DARBAR – Emperor Rajini holds Court

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Prior to reviewing the hotly anticipated A.R. Murugadoss directed movie “Darbar” starring Superstar Rajinikanth (Rajini), that hit the screens on the 9th of January, 2020, a disclaimer is in order. I am an impossible, incorrigible and inveterate Rajini tragic. Hence there is an inevitability attached to the fact that a degree of bias would creep into my evaluation. Having said that I promise to be as objective as possible striving hard not to compromise assessment at the altar of adulation. So, not being Mark Antony’s Brutus, who after all was an honourable man, here goes!

First things first. “Darbar” is NOT “Baasha.” There is an unfair proclivity amongst critics and laymen alike to compartmentalize the Rajini Filmography into Baasha and post-Baasha periods. Employing Baasha as the gold standard against which its successors are judged is doing injustice both to the Superstar as well as his Directors. “Darbar” is 169 minutes of glorious Rajini mayhem, mania and mannerisms. Both Karthik Subbaraj, initially with “Petta” and now Murugadoss have phenomenally succeeded where the likes of Shankar and Ranjit have colossally blundered with Enthiran -2, Kabali, and Kaala respectively. The great poet, author and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore once famously said, “a mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand that uses it to bleed.” Murugadoss grasps this nuance to perfection and produces an entertainer that is by, for and of Thalaivar.

Aadithya Arunasalam (“Rajini”) a top cop is posted to the throbbing metropolis of Mumbai to put paid to a proliferating menace of substance abuse and trafficking in women. Arunasalam engages in a burst of extra judicial killings that reek of utter disdain and remorselessness. Managing to get to the root of the problem, Arunasalam succeeds in nabbing Ajay Malhotra (Prateik Babbar), the son of Vijay Malhotra (Nawab Shah), a business tycoon and the mastermind behind the purveying of drugs in the city. But when Hari Chopra (Suniel Shetty), a dreaded gangster who made a veritable mockery of the police force 27 years earlier before fleeing abroad, makes a menacing return to his motherland to wreak vengeance by targeting Arunasalam and his daughter Valli (Nivetha Thomas), all hell breaks loose.

In a plot that is if not gripping, exhilaratingly engaging, Rajini rules the roost. In a performance that mirrors “Padayappa” for entertainment quotient, and Petta for ‘Rajinisms’, “Darbar” is both Murugadoss tribute to Rajini fandom and Thalaivar’s offering to his fanatical followers. Oozing patented style that has made him one of the greatest entertainers in the annals of Indian cinema, Rajini holds Court, in what undoubtedly is his personal “Darbar.” There are the uncompromising slow motion fight scenes where antagonists come in bunches only to dispatched in multifariously unbelievable ways. Defying gravity they remain painfully suspended in thin air, before being ordered by their punisher to pay heed to the immutable laws of Physics. One of the highlights of the movie is a fight sequence in a railway station, the choreography of which is an exquisite paean to the charisma of Rajini. In more ways than one this is an age defying performance by the Superstar who at the time of this review is 70!

Although the introduction scene of Rajini takes on the contours of a by now expected panache, it is a tad bit weak by his own standards. A very clever and logical take on Rajini’s age is seen in the expectant albeit hesitant approaches made by Arunasalam towards Lily (Nayanthara). The crowning glory of the movie however is reserved for the interactions between Arunasalam and his daughter Valli (“Nivetha Thomas”).

Suniel Shetty as Hari Chopra is a looming Damocles Sword hovering over the head of Arunasalam. Considering the fact that he is making a comeback to the silver screen after a long hiatus, his role could have been meatier and substantial.

Nivetha Thomas as Valli holds her own in a performance that can only be termed brilliant. Effortless, effervescent and energetic, she is the most soothing foil to Arunasalam’ s raging temper. Yogi Babu as Kaushik is his usual natural self. Nayanthara plays the role of a charming and self-effacing woman who nurses an admiration for Arunasalam that goes beyond just camaraderie. However, her role is unfortunately one that just makes up the numbers.

