Travel Diaries: Panjim on foot

I’ve been to Goa five times over the last 18 months. Everytime so far I’ve visited different parts of it and have come to love the feeling of being “home” that comes with it.

I have vague memories of visiting Goa as a school kid in the 90’s. I remember loving Puri Bhaji and playing at the Miramar beach’s playground during a pilgrimage with my family. This time I was here because of the Story of Space.

‘The Story of’ is a arts and science biennale that seeks to “open-up” education to the masses. Space was the theme of this edition and participants take up spaces within the city of display their work or utilize for their workshops and experiences. .

With the Old Quarter hostel as my base, I explored Panjim on foot(and cycle) as I went discovering what Story of Space had in store for me.

The Ex-Nihilio escape room at Sukerkar house made us remember our long forgotten physics skills and use those concepts of waves and particles to find the keys to the puzzles.

The ‘Cycle through the Stars’ taught us the secrets of our Solar system as we cycled through its scaled down version mapped on Panjim streets.

Hojun Song asked us to standout and be true to who we are deep down so that his video codec algorithm would have trouble compressing us. So that Saturday afternoon saw a bunch of us letting go of our inhibitions and ‘perform’ for his camera.

Nick Sayers taught us to make our very own pinhole camera and asked us to make sure they are not mistaken for a bomb if we put them up at a public space.

Hands down ‘Evolution of Stars’ was the show stealer of the festival. You are taken through the life of a star in a way that I could never do justice describing in this blog post. There is news that Instityut B61 would return next year to reprise this production in Bangalore and You shouldn’t miss it then!


In between this, I found time to gorge on some amazing goan food. Apart from the usual places like The Ritz Classic, Cafe Venite and Viva Panjim, I took every possible chance to step into the tiny chai shops to sample their fare. The following are three items I really enjoyed.

1. The complimentary Goan Breakfast from Anita Tea House by the Old Quarter hostel was just a yummy way to start the day.

2. The Rose Petal Icecream from Pure Icecream because we were burning in the hot afternoon sun was unlike any dessert I’ve had before.

3. And finally the fabled Ros Omlette on the road side carts near the Immmaculate Conception church.


And like that my 3 days were up and I bid adieu to the city of no traffic lights as I headed back to Bangalore.

Postcards from Thailand

Thanks to the Postcard party at Shreyas‘, I got my hands on some custom postcards that Tink had bought with her.

After some trials and an error, I decided to seek inspiration from the Thailand trip I was planning to create a series of Postcards. These revolved around the three islands I would be visiting; Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Samui.

The reason I chose Islands as a subject is because it would make for a wonderful series and its easier to make them as a postcard subject vs a mainland city. Initially I tried colouring the water blue as well but it did not turn out too well so I decided to keep it white and focus on the colour of the island only.

I posted them from the islands that they represented but as of writing this only 1 has reached its destination and that too surprisingly without the stamp.

I plan to do more of these as soon as I can get my hands on some most postcard stock. They do not seem to be available in India but I found some on AliExpress.

Other map related works of mine

Postcards from another planet

It all started with a impulse purchase at a Bookstore at Khan Market, New Delhi, on our way to Hillhacks at Bir, Himachal Pradesh.

The colour-it-yourself postcards were lacking in quality so I decided to play around with them and imagined that the contents were actually images and drawings from another planet; Andlorra. The birds were coloured exotic and the trees surreal. These were conceptualised and coloured in the Earth House, Palampur.

postcards.pngI sent these to a few friends whose addresses I could gather at that time. The stamps were bought at the Bir subpost office and the postcards were posted from the Dharamshala postoffice. These travelled across the world and funnily enough the Bangalore ones reached last. This was the second time I sent a series of postcards around the world. The last time I sent these was when Shivani hosted a postcard popup shop in Cubbon park last year.

If you want one when I do a series the next time, please share your address with me.

 

A regular cat and mouse story

The young today are increasingly wary about existing notions of housing, loans, marriage, etc. They are worried that governments and corporations are snooping in their messages and intercepting their dick pics. They prefer opting for solutions that are less attaching than the earlier generations. That means they live in the present and don’t want to worry about the future. The generation I belong to tries to straddle both this world and the older one awkwardly.

