Looking for Connections: Past, Present, Future

“We need to be Utopian. We need to think of what our ideal social world would be.” – Nivedita Menon, February 23, 2018.

(Lecture on ‘Self, Labour, and Technology’ reflecting on the ideas of three voices from early 20th century India, namely: M.K. Gandhi’s ‘Hind Swaraj’, B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘Gandhism’, and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossein’s ‘Sultana’s Dream’.)

While attending this lecture recently, I felt a surge of excitement for ideas after a long time. Attempting to investigate and understand the social world has never been a purely intellectual endeavour for me. It has also always been a deeply emotional journey. And after a long time I truly feel love once again for what I do, and what I want to do for the rest of my life, which is studying the social world.

And to not merely understand its dynamics, but to change it. Hearing Nivedita speak yesterday set my heart racing as a bubble of optimism rose in my chest and brought tears to my eyes. I felt, Yes! We can do it. We can change the world.

There are some precious days like these when we feel our faith in imagining alternatives to the bleak world returning, re-surging, filling us with energy that was only a memory on more despondent days. Yes, we must imagine Utopias, we must never stop dreaming of a new world, a better world, a just world, a world which is good for and good to each and every one of us and not just a privileged few. Life should not be the unfair and unjust race it currently is. Life should be a journey we take together as companions, compatriots, comrades, as fellow human beings living in this world together with dignity.

I am also filled with joy today. In fact, I am almost bursting at the seams with joy. I can’t contain it in my body anymore, it threatens to break loose, it possesses me. I want to dance, I want to sing, I want to embrace the people I love, I want to play with dogs and cats, monkeys and children.


I visited my old university yesterday. A place that saved me intellectually and emotionally from another college I had left before that. A better way to describe it is flight. Because truly I had fled that intellectually dead and emotionally overbearing space called a ‘college’. I fell in love with my new university immediately. It became a place that had reminded me once again, some years ago now, of how much I love studying what I study. Of the joy that can be found in work that we love. The excitement of sharing ideas with fellows that far exceeds the excitement of possessing ideas by oneself. A place where I fell in love many times with many entities. Teachers, friends, books, objects, authors, spaces. Dogs, too. And with tea, shared with friends on sunny winter days and sultry summer days, conversing about what we had learned in class. What we had read in books. What we thought. What we observed. What we hoped for, what we dreamed of, for ourselves and for others, for each other, and for the world around us.

That is what a university should be about. And that is exactly what my old university was. A place to forge connections – connections between ideas, connections with people, connections with places. Where we thought of the world around us and our place in it. Where our concerns were not the careers we would be pursuing, but the kinds of lives we wanted to lead. The nature of life itself and the world. That is what a university is. It is a space that promotes ideas, thoughtful reflection that exceeds the temporal and spatial coordinates we currently occupy, while also enabling us to focus on those very coordinates and study them intimately. It enables us to locate ourselves as situated beings in this world. We occupy space, we occupy identity, we occupy social position in relation to others. Not in isolation. This life is not an individual pursuit, we are not atomised beings.


And we must be political, because the world of human beings is always a political one. Our relations to each other are structured in power. At this university, I learned a definition of ‘politics’ that I carry with myself till today – “Politics is who gets what, when, how.” (Harold Lasswell). To claim to be apolitical, then, is to merely turn away from the reality of our existence in society.

The university enables us to situate our own position as political beings in the social world. And to care about the implications of these positions, for ourselves and for others.


My old university enabled us to think in this way because it was located in the heart of the bustling city, in a part of it which is steeped both in history as well as dreams of a ‘modern’ future. Compared to that, my current university is a gated community, comfortable in its partial isolation from the city and world around it. It imagines itself to be a microcosm of the society outside. An utter farce, in my view. It is too disconnected, time and space are structured differently within its walls. For one, it has too much space and too little population compared to the dense bustling city around it. In fact, it is an exception and not a reflection of the society outside (and it is very much ‘outside’).

My old university is also gated, but it does not stand apart from the city it is located in. Exit through the gate, and you find yourself near the historical Kashmiri Gate, a site of great political activity during the Rebellion of 1857. Take the left turn and walk further, and you reach Red Fort to your left, Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid to your right. Continue further, you will reach Daryaganj, where many a days are spent by book lovers buying books by the kilogram as per Daryaganj norms. Walk through a lane right across the university gate and there’s the Old Delhi Railway station. Another lane would take you to Qudsia Bagh, a garden palace built for one Qudsia Begum. Walk further, and you will find yourself in the historic ‘White Town’ of the city, known as ‘Civil Lines’ (the implication being that natives were the opposite of civil in the imperial imagination of British Raj).


