1941).

From the days of Malgudi– Kasturi akka, Panduranga Pandit and Sir Frederic Lawley

Almost 25 years after Malgudi Days— an all time favorite and classic Indian television series based on the works of legendary writer RK Narayan was shot– Photographer Aniruddha Chowdhury revisits Agumbe, a quaint village in Karnataka, where most parts of the serial were shot.

Agumbe is a village located in the Shimoga district in the state of Karnataka. Lying in the Thirthahalli taluk and the Malnad region, Agumbe is among the places in India that get a lot of rain. It’s also called “Cherapunji of the South”.

Agumbe is where 85 year old Panduranga Pandit (In Pic above) runs his tea shop.

And  Kasturi akka (In pic above and below) lives at ‘Dodda Mane‘ (Big House) where large portions of the serial were shot.

You might remember R K Narayan’s “Lawley Road.” In that story, the municipal chairman wants to uproot the statue of Sir Frederick  Lawley without knowing who he was and later decides to install it again. “Narayan takes a dig at the unwise decision of whimsical authorities through the story.” Well there you have (below) the broken statue of Sir Frederick.

To contact Aniruddha, mail him at
 (In Pic:  Aniruddha)

Aniruddha Chowdhury is a photographer with Mint. Earlier he was with The New Indian Express. While working as a copywriter at an ad agency in Kolkata around 2006, he got hooked on to the instant gratification and the immeasurable power of single images. The initial experiments were carried out with a small digicam and a Vivitar SLR borrowed from a friend . He quit his job and trained under Indraneel Mukherjee, a well known fashion photographer in Kolkata. But soon he realised that the studio wasn’t what had drawn him to a camera in the first place, rather it was the joy of preserving a slice of time and space of the world without altering what was really happening. He subsequently started accompanying a childhood friend, Bhaskar Mallick who worked as a staff photographer for The Statesman in Kolkata. He contributed several pictures to them and subsequently did a diploma in photojournalism from Ooty in 2008 and joined the The New Indian Express in Bangalore. He is greatly influenced by the works of Sebastian Salgado, Henri Cartier Bresson and Steve McCurry among many others. He also believes that a picture which preserves important moments of our history, doesn’t have to be necessarily stripped of aesthetic qualities.

Does Google give what cops ask?

I’m sure you all know about the recent Chinese hack attack on Google. It was subsequently reported/ written that the US Government Inadvertently Helped Chinese Hack Google. Here is some background:

American technology columnist and broadcaster John C Dvorak has this on his blog:

In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access.

Google’s system isn’t unique. Democratic governments around the world — in Sweden, Canada and the UK, for example — are rushing to pass laws giving their police new powers of Internet surveillance, in many cases requiring communications system providers to redesign products and services they sell.

Here in South India, we have a similar instance (Breaking on this blog).

I’m paraphrasing what a senior police official has said:

The Kerala  Cyber Police has tracked a 33-year-old man who was missing for the past 12 years  has after observing his activities on an internet social networking site. Jimmy Koruth was taken into custody in Chennai.. This was last week.

Jimmy had been missing since November 1998 from his native place when he was a final year degree student. Recently  one of jimmy s relatives came across his profile on internet social networking site orkut and informed pandalam police  which handed over the case to the cyber cell. Jimmy had not posted his photograph on the site.

Now comes the controversial part

After contacting Google international in the US the cyber police learnt that Jimmy’s profile was created in 2008 from a cyber cafe in Chennai. Police traced the E-mail used for creating the account and collected the user’s mail access details and usage history and found out that he frequented an internet cafe at Adayar.

We really dont know what other information Google shared with the cops. We also do not know to what extent Google can share information with the cop (or should I say complies with the laws of the land).  All we know that if you do not want to be traced — for whatever reason, good or bad, even if you have all  the rights  to not tell people why you are going away or where you are going to– stay away from Google and the Internet.