Category: Lifestyle

The Magic of Movies

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As a child, I was not a big fan of watching movies, especially in darkened movie halls. This changed when I went to college. The four years I spent in Pune while doing my Engineering degree went by in a blur of activities, not least of which was watching as many movies as possible in darkened movie halls of all shapes, sizes (and smells!).

This happened nearly three decades ago, well before the advent of smartphones and mobile data. Which meant that the only form of entertainment available to us were watching movies (and the occasional music concert). It also helped that movie tickets were ridiculously cheap in Pune in those days (less than Rs. 10, or $0.20). The fact that our hostel was located bang in the centre of the city also helped as we could walk to most of the movie halls. And these were almost always never planned decisions. The call would go out around 9:15 pm to round up the usual suspects. A short discussion to finalise the movie and we would be off to the theatre for the 9:30 pm ‘last show’. Fun days…

I continued watching movie regularly through the first few years of my working life. Again, I was lucky that I spent a few years in Bangalore in the early part of this millennium, when multi-screen theatres had still not come up. There was still a romance in going to old-fashioned single screen movie theatres like ‘Rex’ and ‘Plaza’.

It was when we had children that we, by necessity, had to cut down on watching movies in a movie hall. By then, the age of satellite TV was well established, so we could still catch up on movies from the comfort of our house. And now, with streaming media, we hardly watch movies on the big screen. And I can’t say that I really miss it.

Anyway, all of the above was just to set the context for the main story.

I just finished watching Disney’s ‘Dumbo’ with my young kids. We streamed it on our TV, as we typically do these days. I am lucky in that I have a decently sized TV connected to a good speaker system. It can never replace the experience of watching a movie in a movie hall, but it provides a reasonable decent ‘movie’ experience.

And I enjoyed watching this particular movie with my kids. The cinematography, background score and (some) good performances encapsulated, for me, the ‘magic’ that movies provide. It was fascinating to watch the effect of it on my kids. They have typically been watching animation movies so far. And the first few minutes tested their patience. ‘Too many bid people talking‘ was my daughter’s comment. But as the main character made his appearance, they started getting swept into the action. And by the finale, they were hooked.

Yes, the movie did not receive very favourable reviews, but for me (and my kids), it was a wonderful couple of hours spent.

So in how many years does Pop Culture repeat itself?

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One of the ‘truisms’ of pop culture that I grew up accepting was that pop culture fashion reemerges every 20 years. Not that I analysed it or researched it, I just accepted it. One of the reasons could be that, the soundtrack to my growing up years in the 1990s was dominated by bands such as Led Zeppelin who dominated the airwaves in the 1970s. Followed by the sound of grunge music, which again, can be said to be a reinterpretation of the generally angry and pessimistic decade that followed the glorious 60s.

I dropped out of the pop culture bandwagon soon afterwards, when my taste in music settled into the classic rock of the 60’s and 70’s. But I just hung on to this belief as just something that pops out of my consciousness and goes back again.

Finally, today, I decided to do some research into this. Not a lot, just some casual search online (on a Search Engine that was getting popular 20 years ago). And, not really surprisingly, found that there is no real consensus on this topic. This article, one of the first I came across, perfectly encapsulates this uncertainty.

Digging further, another article confidently put it down as 30 years, backing it up with some interesting analysis. But hold on, it’s not 30, but 40, states this article with references to ‘Mad Men’ and other examples.

One thing of which there can be no doubt is that we are now living in the Digital Age. With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, this article puts out an interesting hypothesis. The age of 20 year cycles might be over, to be replaced by shorter, possibly 10 year cycles.

So what started out just as an exercise in curiosity turned into something more thought-provoking? Will the 20 (or 30, or 40) year cycle continue to hold true for future generations? Or would the rapid and on-going lifestyle changes, driven by the digital revolution, mean that cultural trends are going to be more unpredictable going forward? Just another of the glorious uncertainties of this Information Age that we are fortunate to be living in!  

Key Cultural Eras of the last 100 years

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Outside of Digital Marketing, traveling and bird-watching, my interests include reading and learning more about the history (and geography) of key cultural movements. It has always fascinated me as to why the Renaissance took place in Italy, the Industrial Revolution kicked off in Britain and so on. Moving forward, the counter-culture of the 1960’s was one of the first ‘key cultural movement’ that I became aware of, largely due to my choice of music leading me to bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Yardbirds and more. So it just felt right that the first place I visited outside of India was San Francisco where I went to the famous ‘Haight-Ashbury’ district.

However, as I write the above, I realise that it’s strictly not true. The first international cultural movement I was aware of was the hippie movement. This was because I had close family living in Goa in the 1990s. We used to visit them regularly and could still come across stragglers of the movement on the beaches of North Goa.

I recently read a book about Ernest Hemmingway’s time in Paris, and that piqued my curiosity about that era. It was while reading more about this era that I learned more about the Roaring 20’s. It was the age of significant and unprecedented change in culture, music, fashion and more. Paris seemed to have been the place where all the action took place.

Other movements of the past century include the Beat Generation of the 1950s and 60s. Interestingly, one of the places where key figures of this movement lived in was Tangier in Morocco.

