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The Comeback

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The fire in his eyes lit up again as the Mercedes came at the door of the ashram. “Good morning...Swami ji...sir…” the driver hesitated, not knowing what to call him. He got in without a word, and watched the gate of the ashram fall behind as the car took the road to airport.

The seat of his old car seemed warmer and more welcoming after all these years. He had bought the car just a few months before meeting his guru, Swami Adbhutananda, the man who had preached detachment from material world and convinced him to become an ascetic. He had left behind his house, his parents, and Boomerang Investments, the company he had founded with his friends at the age of 20. Hailed as a financial wizkid, he had made sure his firm emerged as small, nimble but credible name in financial markets. Five years later, he had met Swami ji, and then in next three years had renounced the material world to become an ascetic himself.

Best decision, he thought now. Only after being an ascetic had his own core …

How to learn a foreign language

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Language-learning is a struggle. Of course, some of us enjoy it, but even the most dedicated linguists find themselves groping in the dark till they figure out some basic things. And for many of my own students who come from science background, the world of languages is absolutely confusing unless you design a proper system to teach it to them.

I find the same to be true while attempting to learn Spanish using Duolingo app and the excellent Senor Jordan channel on Youtube. Duolingo throws patterns of sentences and vocabulary at you, but the learning does not feel systematic. The app doesn't tell you “this is the rule”. And unless you are smart enough to figure out the grammar yourself, all you end up with is words and patterns. For instance, there are two forms of the verb “to be” in Spanish -ser & estar. Duolingo shows you sentences that use both these forms but it does not tell you when to use ser and when to use estar. That’s where Senor Jordan comes in.

Anyway, I think la…

The awful German language

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Mark Twain has written about the horrors of learning German language in his famous essay of the same name, but I had not read it before enrolling for the class. The language is similar to Marathi or Hindi in that everything has a gender, masculine, feminine, neutral and plural, and there is absolutely no sense of logic to why things are the way they are. Now, the  Germans are great engineers, forever asking the question “why?” in all areas of science, but they clearly did not reflect on that when they were building their language. Why? Maybe  they thought “well,we have to focus on engineering anyway so why bother about language as long as we get the scientific terms right”

If you are not one of the fortunate few who have German as their first language, your battle with the tongue continues forever on two fronts: first, the complicated rules of grammar, second, painfully long words that are equally difficult to pronounce. One of my personal favourites is “Brandschutzmassnahmen” meanin…

One day with nature

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Nature. For someone like me, who has been born and brought up in a city, the word means chaos, uncertainty, and a mixture of beauty and danger. What would I do if left in the midst of nature without any tech gadgets,you ask? Well, as seen on TV,  I would first find flint stones and make fire, and then look for food. Then, I would attempt to find and befriend a wolf pack and use it to take over the civilised world! But since that is difficult to do in just one day, let us look at other options.

Assuming I have found a cave, made good fire, and got the food part sorted, what should I do next? Since there is plenty to eat and drink, my first task would be to take a rock and draw and write something on the walls of the cave so that anyone who comes there knows I was here. I would probably fill the wall with fantastic stories about I was a great leader of mankind so that when archaeologists stumble upon the cave many centuries later, they will think I was really great and the children of …

My family and its values

Patience is a priceless jewel, said the old Chinese philosopher Confucius. Well, when my family came into existence, they probably chose this jewel over the other…stones. This I say about my maternal family because I rarely had any contact with the paternal one. Two things have always dominated the fortunes of my family- that quality, as I said before, of patience, and politics. My mother had been married in Maharashtra and had come home to Goa for delivery. When I was born and my father came to seem me, the Goan people decided to agitate over whether Konkani or Marathi should be the state language of Goa and the state’s borders were sealed. So, my father never went back and decided to stay in Goa.
I am not a man of numbers but my mom has around 25 brothers, cousins and all included and all of them are into business. Grocery stores, clothing stores, electrical appliances, modular kitchen showrooms, lathe machines, you name it and one of us will be selling it. Almost all of my uncles a…

In Praise of the Uncomplicated

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I never though i would say this, but light one-time read novels and slapstick movies are some of the best things life has to offer.

There was a time I used to value only high-quality literature like The White Tiger or Tinderbox but now, I am of the opinion that  cheap one-time reads which one can buy on railway stations or second-hand bookstores are absolutely essential. The same goes for movies. While films like Peepli Live do hold a unique place and act to change the society, a Dabangg is vital to keep us sane.

When I was a student and had ample time to process information and think about things, I loved to read and watch thought-provoking stuff. But now, I am white-collar worker and  find that anything that is pure entertainment and does not involve too much thinking is welcome. Reading a relatively uncomplicated novel and then coming up with ridiculous alternative plots is a fun thing to do. Most importantly when everything in your life isn't working according to plan, readi…

The Power of Storytelling

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I had a pretty hectic week this time as the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) began here. Honestly, I had a lot to write about butt being an essentialist/minimalist, I decided to write about only one panel discussion in the festival that I think is the most valuable.

Why are films important? What impact  do they have on society? Moreover what is the power of storytelling? These were the questions the drove the discussion on the theme “The Power of Storytelling” that took place at the Maquinez Palace last Tuesday. The panel consisted of actor and writer Nishikant Kamat, art market editor Ms Anna Louie Sussman (@annalouiesuss), filmmaker and director of “Airlift”  Raja Krishna Menon (@RajaMenon), and CEO of Mythos Labs Priyank Mathur (@PriyankSMathur).  The discussion was moderated by Vice President of Observer Research Foundation Mr Samir Saran (@samirsaran).

The panel deliberated on how storytelling can be used to combat terrorism, break gender stereotypes and bring about s…