Anirudh with his racy composition and an addictive background music proves why he is one of the most formidable young talents to be reckoned with in the musical world currently.  “Summa Kizhi” has all the hallmarks of a Rajini anthem. Santosh Sivan, with the free reign that he seems to have been accorded dishes out what is virtually a magical treat.

With the impudence of an Alex Pandian (coincidentally Murgadoss’s inspiration for this character), the impetuosity of a Petta and the inevitability of a Padayappa, Rajini reigns supreme as the Emperor of his Darbar. Even Manik Baasha would have approved of Aadithya Arunasalam, at least in so far as their methods of dispensing justice are concerned. But then again, I am not comparing.

TRANSFORMING SYSTEMS; Why the World Needs a New Ethical Toolkit – Arun Maira

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Paraphrasing Robert Frost who existentially suggested that the capacity to question the purpose of one’s own existence, for which there is no easy answer, is the big joke that god has played on humans, management consultant and former member of Planning Commission of India, Arun Maira lays the groundwork for articulation in his book, “TRANSFORMING SYSTEMS; Why the World Needs a New Ethical Toolkit.” Divided into four parts, the book discusses a new ethical framework to be adopted that would veer away from the ‘business as usual’ approach thereby not only furthering stakeholder ambitions but also fulfilling societal and social aspirations.

Part A titled ‘Aspirations to improve the world’, draws on Mr. Maira’s extensive professional experience that saw him execute challenge roles, first at the Tata Group of Companies and subsequently as India Chairman of Boston Consulting Group. Using fictitious names, but pertaining to real life examples, Mr. Maira leads the reader into the lives and minds of affluent and highly successful entrepreneurs, who undergo a life-altering transformation as they begin to introspect the real nature and purpose characterising their living.

Part B titled ‘Searching for a new Paradigm’ demonstrates a paradigmatic shift that facilitates a refreshingly new medium of thought and action on the part of the various protagonists identified in Part A;

Parts C and D named, Reorienting our minds and Becoming a leader respectively, conclude by instituting the measures to be adopted and principles to be instilled for consummating the ethical transformation.

Mr. Maira asserts the requirement and relevance of three orientations for anyone aspiring to make the world better: Systems thinking Ethics of citizenship Deep listening. Mr. Maira brings to the attention of the reader the existence of three types of systems:

One is “engineered” systems. Engineered Systems refer to “systems designed by humans, following scientific disciplines, to produce desired outcomes. Machines are the most common manifestation of this class of systems, so are top down planning systems that try to control inputs and outputs of organizations.

The second class of systems is “chaotic” systems. “These are formed by the interactions of millions of independent particles or free agents. Chaotic systems can produce surprising outcomes. The example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil that causes storms in Hong Kong is often cited to illustrate this characteristic of chaotic systems.

The third class of systems are complex “self-adaptive” systems. “Complex self-adaptive systems. Complex self-adaptive systems sit “on the edge” between engineered systems and chaotic systems. They neither sink into stasis like engineered systems nor are they an unformed, potentially chaotic mess.”

Employing Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral codes, Mr. Maira dwells on the need to balance the interests of shareholders with the embellishment of society. Haidt, propounded that every individual bears within himself/herself both an elephant and a rider. The animal and the rider are perennially at cross purposes in so far as the battle for control and desire for power is concerned. The rider intends to usurp control by bringing the elephant under his command but the elephant is constantly trying to throw or unseat the rider. Hence the only option available for the rider is to keep moving in tandem with the elephant. Haidt uses this parallel to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between organizations and the global community that is absolutely vital for maintaining cultural, economic, social and civic balance. However, as Mr. Maira illustrates, in a world beset by the rampant reach of capitalism the concept of egalitarianism and altruism is obfuscated by an untrammeled desire to accumulate and prosper. People living at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ are viewed more as an entrenched category that can be ignored rather than as a powerful set of potential customers, who if and when empowered possess an overarching potential to usher in a transformational and positive change.