It will be fascinating to read more about these movements, understand why, where and how they evolved and why did they peter out. That’s my reading list for the next few weeks and months!

Photo Credit:Vasilios Muselimis

Towards a more Sustainable lifestyle

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I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by people with a strong passion and belief in living a more sustainable life and caring for all the other inhabitants of our planet. This has, among other things, led to my interest in bird-watching and, in general, a love for nature and outdoors.

As the world’s (human) population continues to rise, along with consumption, we all know that it is posing a huge strain on the finite resources of our planet. I believe that each one of us, in our own individual capacity, can play a role in preserving our environment. Here are a few practices that we, as a family, are trying to adopt. These are simple things that I would encourage everyone to think about.

  1. Eat fresh and local – Not only is this the healthier option, but we can also save on food miles spent in transporting fruits and vegetables long distances.
  2. Store and re-use overflow from RO water filters – Many households in urban India would have a RO (Reverse Osmosis) filter to purify the tap water and make it fit for consumption. These, unfortunately, waste a huge amount of vital water. A simple tactic that we have adopted is to save the overflow water in a container with a tap at the bottom and then use this for cleaning purposes.
  3. Have a bucket bath – This was a tough one for me, especially. But I have not had a shower for over a year now. Not only am I saving water, but also time!
  4. Carry a water bottle while traveling – Single-use plastics are a bane. And disposable water bottles are one of the largest culprits. We always carry a couple of water bottles while we are traveling and refill it from any available source. I think that we might have purchased only a couple of bottles in the past year and that was also when we were traveling to a remote location, ran out of water and could not find any source of potable water.
  5. Carry re-usable straws – It would be ideal to avoid the use of straws altogether (it’s not impossible). But if you have to use one, please buy a non-disposable one made of bamboo or metal and carry it with you.
  6. Carry your own take-away boxes when you are eating out – Rather than requesting the restaurant to pack your take-away food in their own containers, we carry a couple of food storage boxes with us when we visit a restaurant.
  7. Practise home composting – My wife is passionate about gardening and composting. We have a composting set-up in our home that consumes all our food waste and provides manure to our home garden.
  8. Use public or shared transport as much as possible – We have not owned a car in 4 years now. Yes, we do use app-based taxis, but for solo travel, we either use public transport or shared transport. Auto-rickshaws (in India) mostly run on gas which is significantly lesser polluting than petrol or diesel.
  9. Strive for a more minimalist lifestyle – This is pretty much Work in Progress for us, but we are consciously trying to reduce wasteful consumption. Just because we can afford something should never be the reason to purchase anything. Rather, the question we should be asking is what benefit is the item going to be provided and trying hard to see if that benefit could not be obtained from existing products or human effort. Also, what do you do with items that you no longer need? Can these be reused in any way rather than just dumping as garbage?
  10. Spend more time outdoors – This is something that I would like us to do more. For your next holiday or short weekend, can you go to a place that lets you be closer to pure, unpolluted nature? I would especially request parents of small children to try and take such nature holidays. If holidays are not possible, can you take them for nature walks near your place of residence? Most Indian towns and cities would have some nature club or passionate individuals organising nature walks. Not only would it be a different outing for the family compared to visiting a mall or movie theatre, but it can also be very educative. And hopefully, it will instill a love for nature and a desire to protect it for future generations in the kids.

What are the different ways in which you are trying to lead a more sustainable life? Please let me know in the comments.

When are you least productive at Work?

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Finally, studies have shown that what I experience during the course of a normal work-day is not unique. I have always found my concentration levels dip after lunch, making it harder to refocus and get work done as effectively and efficiently as before lunch (or later in the afternoon).

Now, this study in the UK has found that 14:17 is the time when a large number of people experience the dreaded slump at work. Now, this study was conduced in the UK, but I am sure the results would resonate with many office-goers.

I have definitely found this to be true for the most part of my working life. I am a morning person, and work at maximum efficiency till lunch time (usually around 12:30 / 1 pm). I try to take a short walk after lunch, but find that it’s still hard to get back to the same effectiveness as before. Rather than fight it, I usually just accept it and use this time for my casual browsing, emails, etc. Usually 20 minutes is what it takes for me to start getting out of the slump, and I then get back to work as usual.

Another thing I have observed recently is that this phenomenon is not restricted to working professionals alone. I have found that participants of my teaching sessions that start around 2 pm take longer to ‘warm up’ than at other times.

As experts quoted in the study mention, this slump is a natural part of our circadian rhythms. The ideal solution would be to take a brief nap at this time, but that might not be feasible in most work (or study) places.

What are some of the ways we can work around this natural slump?

  • Take some time during our immediately after lunch for mental relaxation. This can help manage stress levels and enhance energy levels.
  • Use this time for work that is not very mentally demanding (boring stuff).
  • Travel. If you have to travel for a meeting, can you time it such that you are traveling around this time (maybe even take a short nap on the way!).
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This is simply the best solution to minimise the effects of the afternoon slump.

Do you also experience a slump in the early afternoon? What do you do to overcome it?