A Moving North

Having lived in Hyderabad for nearly two decades now, the one time of the year that I look forward to the most is the Sankranthi weekend. It is one in the morning of Saturday, and from my office at Ameerpet, I can hear the frenzied collective hooting of fleets of buses ferrying the better part of the city's population back to their homes. Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, is still largely an immigrant city, with most businesses and workforces tracing their roots back to coastal Andhra. This demographic quirk is also what led to the creation of a separate state for the people of Telangana. When I leave for home before Suryadev visits us, the streets which are otherwise deserted except for manic cabbies dropping sleepy IT workers off, are bristling with last minute travelers and hordes of trucks, minivans, buses, haggling over fares and seats, frantically calling friends and relatives, much like Ramzan nights in the old city. Except that the rush here is to get out of the city.

The next morning and till the weekend gets over, the city quietens down, the air and noise clears up, and moving around the city becomes a pleasure. Hyderabad grew rapidly in the 90s and the Telugu Desam government under the leadership of Chandrababu Naidu gave shape to a vision of a truly global city, with wide avenues, industry specific zoning, elevated mass transit, and a vibrant cultural identity. Subsequent governments fed off that vision but did little to accommodate the boom that followed.

New is New, Happy Happy

Stories, like poems or songs, have to have a beginning, a middle and an end. That is how stories have to be. Life, on the other hand, doesn't. Between McTaggart and Wittgenstein, between Einstein and Russell, linearity of being has been demolished quite thoroughly. The start of the new year is always a good time to look at the validity of beginnings, middles and ends.

With Junior creeping past school going age, and his parents not entirely sure what they want to do, the question of what learning and education are, and where they can be found is one that has been central to our daily grind. We have come a long way from Socrates and Seneca, but we stand at a peculiar juncture, with fake news, and ideological spins on everything including science. Our best myths are Hogwarts, the Cullens, and reluctant Jedis. We are also close to the tipping point of artificial intelligence where machine logic matches human wisdom.  The greatest nations of the world are being led and governed by men and women who are bound to a dehumanizing vision of the future, and technology is matching them gaffe for gaffe. Terror and cryptocurrencies are both equally safe investments, and war is what children play on their mobile devices.

Then there is the Nobel Prize. While the prize for the sciences are relatively apolitical, those for the humanities are no longer benchmarks of what is great about the arts or peacemakers. They never were, but what better North do we have any more? Two laureates of recent times are close to the North though it did not seem so then and it perhaps does not seem so now. Time will tell if Obama truly strengthened international diplomacy and cooperation among peoples or if the life and work of Bob Dylan was literature at all. Maybe Alexa will have an opinion.

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