Take another route and you reach the Kashmere Gate station of Delhi metro, manifestation of a modern technocratic dream of transforming Delhi into a ‘sky city’, where people may commute on multiple layers of space within the city. This is a route that I must have taken countless times as a student, one I know with intimate familiarity. As we ride an escalator that creaks (and of course it has to, even new things appear ancient in this part of town) my friend remarks, “The creaking upward thrust of modernity.” What an apt metaphor for India, perhaps for all ‘post-colonial’ regions of the world, where ‘modernity’, however it was imagined, was thrust upon us along with domination.


In this part of town, past, present, and future blend together seamlessly. They sit comfortably next to each other. That is why I fell in love with Kashmiri Gate, and with my little university located there.


As we walk past, an old man quietly works with his scissors, tearing through cloth. An old sewing machine sits in front of him, the kind that may perhaps exist in a museum in another country as a relic of the past. Here, it is part of life.

Not far from the old man, a makeshift temple blares devotional songs rather loudly. And while the temple appears makeshift, it has been rooted to this spot since as long as I can remember. What is new, however, is the shop selling liquor right across the street from the temple, not more than twenty paces away. Although I call myself an atheist, I have often felt the sway of devotional trance, especially when listening to devotional music. Participating in group activity often has that effect on us humans, and music only makes it more intense. We lose ourselves in the group, we lose ourselves in the feeling, in the moment, and in that space. We feel ourselves to be not contained within ourselves anymore, our identities merging. The sociologist Emile Durkheim called it collective effervescence. I imagine that the two states of being have some intimate connection, being inebriated and feeling part of the crowd. I think it is fitting that the liquor shop is so close to a temple.


A little while later, I attend another talk, this one with one of my favourite authors Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. It is such a pleasure to hear him speak. He is a sprightly old man, young at age 80, and he can barely contain the energy of his spirit in his body. While seated on the dais, he moves his legs like an excited child, he injects his talk with sound effects and humour. He also gets up frequently, and moves around while talking. His energy is infectious, and I find myself falling in love once again with his words, this time not as written text, but as speech, and his mannerisms. He truly is a storyteller, through and through.

When I go to get my book signed by him, a beloved old book now yellowing and almost falling apart, I am a little apologetic.

I have a very old copy of your book, I say.

And Ngũgĩ says, That’s good!


I will treasure this little moment of interaction forever.
On a day that I have been preoccupied with thinking about the past, present, and the future, and their connections, it is serendipitous that he speaks on the subject as well.
He is asked about why we keep going back, all those years back to colonialism. Why can’t we talk about the ‘now’?
It is very important to go back to the past. The present, today, is born of yesterday. And today contains both yesterday and also tomorrow. Today is pregnant with tomorrow. So they are connected, really. We must always remember our past, and particularly colonialism.
As a writer, it is important for me to remember that past because it is the past that makes me who I am.
When asked about knowledge, education, and colonialism, he says:
It alienates the colonial child from his environment, because the knowledge is not from your own surroundings but from elsewhere. The colonial system asks you to see yourself from the eyes of an outsider, instead of the other way round where you begin from where you are. The colonial system asks you to jump elsewhere and start knowledge from there, and then move back to where you are.
On ‘securing the base’, he compares this with the experience of bullying:
There is bullying all over the world. Do they have bullying in India? It seems to be quite a common global phenomenon. And every bully seems to shame the body of the bullied, that seems common. So that the bullied feels uncomfortable with their body, with their base. Your body is your starting point. To make you question your body is to make you question your own starting point. It is the same with the colonial system, it makes you doubt your own body because it wants you to accept the hierarchical order of society. We have to question hierarchy.
On education and making connections, he says:
Education in general, and not just colonial education, tends not to teach us connections, but as if entities are separate. This is a false demarcation. Colonialism was primarily economic. But economic control is not possible without political control. And economic and political control are not possible without cultural control. So they are all connected, we cannot deal with them separately. We must look for the connections.
On literature, he says:
Literature does not develop in a vacuum. We don’t really quite invent our own languages. I use words of languages already in use, with their own histories, with their own worldviews, etc. Literature is actually a product of history, of the material world. So it is a product, it is a reflection of that world, and it reflects upon the world. It has all three elements. A great writer is able to reflect the condition of his time.
By happy accident, it sometimes happens that several related ideas and events come together in time. By chance, I happened to watch a lovely video on YouTube two nights ago, where children meet and interact with a 101 year old (Kids Meet a 101 Year Old | Kids Meet | HiHo Kids). The old woman made her life in a century that these kids will read about in history class, and the kids born in 21st century will make their lives in a future world that was only a dream in the 20th. What connects the two is the interaction they shared in this moment in time and position in space.
The past and the present and the future are connected. What connects them is this moment in time, this space that we occupy together, and the conversation that we share.

