#MondayMusings: Thoughts on the far-reaching social impact of the Trump Presidency

As a general rule, I don’t write about politics on the blog. No matter what my views may be and what arguments and debates I may have in real life or online, I keep all of that away from this space.

But the recent election results in the US have shaken me to the core. And though they have no direct bearing on me, there is no denying the wide-spread social impact of a Trump presidency.

I also think that the time is now ripe to have multiple conversations about righting wrongs – about inclusion and diversity, about the fact of a changing global order, changing race and cultural dynamics, and a shift in the old patriarchal systems and beliefs. And I believe this is a conversation that we need to have globally.
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Imagine a world without words

Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest… Without the word, without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books. – The Magic of the Book, Hermann Hesse

Imagine a world without the written word. Without a way to easily access and share humankind’s collective knowledge. A world where books were not a thing, where reading and writing were unknown. What would such a world look like? Continue reading

In defense of a child free life

Motherhood. It’s a biggie! It’s a life-altering, soul changing decision. You bring a new life into this world, an innocent little life that you are responsible for.

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Society would have you believe that as a woman, it is your “duty” to have a child. That your life will be “meaningless” without one. That you will “regret” your decision when you are “old and alone with no one to ask after you”.

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The insidious landscape of rape: it’s rise, possible causes, and probable solutions

English: Statue “The Rape of Persephone” in Ve...

Violence against women is a common theme in mythology. Statue “The Rape of Persephone” in Vechelde, Lower Saxony, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am an ostrich when it comes to news on rape. I prefer to bury my head in the sand and not read or hear about it. But even for this ostrich, it’s become next to impossible to do so. After the shocking gang rape in broad daylight in Mumbai – because Mumbai is supposed to have been one of the safe cities for women, dammit – I heard about the brutal rape and murder of a nine-year old child in Gurgaon.

This makes me sick. Disgusted. Afraid. And I’m forced to take a closer look at the issue to try to make sense of the moral depravity that seems to have gripped this country.

But surely, India isn’t the only place where rape is a common occurrence. It happens across the world – in both developed and developing economies.

There’s the Stubenville High School rape case in the US; the brutal gang rape and murder of Anene Booyson in South Africa, where gender violence is “systemic” nationwide; rapes in conflict zones; in Brazil, where an American tourist’s boyfriend was forced to watch as his girlfriend was gang raped

And that makes me think – why?Continue reading

Nigella Lawson and the can of worms known as domestic abuse

Nigella Lawson at a Borders book-signing

Nigella Lawson at a Borders book-signing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As images of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being attacked by her art collector husband Charles Saatchi went viral online, it led to a maelstrom of debate that surrounds all narratives of celebrity domestic abuse.

The overt, more often implicit, blame was on Nigella for not “standing up for herself” and for going back to tweeting cutesy food pictures a couple of hours after the attack. Australian radio jockey Dee Dee Dunleavy went so far as to call for a boycott of Nigella’s books.

We think you are strong, beautiful and successful. We imagine your home is warm and smells of cinnamon, and if we dropped in we’d get a hug and a feed. We don’t like to think of you cowering from a thug. A man so boldly abusive he had no qualms about attacking you in public. Nigella, like it or not, you’re a beacon for women from all walks of life. If you want us to buy your books and watch your shows on how to run our kitchens, then we need you to make a stand on domestic violence.

This isn’t very different from the public outcry that greeted Rihanna’s decision to get back together with her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, with whom she had split up after he physically assaulted her. (She has since broken up with him.)Continue reading

Zombiefied: Social media and the rise of the zombie culture

“Why is Go Goa Gone a zombie movie? And come to think of it, why the hell is Brad Pitt doing a zombie movie?! ? Why? I hate zombies!”

“Relax, we are going to see a zombie apocalypse soon anyway.”

Those pearls of wisdom from the husband got me thinking – aren’t we, in a way, already seeing a zombification of society?

Traditionally, a zombie is an animated corpse resurrected by mystical means, such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli. (Wikipedia)

Look around you – at the mall, in the garden, on the road – and you’ll find people walking around with their nose buried in their smartphone. Chances are they’re either Tweeting or Facebooking or texting.Continue reading

It's all about the model, honey: Why India's newspaper industry is set to grow and grow

Recently, I wrote about how app papers are cannibalizing print newspapers, focusing on the US perspective on the newspaper industry and the monetization of digital content. At the back of my mind I was already wondering about the relevance of that trend in the Indian market.

In India, newspapers are still doing very well. In fact, the newspaper industry is expected to grow from INR174 billion in 2010 to INR246 billion in 2013.

I believe there are a few factors that set the Indian newspaper market apart. First is the low literacy level in the country, due to which newspaper penetration is low. But as literacy rates improve, so does the market potential. Tied to that is the fact that only a small percentage of Indians have access to technology. Case in point is internet penetration, which stands at just 6.9%, implying that a huge part of the Indian population is still reading the printed paper because they do not have access to an internet connection.

Second, unlike in the US, we don’t have to go to a newsstand to buy a copy of the paper every day – the paper is home delivered at no extra cost to subscribers. With that model, the number of people opting out of receiving a newspaper is limited. Moreover, newspapers are very cheap – the monthly bill for one newspaper rarely exceeds INR 200 (and that’s on the high side). It’s no wonder then that since the past few years, circulation figures of most Indian newspapers have grown by about 5% per year.

Further, the editorial integrity of print in India, and the trust that print brands are able to command vis-à-vis other media, is very high. India also has a large number of established print brands compared to the US America, where there are only really two big print brands.

Add to the mix the large number of regional languages spoken across the country, with newspapers available in all of these languages. In fact, according to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), the Hindi-language Dainik Jagran has the highest average issue readership of 16,393,000, significantly more than the average readership of the top English-language newspaper Times of India, with 7,471,000 (figures for the second quarter of 2011).

With such a huge audience base, it should come as no surprise that print advertising grew by 16% year-over-year in the first half of 2011, with newspapers accounting for 96% of ad jobs.

Moreover, when it comes to the app story, just 10% of mobile phone users in India have a smartphone.

Even the recent introduction of 3G services is unlikely to make a major dent on the Indian newspaper industry due to all of the factors above. After all, with strong brands, high editorial integrity and nominal pricing, the likelihood of new media impacting core readership and threatening the value delivered is marginal.

Nevertheless, the industry cannot ignore the trends in the developed market, as it is sure to become reality in the years to come.

I for one am not likely to pay for access to news when there are so many free (and excellent) alternatives available out there.

What’s your take? Would you pay to access paid news content online?