Snapchat was born of the phenomenon of impermanence and paranoia that is very characteristic of this younger generation. No one would have sold me on the idea that a company centred around ‘you sending a photo to your friend and it disappears after 10 seconds’ would some day be a multibillion dollar enterprise(nor would I have thought that a website to pin your ideas visually would be valued in the billions but that’s another story). But this somehow clicked, along with products like Secret, with the high school crowd and soon everyone was clamouring to see what the hype was all about and adding to Snap’s valuation. But then the question about why they would stay and not move on to yet another app became Snap’s existential crisis.

Today, I believe with ‘big data’ being thrown around, our behaviour has begun to shape technology. Once a product achieves product-market fit, a company is able to understand the needs of its users and cater to it in ways not previously possible. Netflix for example provides what kind of topics their users watch to production houses so that they can produce more watchable content. Quality content means returning users means $$$. For Snap, the primary idea was about sharing that single snap with your friend. What started with a single snap, then became a series of snaps which were called ‘Stories’. These however rarely had a coherent narrative. Snap opened up corporates to create their own stories which you would rather associate as ‘perishable magazines’. They are beautiful. They blend eccentricity with news, memes with opinions, silly videos with reviews. This kaleidoscopic capsules is what takes me back to Snap. I might not have snapped everyday but I will go back to see what topics are being talked about today. I find this more useful than any other source of news at the moment and boy, are they monetisable. To further increase their domination, they have started making the product more ‘affordable’ to older users.

This is the second thing that influences product evolution – monetary valuation. Companies are constantly trying to increase this to be able to survive. This probably is what motivated to create something called ‘Memories’(image data) which directly attacked Facebook and Facebook responded quickly enough with its own version of stories on Instagram. Instagram has been racking its head to figure out a monetisation strategy and earlier this year started pushing sponsored posts on the timeline which were not received very well. I assume Snap’s stories monetisation capacity pushed Facebook to create its’ own Stories. Instagram’s stories are not so rigid as Snap’s. They let you create curated sneak peeks into your life and skilled creatives can leverage this medium to great heights. That’s the reason why they are not rigid. Unlike Snap only opening up this customisation of stories to corporates, Instagram seeks to attract lot of people to utilise this medium. This is also similar to Apple opening up Siri to corporates vs Google keeping Google Now integration based on corporate tie-ups. More people = more eyeballs for advertisements = more commission.

Facebook has in the past decade been great at getting people onboard unlike any other digital product before it but it realised the need to diversify when it saw its numbers dropping. Facebook’s attempts in product engagement and monetisation have been criticised for lack of empathy. It’s Basics program was ridiculed and abused by its users. It’s become yesterday’s Google which in turn has become day before yesterday’s Microsoft. But it’s got a few aces up its sleeve; Oculus(wont get into it) and Messenger. Both of these are being written as platforms. I presume that the threat from WeChat was what prompted Facebook to pivot Messenger to a platform. Along with WhatsApp in its kitty, Facebook has achieved dominance in today’s western messaging culture but I feel it is not in complete control of what its governing over. Messaging is important because of its access to users. Your phone space is sacred and you decide what apps reside there and messaging apps have the highest importance in this regard. So converting them into platforms become the de-facto next move for companies. The rise of chatbots is for this reason. I do not want to say that chatbots are the next big thing rather I believe AI is the next big thing. Chatbots are just a means of expression of the platform. Notifications came before them and there will be other expressions to come. So with just a messaging app you will be able to access various services without installing apps – a platform inside a platform. Will it give rise to more platforms inside these? only time will tell. 

Freedom of choice with no real allegiance is the core value at the centre of this and the millennial’s use of products like Snapchat. This freedom was what the World wide web was all about. Powered by domains, it gave users endless opportunity to setup virtual shops that broke the access barrier that the physical shops had but retained other problems like how do you find these shops? That’s what gave rise to digital advertisements and that’s what churns the wheels of our digital products. This promise of everyday ubiquity is the new dream of capitalism and this is why the greatest minds of this era are indeed trying to get people to watch ads.

The art of fitting life into 24 hours

24 hours are often too short, we say, for the things we want to do.

How do successful people manage to do the things they do within the 24 hours that everyone has?

The key I have found are the characteristics of a good manager.

  1. Make a schedule and stick to it
  2. Delegate routine tasks

Knowing this is half the solution.

Making a schedule(and sticking to it) is quite difficult and delegating routine tasks is for the privileged.