Some Reflections on Social Theory while Commuting

I always loved looking out of windows. Whether it be a car window, a window of a bus, a train, or later – when I started flying – a plane. There is something that always fascinated me about moving in the opposite direction to the world (or so it appears, however illusory). It also disturbed me. It is an intense emotional experience to rapidly pass by the everyday, complex worlds people build for themselves – as complex, as intense as my own. And as mundane. I have no word to describe this intense emotion, but it always made me a little sad, a little unsettled, a little transient in comparison to people’s established lives and homes.

Irrespective, I love to look out of windows during a journey. Whether at people or objects of people’s creation. Or hills, rivers, and forests. From an aeroplane, cloud-gazing, and seeing the patchwork quilt of human habitation from between the clouds. A while ago, when I watched the hills and plains of people’s farms in the dark out of my train window, and took in the little islands of light people light up to make nights more bearable, a fellow journeyman asked me.

“Why are you standing by the window? Don’t be tense, you will reach your destination soon.”

I sensed he was being kind, so I didn’t express what I wanted to say. I told him, don’t worry, I know where I am. I wanted to tell him, the destination is the more boring part of a journey. Reaching a destination will make me feel more tense than anything during the journey itself. It will be the end of my intense experience, the end of my bird’s eye view, the end of my being as a special kind of spectator catching a glimpse of how others make their lives. The end of my exceptional window to the world outside.

Journeys are exciting. Sometimes, I feel that engaging with social thought is like gazing intently out of windows while travelling. Perhaps this is because as I grow older, it feels as if most of my time is spent commuting. From the exceptional to the mundane, commuting can go from exciting to troublesome.

Commuting simultaneously offers two experiences so central to social theory – stability and movement, statics and dynamics, order and change.

It is exceptional to fly. But sights from an aeroplane offer a bird’s eye view like no other. From the efficiently organised universe of the aeroplane, the world outside – seen from a distance – looks logically organised as well. An archetypical Parsonian social system in which the actions – which are both voluntary and reasonable – of all members are well integrated to make a social whole. Out of several possible alternatives, we choose to fly in our modern lives always falling short on time. Flights are both fast and cheap these days, so the choice of this alternative over others is rather ‘rational’. The whole process is as voluntary as it is well-organised. I board the flight, integrating my actions with those of my fellow passengers in a perfectly disciplined manner. My only escape is looking out of the window. We start to ascend, and people turn into shapeless blobs, then only cars and busses are visible, then only networks of roads, flow of rivers, stability of lakes, and patchworks of buildings and fields. From the organised and integrated social space of the flight, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the the organisation of roads, fields, rivers, and buildings below is just as well-integrated. The view is even more striking at night. With electric lighting, a ready-made network map of social organisation and flow is available to us. Clusters of villages, towns, and cities appear better organised than they are when viewed as interconnected sets of yellow lights. The smaller roads are dimly lit. The highways are great rivers of light in comparison. It is easy to see which has greater volume of flows. Actions down below seem to be well-coordinated, and they efficiently form systems that can both maintain their stability while allowing for dynamic flows.

And then the plane descends. I exit, and take the bus home and another truth is apparent – now one of conflict and partly manufactured competition. The bus home is not an efficiently integrated universe. It is a tightly packed space where we compete for seats and space, and there never are enough for everybody. We gaze outside the overcrowded bus to view overcrowded roads, packed with vehicles. Some are large cars, occupied by single persons, each having their own comfort of space in their own bubbles of existence. We gaze beyond and see the glittering billboards, offering products claiming truths and realities so utterly absurd in comparison to our crowded bus. Now, enjoy a home in the middle of a golf course, surrounded by perfectly manicured green and separated from the undesirable hullabaloo of the city with gated boundaries. Enjoy your freedom! So long as you can pay the price to separate yourself from fellow human beings…

The bus is also mundane. I take it everyday, I am both a participant and an observer in it, but the competition gives greater weight to my identity as a participant competing for space. The long daily commute is discouraging because it has nothing but conflict to offer. Even the transient solidarities we forge in the bus emerge from conflict. A few days ago, I felt like a part of the collective of passengers on the bus and not merely a nameless member of the crowd. We were collectively bargaining, our enemy this time not the other passenger as competitor, but the bus conductor. Our competitor suddenly become our comrade, as we realised the conductor was cheating all of us by charging a higher fee on the ticket. Our solidarity was powerful but short-lived. People got off at different locations, and the solidarity ended as our commute ended. Nothing bound us together beyond our transient shared experience of being fellow passengers on the commute. Fellow passengers are fellow consumers, and not fellow journeymen and women.