In “Transforming Systems”, Mr. Maira relies on the works of a number of management experts, a fondness for whose principles he hardly bothers to disguise. Of especial mention are, Chris Argyris, the proponent behind the concepts of ‘espoused theories’ and ‘theories-in-use’; Jim Collins, the management guru of “Built to Last” and “Good To Great” fame; and George Lakoff, the American cognitive linguist, philosopher, and author of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. However, one author whose strands of thinking permeate numerous pages of Mr. Maira’s book is Peter Senge, the author of “The Fifth Discipline.”

Mr. Maira acknowledges that ushering in a revolutionary shift in the engrained beliefs that considers profitability and shareholder activism as uncompromising tenets would be a Herculean task. Relying upon the words of Thomas Kuhn, Mr. Maira says, “Kuhn explains how deep-seated beliefs, such as the story of creation and the centrality of Earth in the universe, become embedded into societies’ institutions and power structures. He says that to challenge such ideas can even be life-threatening, as it was for scientists who discovered that the story of creation was a myth and that the earth went around the sun.”

Encouragingly, there can be seen slivers of hope in the form of spectacular confessions and scintillating volte faces that are shaking the very edifice of capitalism. Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, confessed at a conference in Philadelphia that he was ‘something of a conscientious objector’ to social media. Similarly, Chamath Palihapitiya, an early senior executive at Facebook, joining the company in 2007 and leaving in 2011, also jumped on the Parker bandwagon when he declared, ‘The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other. I can control my decision, which is that I do not use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they are not allowed to use that shit.’

In his introduction to the book, Mr. Maira quotes Sumant Moolgaokar, popularly known as the architect of Tata Motors: ‘amongst the resources man needs, those that take the longest to grow are trees and skilled men and women.’ It takes even longer for men and women with a lateral bent of mind to enrich society to grow and be nurtured. But as Mr. Maira tellingly demonstrates in his book, the wheels are already in motion.

HOW TO DO NOTHING: RESISTING THE ATTENTION ECONOMY – JENNIFER ODELL

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A week ago I found myself in a two day free-to-attend ‘festival’ hosted by the Malaysian Ministry of Finance and organized in collaboration with the Central Bank of the country – Bank Negara Malaysia. Titled LIFT, an acronym whose expansion stood for Literacy in Financial Technology and Living in Future Times, the event purported to showcase the burgeoning developments in the digital world of finance and technology. In between the short time before one speaker concluded her talk and the next one was preparing to take the podium, the emcee, with a view to eliciting participation from an otherwise reticent but polite crowd, asked as to how many people upon waking up every morning reached out for their smartphones instead of turning towards their spouse. More than 75% of the hands instinctively shot up prompting a burst of spontaneous laughter.

While I am yet to share my bed with a spouse, this question by the Emcee triggered a bout of introspection. I would be lying through my teeth if I was to deny the fact that the first thing grabbing my attention every morning is a rectangular instrument that furnishes me with an unending ticker tape of likes, notifications, comments and mentions. Every other tangible object and intangible element does not stand a chance in so far as vying for attention is concerned. It is almost as if I have divided myself into fractals with each fractal being enslaved by its favourite social media outlet. This in spite of me having read, and reviewed the social recluse Jaron Lanier’s influential book, “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.”

So how does one disentangle oneself from the addictive, if not downright pernicious grip of social media? Does one go ‘dissipati peribunt’ by deactivating every social media account and retreating to the hills, or does one adopt an outside-in approach by remaining detached in spite of putting on a veneer of attachment? Jennifer Odell, an American artist, writer and educator based in Oakland, California tackles this very question in her extremely thought provoking, timely and tantalizing work, “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.” Fully concurring with Jean-Baptiste le Rond d’Alembert’s assertion that “every age needs a Diogenes”, Ms. Odell emphasizes the necessity of possessing the singularly peculiar mind set of this eccentric Greek Philosopher, who once ordered Alexander The Great to move aside since the Emperor was blocking the philosopher’s sun! Odell also takes refuge in one of the most hardboiled, provocative and enduring refuseniks of all time, Mr. Bartleby, Herman Melville’s fictional character who drives his employer to the wall by just sticking to his stock phrase “I would prefer not to” and exactly adhering to it.

