"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches," Andy Warhol.

Today, he would have measured everything in the number of tweets, re-tweets, shares, likes, and hearts. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I have felt this feeling of despair, and neither am I alone. The theater and theatrics of outrage are so loud that it is rendering the platforms pretty unusable.  

 It is becoming evident that facts, truth, reality, and happiness have no place in the social media world, where attention-at-any-cost is the only currency. Everything has become so loud. The reason is not a reason, and neither is being reasonable. Hyperbole is the order of the day. All of it, so people pay attention to what you have to say.

It reminds me of the quip David Bowie made about Madonna and her need for attention. “That kind of clawing need to be the center of attention is not a pleasant place to be,” he said. 

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

PS: A day later, I can’t help but notice the hilarious irony: many media personalities, often at the center of attention are complaining about the lack of civility on the social platforms.



It has been a rough few days for the citizens of India, who have been struggling with the rampaging COVID-19 virus. The pandemic is more widespread than either media or official figures seem to indicate. Many of you emailed and asked about what is the best way to offer help and aid. Here is a list of simple resources to get you started. 

  1. Joy of Sharing: This is a Norwalk, CA-based charity group that gathers funds for vital supplies. Please select COVID-19 INDIA to designate your funds. 
  2. Aid India: Like Joy of Sharing, it too accepts credit cards for online donations. 
  3. Mission Oxygen: This is an initiative by a community of founders from the Delhi region to donate life-saving equipment to hospitals.
  4. Give India is helping organize funds for oxygen, food, survivor support, and other needs for those who desperately need it. 
  5. Hemkunt Foundation is helping laborers and migrant workers who have been made jobless and homeless. They are helping to provide them with food, shelter, and basic hygiene/survival supplies.

I hope this list helps. I will keep updating the links as I find them. 

I have made notes when reporting news, interviewing people, or drafting outlines for most of my life. In the early days, it was shorthand. Later, it became a weird blend of English, symbols, and old shorthand. I eventually got a tape recorder and began recording my interviews, but mostly as a backup. More often than not, I’ve kept just a reporter’s notepad, a bunch of HB pencils, and a fountain pen on my writer’s desk.

My approach has been contrary to that of most of my peers, who by now almost all take notes by typing directly on the computer. Most of them draft their pieces on the computer as well. As a non-native English speaker, I always found (and still do) that writing things down by hand, and then bringing them into the digital realm, allowed me to create better drafts.

In this age of visual communications, I do much of my work on Zoom. I find that, when used sparingly, Zoom is quite handy. It is one click to save the conversation using its internal recording features. I have it integrated with Otter.ai, which does a passable job of transcribing those conversations. Still, the recordings are just a backup to make sure I am not making any mistakes.

I still take notes in an old-fashioned notebook, even though I am no longer a reporter. I still use the old HB pencils. I love drafting my longer pieces using one of my many fountain pens. I normally use a trusted old Montblanc 149. When I am traveling, I switch to a decade-old Lamy Rollerball pen I bought in Munich.

Why do I do this? Because I find that writing before typing helps me contextualize and remember information better. I was doing some research for an essay and ended up on a website called, Drawright, which had a nice piece on why handwriting trumps typing. Here are my favorite five reasons.

1. By feeling the writing surface, holding the writing instrument, and directing precise movement with thought, you give your brain a full workout! In contrast, typing is a simple, memory-based movement. Executing keystrokes is just a repetitive movement.

2. Research shows that children who practice their handwriting have higher levels of literacy and cognitive development. This is likely because as children learn how to quickly translate mental images of letters into a physical form, they begin to understand how letters form sentences and meaning.

3. Boosts reading comprehension: Strong writing skills also improve reading comprehension.

4. Retains knowledge: Handwriting notes (such as in a class) helps you retain knowledge more than typing on a keyboard.

5. Increases creativity: Writing and drawing by hand increases creativity because we are forced to slow down, consider the big picture, and come up with creative ideas. You use the right side of your brain!

Drawright

That said, there is one thing I would argue that digital does better: spelling. I know you are theoretically supposed to get better at spelling by writing out words, but that has not been my experience. For some odd reason, as time passes, spellcheck and I seem to become increasingly good friends.

April 29, 2021, San Francisco.

You might have noticed that it has been awfully quiet around here. I have found myself reading more books than the Internet these days — and as a result, I didn’t have much to share. A good habit I picked up during the pandemic — after watching Max Joseph’s video on reading — is that I read 45 pages of a book (at the very least) every day. Sometimes, I keep reading the book because it is engaging. For instance, I am currently reading — Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of the World by Dan Davies. 

I read books as an escape from the inanity of what is published online as serious journalism. On the other hand, nothing satisfies like non-serious journalism. Like someone asking the question: what is a mullet? In case you were wondering, why did I bring up the mullet? Well, apparently, it is the byproduct of the pandemic. For someone who prefers the buzz, I have never contemplated the mullet. And even if I did, I wouldn’t want to be seen in public supporting the mullet. Not that there is anything wrong with it.

What is and what is not a mullet/Esquire

Over the last two days, I have been talking to old friends and family members, and no matter how you put it, the situation is grim. Except for my parents, the virus has impacted many extended family members. A couple of friends have lost family members. The stories I have heard, including shortage of resources and crematorium problems, bring tears to the eyes. 

Whether you read in the papers or hear over the social networks, this is an enormous tragedy. The scale of devastation is never going to be understood because the government is busy playing games with numbers. I mean, instead of being focused on solutions, you have powers that be spending energy on getting social media platforms such as Twitter to take down tweets.

In my long experience, playing or fudging the numbers is not a sign of a healthy democracy. No matter how you look at it, this is a failure of foresight. Short-termism is a disease not just for stock markets and can be an Achilles heel for countries too.

I keep saying this again and again — lies cost lives

April 25, 2021, San Francisco.


“…absolutely devastating, and doesn’t feel like our country is doing everything it possibly can to help.” Scott Belsky

Also: Can US do more to help India in its term of crisis?