Is there truth only in conflict, and can our connections only emerge from shared anger, however justified?

Visions, sounds, smells experienced when travelling narrate human stories. I always enjoyed listening to sounds of people’s movement, but I now find myself wishing to separate my mind from body in public by covering my ears with headphones. The aggressive traffic sounds are unbearable. Sound has become perpetual noise. Like sounds, smells too tell the human story. I enjoyed smelling smells of human habitations, whether pleasant or unpleasant, but always interesting. Like noise, smell too has become perpetual pollution in the city, choking me.

So, then, where should we search for truth and beauty? Walking can be a comfort in such dark times. Despite the noise, despite the pollution. Sometimes I can smell the fragrance of flowers on the side of a road – traffic whizzing by with its blinding lights and deafening noises – emanating from trees that have found the strength to grow among concrete even in a city like Delhi. Amidst the violence and aggression, something fragile – but powerful in its fragility – can spread to create beauty and surprise us. There is a speck of beauty somewhere in this bleak space, and I find faith in the truth of its existence returning to me like warm embers lighting up once again as I pass by, treasuring the fragrance in my heart as I head home.


Abandonment, Spring Flowers, Dusty City

Today was an exceptionally dusty day. Dusty is an understatement. The city is always polluted. Perhaps I felt it more acutely because I am unwell. Or perhaps spring flowers offered a contrast to the usual pollution. A brief glimpse of something fresh, pure, and beautiful. A brief hope, like soap bubbles children play with. Now carrying tiny rainbows inside them, and then bursting a moment later. And then another emerges, floats by, bursts.

But beauty never exists by itself, especially not in this city. Neither does ugliness, to be fair. Somehow, they blend together and create fluttering, shifting images. Like spring flowers coated in grime along the pavement. Or the overflowing gutter gleaming golden in streetlight that I passed on my walk home today.

Have the flowers already been blooming since a while? Did we notice them only today because it was a beautiful sunny day?

Flowers have been blooming recently on university campus, as well. Bright pink, narrow petals emerging from long stems in neatly potted rows. Visitors to the campus always remark on how green it is. It appears like a forest, a green oasis in the midst of the city. Appearances, however, are often deceiving. An old professor told us once of her own days as a student on the campus. It was a dry, brown terrain then. The entire forest is, in fact, a garden. A garden posing as a forest. And in the midst of that garden-forest, there are smaller gardens, products of more linear human logic. With each plant cultivated in one row, each row containing only the same kind of plant. And then, there’s the forest, where a different kind of human logic operates and blends with the logic of trees, plants, birds, and animals.

However, it is still a cultivated land appearing as one which has been abandoned by humans, left to grow on its own. Abandonment and careful tending merge.

Many objects are abandoned in the city. Lost, rejected. What are their stories?


While walking home, I passed two tiny slippers, abandoned in this strange manner on the street. I wondered about what may have happened to the little girl who perhaps walked on the same road as me earlier that day.

The slippers reminded me of another little girl I passed on my way home, while on the bus.

Today, I had caught a bus I usually never take, taking a different route towards home. I noticed many abandoned objects and spaces, and equally as many which had been taken up or reoccupied.

Someone set up a tea stall on the side of a road, next to a pile of tiles. The tiles may be gone by next week, used at some construction site. This city is incessantly under construction. It does not have a finished face. And people make their lives in its unfinished corners. Abandoned, reoccupied, abandoned again, occupied again.


Near another construction site, I saw two little girls, children of construction workers, playing with a disassembled bouquet of flowers. They held orange and yellow flowers, drooping in their clasp, as they danced on the pavement to music only they could hear.

The bouquet must have passed many hands and lives already. Perhaps it was a lover’s gift on Valentine’s Day. It must have been purchased from a florist setting up shop on some pavement in the city. Perhaps it travelled in a car afterwards, perhaps to a restaurant. Then someone’s home, in a vase. When the flowers began drooping, it was rejected. And then discarded.