An avid bird watcher, a la, Jonathan Franzen, Ms. Odell confesses her obsession towards watching birds in action This obsession in turn enables her to perceive in a more purposeful and aesthetic manner, nature that surrounds her. Bio-regionalism – a concept dealing with an awareness not only of the many life-forms of each place, but how they are interrelated, including with humans – first articulated by the environmentalist Peter Berg in the 1970s and the works of John Muir goad Ms. Odell on further nurturing her ornithological fascination. Borrowing from Donna Haraway and Martin Buber, Ms. Odell, exhorts us to concentrate upon where we are now, to acquaint ourselves with the world as it currently stands, and not go about imposing our will and subjectivity on it.

Drawing from a plethora of empirical research, Ms. Odell strives to imprint upon us the need to look beyond the periphery of our restrained boundaries of attention. The genesis underlying the coining of the term “inattentional blindness” by Berkeley researchers Arien Mack and Irvin Rock in the 1990s while studying the drastic difference in our ability to perceive something if it lies outside our field of visual attention, finds a detailed mention in Ms. Odell’s book.

Ms. Odell does not expect us to emulate Thomas Merton in escaping to the hills thereby engaging in a life of contemptus mundi, or to retreat to the woods, Thoreau-fashion thereby enjoying our own personalized Walden. “I am less interested in a mass exodus from Facebook and Twitter than I am in a mass movement of attention” she writes, “what happens when people regain control over their attention and begin to direct it again, together.” Instead, the secret is to occupy what Ms. Odell terms is the “third space” in the attention economy. This represents inculcating the requisite will power not only to withdraw attention, but to transpose it elsewhere, so that it stands enlarged, proliferated and improved in so far as its acuity is concerned. This according to Ms. Odell means introspecting across variegated timescales when “the mediascape would have us think in 24-hour (or shorter) cycles, to pause for consideration when clickbait would have us click, to risk unpopularity by searching for context when our Facebook feed is an outpouring of unchecked outrage and scapegoating, to closely study the ways that media and advertising play upon our emotions, to understand the algorithmic versions of ourselves that such forces have learned to manipulate, and to know when we are being guilted, threatened, and gas lighted into reactions that come not from will and reflection but from fear and anxiety.”

Thus doing nothing is the diametric opposite of assuming the stillness of a mendicant (at least in so far as physical movement is concerned) or severing the relationship with social media cold turkey and vanishing into oblivion like a fading mist. In the opinion of Ms. Odell, the act of doing nothing is an art that has a three-point perfection:

  • It is art of a dropping out;
  • Developing a lateral movement outward to things and people that are around us; and
  • Moving downward into place.

My only reservation with the ideas propagated and proposed by Ms. Odell is the aspect of implementation. In a world that brooks no exception and where bucking the trend is more a fortunate – and perhaps in a few exceptional cases courageous – exception than the norm, it is more than just a gamble to dissociate oneself from the everyday hustle and bustle, thereby paying paeans or obeisance to the lives of either Diogenes or Epicurus. Also it would be far-fetched if not downright idiotic to expect society to accord either the same patience or magnanimity towards the goings on of a resurrected Diogenes. Hence, unless there exists a secure financial backing or an assured avenue for leading a life filled with fundamental essentials, let alone luxurious accompaniments, it would be next to impossible to assimilate either Berg’s bioregionalism or Muir’s naturalist wanderings, as the core of one’s existence.

But having said that “How to do nothing” provides a handy channel to plan a much needed escape from the clutches of an unrelenting and remorseless form of capitalism.

Men Explain Things To Me – Rebecca Solnit

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In the year 2006, activist and sexual harassment survivor Tanana Burke took to Myspace, an American social networking website, for empowering vulnerable women, especially from low wealth communities. Ms. Burke pioneered a ‘culturally informed’ curriculum to discuss sexual violence within the Black community and in society at large. For furthering such an endeavor, she employed the hash tag #MeToo. What began as a hesitant effort soon spawned into a gargantuan movement that had at its core the egalitarian right of every woman in society. The #MeToo movement reached its apogee in early October 2017 following the widespread sexual-abuse allegations against former American film producer Harvey Weinstein.

