Tittle-tattle as Tribute

It’s a good thing that in a wired world we connect with information we might not have had access to so easily. But, together with that, there is also an excess of ‘uber facts’ that pass for knowledge. And then there is the surfeit of tributes – to coupling, to uncoupling, to botched-up cosmetic surgeries, to products, to people as brands, to débutantes, to the retired, to the living, to the rumoured dead. To the dead.

It does not matter whether you know anything about the deceased, or of the others, but it has become mandatory to add to the info pool.

Today as I signed in to access my mail, I saw a caricature of a man playing the table. But my eyes were riveted by the second ‘g’ and ‘l’ of google. They reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses and walking stick. The link, of course, takes you to Ustad Alla Rakha. It is to celebrate his 95th birth anniversary. Who decides which year is worth commemorating? How many people who do not know him or about him would be enthused enough to read up or listen to his music?

Here is a short documentary on him:

What we end up with is over-the-top ‘connoisseurs’ who seem to know all, or the jejune attempts at keeping up with the Joneses that sometimes takes the form of distasteful parody.

On Monday, Zohra Sehgal turned 102. It is a remarkable moment for a remarkable lady. But the photograph that made it to most newspapers and websites was of her holding the knife high and, as one media outlet said, “attacking the cake”. She is an effervescent woman, but somehow her stance and the onlookers seemed to be at odds. Who were they? Family? Neighbours? Close friends? Where were the celebrities who keep throwing sound bytes about her achievements, about how lovable she is? I found the cake-cutting and the observers incongruous.

The picture I have chosen is gentler. There are personal moments when people end up as performers for an audience that only seeks certain characteristics, and thereby reduces them.

On her hundredth birthday, I had written:

There are times she acts as a link between generations, between spaces, between ideas, like a sutradhar, the perennial story-teller who weaves the chains together.

We don’t seem to care for stories anymore. The whispering gallery is where we stand and assume to understand life.


Here is the piece on her 100th: A hundred seas: Zohra Sehgal


  1. void *Al {return NULL;}30/04/2014, 22:47

    "But, together with that, there is also an excess of ‘uber facts’ that pass for knowledge."

    FV, so what be a "uber fact" (as opposed to a normal run of the mill vanilla fact)? (serious question) Not sure I understand what is offensive about the google ad, given that some marketing/sales guy in Google India is probably responsible for giving a monthly update to his boss on all the "google doodles" for India for that month.

    As an aside, Google is pretty evil for a company that has a motto "don't be evil", given their cooperation with the NSA and working for/with the CIA in fighting cyberwars against Russia and other countries outside the USA. Just get all your stuff out of google and move it elsewhere, preferably some free email service within India.

  2. void *Al {return NULL;}30/04/2014, 23:39

    FV, Err..please make that "iven that some marketing/sales person in Google India is probably responsible for giving a monthly update to his/her boss ".....proactively displaying my political correctness, being the quintessential political animal that I be. Not to mention, one is more likely to find women in Google India than men apparently.

  3. Al:

    Uber facts are just over-the-top extreme facts, that probably are not 'realistic' enough.

    Re. the doodle for Ustad Alla Rakha, while I was not speaking in isolation, I found it a juvenile attempt. Besides that, I have given my reasons.

    Yes, Google (and am sure the rest too) have been infiltrated and are giving a carte blanche to powerful regimes to keep tabs on us.

    But code coolies and hackers have been doing so too.

    It just puts so much pressure on ornery folks to work at being interesting!

    Don't know about the workforce at Google, but political correctness is a pain beyond a point.

  4. void *Al {return NULL;}01/05/2014, 21:00

    Not contradicting you on the juvenile-ness of the doodle (I find all of them juvenile but that's probably just me), but that it is a "corporate" thing to grab eyeballs and mouse clicks for ad money. So google could care less about the subject of the doodle, really, even as they laugh all the way to the bank.

    "But code coolies and hackers have been doing so too. "

    Such stuff is not cheap, you have to pay for power (computing and electrical) in order to profit, and then get chased by governments...unless you have government or the mafia backing you in your work.

    As any "code coolie/hacker" (like me) will tell you, there is a difference between exploiting bugs in code, and well-funded government orgs like NSA arm twisting companies like google to reveal private data of their customers under the anti-terror laws that came into existence after 9/11, or using server farms to cause "denial of service" attacks on any foreign country of choice.

    "Don't know about the workforce at Google, but political correctness is a pain beyond a point."

    I was just being sarcastic there, I dislike political correctness in general and view anyone exhibiting such behaviour with suspicion.

    Anyway, my spider sense tells me that I getting a bit annoying here, so will quit while I am "ahead".


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