Someone rejected the droopy, dried flowers. And then two little girls disassembled the bouquet and had great fun with it. They held their arms up above their heads, flowers raised to the sky, dancing with abandon.

A construction worker wearing a beautiful white saree with red roses printed on it carried a load over her head from near where the children played, and disappeared into the site.

Today is indeed a day of flowers.


Perhaps these flowers, too, will be picked up.




Experiencing Life in #Hashtags

This post is about my own experience of multiple frustrations. First, about how social media (for those of us who use it, at least) is now inextricably linked to our conception and experience of leisure. Thus everything we do in our leisure time must be expressed as content online, and through forms of expression that fit specific formats. Second, and related, about how it forces us to fit ourselves – our conception and experience of ‘self’ – into a pre-given format that is the same for everyone. For instance, Facebook provides neat little boxes for us to place our interests, experiences, self descriptions, family and friends, etc. Does this reduce the complexity of humans into mutually exclusive categories structuring the way we experience ourselves and others in the world? I fear that this pushes us towards constant performance and image management in our interactions with each other. Third, I notice a trend towards seeking authenticity and uniqueness in the midst of image building and similarity. Thus authenticity as a concept becomes a marketable quality, and one which is highly desired in a market that homogenises everything.

And perhaps the two are linked to each other? As we experience ourselves and cultural objects around us in ways which are similar, and structured in ways that are beyond our control (through pre-given formats on social media and networking platforms), we also feel the pressure to present ourselves as different, unique, and authentic.

While I’ve been thinking about all these issues for almost as long as I’ve been connected to an online social networking site, what got me thinking along these lines recently was the fascination we now have with #travel. I noted my thoughts on this in the form of a #hashtagged piece on Facebook:


With greater ease of travel, and the availability of social media platforms where we can market ourselves and how ‘interesting’ and ‘happening’ our lives are, it’s amazing that travelling has become a kind of #identity of consumption. A traveller is a special kind of consumer who lives in the zone of ‘exceptional’, travelling is an exceptional kind of consumption that is different from and therefore better than more mundane forms. Thus, even though we can all travel, we still wish to construct identities of uniqueness around ourselves, even as we fit ourselves into the same old hashtags on social media.

There’s nothing exceptional or exciting about taking the bus or metro everyday (#commuter is not a popular #hashtag, after all), as there is in catching a bus to the hills and being a #backpacker. We accept that we must fit ourselves into the same formulaic #categories on our online social media lives as everyone else, but our demand is that they must at least involve a facade of being exceptional even if they are terribly mundane (but if everyone has #wanderlust, is it really so unique?).

Recently, I travelled to my grandparents’ town, Ajmer, in Rajasthan. Pushkar nearby has long been a popular #hippy destination for young white tourists aiming to #discover themselves and uncover life’s mystique in Asia. I’ve been frequenting Pushkar since childhood, but I observed it from a different lens this time. I had recently travelled to #Thailand myself (another popular #hippy #discoveryourself#cheap#Asian travel destination), and had been utterly shocked to discover the similarity of #authentic #Asian #traditional#commodities being sold in these areas that become popular destinations for young people from rich countries (and young rich city-dwelling people in our own countries). You guys probably know what I’m taking about. The printed clothes, bags, “amulets/charms”, perfumes, soaps, herbs, teas, #antique curios which are sold in tiny shops in touristy marketplaces catering to outsiders. I had previously been surprised to see the same kinds of goods sold in Pushkar also being sold in the markets of Khajuraho and Fort Kochi. But encountering them in Bangkok just turned my world upside down.

Where are these commodities being manufactured, and towards whom are they marketed as elements of some amorphously defined, but mysterious and mystical #Asian culture? Since visiting Bangkok earlier this summer, I am still unable to uncover this mystery. Is there a factory somewhere manufacturing generic Asian goods conforming to orientalist stereotypes which can be flooded across marketplaces of towns and cities which have had long histories of their own unique cultures? Where is this factory located? Is it as placeless as these cultural goods themselves, belonging everywhere and nowhere at all in #Asia, all at once?

I was amazed at Pushkar this time. To be honest, I felt a twinge of hatred towards its markets. They felt like a shallow reflection of nothing at all. An identity of a place crafted into a stereotype through which a consuming category of travellers can apprehend it. Not an identity that reveals much about its internal self. The same old goods being sold in the markets as #authentic as probably in every other such destination. The same old foods being sold as everywhere else. And we all must comply with these stereotypes as we encounter each other (and ourselves) as #travellers, and celebrate the constructions of our uniqueness which have no substance underneath.

Anyway here is a photo from Pushkar. Three Rajasthani people who very likely drink over-sweetened milk tea with deep fried pakoras and kachoris for breakfast, sitting in front of this #hippy #cafe selling #authentic Italian coffee (now even available in an exotic and ancient destination in Asia!) and muesli with banana curd.#cleaneating#wholesome#healthfood



Tech, dreams, intimacies

How does technology shape the most intimate of our human experiences? Our desires, fears, anxieties? This is something I was reflecting over during a slow train ride (as expected of Indian Railways) I took recently.

The ways in which dreams capture our personal and cultural relations with technology is truly fascinating. More so than any conscious articulation, I believe technological symbols in our dreams reveal a great deal about our most intimate and emotional relations with tech. About our desires, anxieties, fears, and our relationships with others and ourselves as mediated by technology.

I started thinking about the ways in which tech features in our dreams when my father shared a dream he had with me. He was deeply disturbed by the dream – which featured a tech that a majority of Indians are intimately familiar with, and have very likely grown up with – the Indian Railways. I immediately told him that it was “just a dream”, and he should not ruminate over it. Later, however, when I was travelling in a train myself, I jotted down the following thoughts:

A few days ago, my father told me of a dream which had disturbed him greatly. He was travelling on a train with my mother, and she got left behind on a platform as the train started moving. She ran to catch up but was unable to. My father could do nothing but watch her – first running, then as a forlorn figure left behind on the platform as the train pulled out, taking him along. I told him his dream and anxiety was possible only in the slow moving world of Indian railways. It reflected the anxiety of slow, long, and utterly chaotic travel, usually with family. The fear of leaving someone behind was amplified with difficult means of communication. It was an anxiety of that old world. Now we have entered the world of fast moving metro trains and smart phones. The slow anxiety of leaving someone behind or being left behind is not part of this fast world. I remember feeling rather smug about this explanation I offered my father, which (I thought, rather proudly) integrated technology, pace of life, and emotional experiences. However, it perhaps also came from my own aspiration for a fast life. And my disdain for a slower one. Today as I take a train which is slowly lulling me to sleep with the relaxing sways of its movement, destroying all plans I had made to efficiently utilise my ‘free time’ working, I realise I was getting ahead of myself. Life still has slow moments.

Life still has slow moments, because different kinds of technology exist simultaneously for us, here in India. Considering only the public transport system, we have the slow-moving, long duration, chaotic, often delayed Indian railways. But we also have the urban metro system, which works on a minute-by-minute basis, reshaping our sense of time in order to comply with its rules of transit. Indian trains are often delayed by hours, and we sit around with our friends and families on the railway platform, sipping hot chai, observing people and animals (cows, dogs, cats, rats, and of course, pigeons) milling around us. And cursing the management of Indian railways, of course. The metro is a different world altogether. No one saunters on the metro platform, as they do on the railway platform. We rush. We are always in a hurry. How does that reshape our emotional experience of daily commute? Can we experience emotions slowly in a world structured around time counted on a minute-basis, and not one which lasts hours or days as with the Indian railways. What would dreams featuring rapid urban transit look like, and would they be different from those featuring the railways? What kind of emotions would they invoke in us? Can we still long for each other, for missed opportunities, and lost connections while experiencing rapid tech?


Committing reflections to writing

I always wanted to start a blog, as I am usually writing here and there anyway – on scraps and fragments – as opportunities to think and reflect over things present themselves to me (pretty much an everyday occurrence). But because those fragments were too scattered, I never got down to actually beginning one. I’m glad I have finally found the courage to commit my thoughts and words to my own blog with the faith that I would be able to do so regularly. I hope this becomes a space I can regularly contribute to.

Why commuting, why pavement, and why sociology?

I enjoy thinking and reflecting about the world as it passes by (or when I pass it by) when I take the bus or walk home. Commuting has emerged as a major activity part and parcel of the everyday flow of my life. Commuting is not just a passive means-to-end activity for me. It is rich with vivid details of the everyday flow, both mundane and exceptional, of the social world I inhabit. While commuting, my observations and perceptual lens are tinted by my training in sociology. Thus, I write as a commuting sociologist. I call myself a pavement sociologist because – as someone who mostly walks for commuting – that’s where the life of the city, the spirit of the city is to be found. I am usually on the pavement in public, negotiating with the social world on its sidewalks and pedestrian paths.

I hope you will enjoy my blog. Thanks for reading!