The towering voice and influential writings of Rebecca Solnit, have arguably done more for embellishing feminism, than can possibly be either envisaged or imagined. Monumental testimony to this fact is her scintillating and irascible work, titled, “Men Explain Things To Me.” This staid, non-decrepit and matter-of-fact sounding heading takes on a more derisive and deprecatory tinge once the content within the covers have been assimilated by the reader. If Ms. Solnit’s objective is to knock impudent men off the perch of their condescension or pretentiousness, then rest assured, she accomplishes this feat with an aplomb usually reserved for a virtuoso!

Juxtaposing wit with vitriol, Solnit makes a rousing case for the obliteration of the term weaker sex (the latter part of the sentence, my personal interpretation entirely), thereby restoring women to the place where they belong – on an equal pedestal with men. The book begins with a party in a forest slope above Aspen. It is 2008, and Ms. Solnit and her companion Sallie find themselves in a Ralph Lauren-styled chalet at 9,000 feet. Their host, a wealthy man, upon learning that Ms. Solnit is a writer waxes eloquent about a recent book featured by the New York Times. Having not bothered to even give the book a read, the man holds forth on the aesthetics of the literary work. Solnit’s friend after three or four unsuccessful attempts at casual interjection, finally succeeds in bringing home the point that the book in question is actually written by Solnit. “And then, as if in a nineteenth century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn’t read….so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless – for a moment, before he began holding forth again”.

The aforementioned incident sets out the theme of the book which is also incorrectly thought to have birthed the term, “Mansplaining.” Divided into nine essays, including a deeply poignant one on Virginia Woolf, “Men Explain Things To Me” forcefully argues for paradigm shifts in societal mindsets in so far as the concept of gender equality is concerned. The belief that the feminine is subservient to the masculine is a belief that is not only preposterous but also incorrigibly well entrenched. Ms. Solnit evidences this unfortunate fact by bringing to the reader’s attention the writings of the British judge William Blackstone way back in 1765. In his widely read commentary on English common law and, later, American law, judge Blackstone expounds:

“By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband.” The fact that a woman should not have a standing of her own in society is an insidious concept that has inevitably and invariably eroded even the very depths of the subliminal. This erosion has in turn, conceived an ‘entitlement’ culture where it becomes the undisputed right or the untrammeled entitlement of a man to not only possess a woman by whatever means deemed appropriate, but also, subsequent to such a possession, do unto her what the possessor’s whim and fancy dictates. A brutal fall out of this philosophy is a permeation of rape culture. This term found itself in the limelight when in December 2012, a physiotherapy student in Delhi was brutally gang raped in a moving bus before being left for dead on a road in India’s capital city Although she fought courageously, the extent of the heinous internal injuries ultimately resulted in the death of the victim. Lawyers representing the rapists, put forth arguments that went beyond the ken of nauseating and the domain of the repulsive. Shifting the blame squarely onto the unfortunate victim, they stubbornly postulated that a lady had no right walking back or taking a public transport at that time of the night.

Such crimes of entitlement are not the singular preserve of Asian or developing nations. As Ms. Solnit illustrates with reference to America, “a rape is reported only every 6.2 minutes in this country, the estimated total is perhaps five times as high. Every 6.2 minutes. (Another way to put it: the more than 11,766 corpses from domestic-violence homicides between 9/11 and 2012 exceed the number of deaths of victims on that day and all American soldiers killed in the “war on terror.”)”. The mental and physical abuse of a woman is not restricted to acts perpetrated by the illiterate, under privileged, mentally unsound or psychosomatic genre of men. The rich and famous, movers and shakers of the ilk of Dominic Strauss Kahn, Mason Mayer, Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar form a perverted coterie taking pleasure in objectifying women and treating them as pure fractals of lust. This, according to Ms. Solnit is the world of ‘Manistan’.

“Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion or nationality, but it does have a gender”, says Solnit. It is just a class of impudent and intransigent people trumpeting, “I have the right to control you”.

The nineteenth-century geologist and survey director Clarence King and twentieth-century biologists have used the term “punctuated equilibrium” to describe a pattern of change that involves slow, quiet periods of relative stasis interrupted by turbulent intervals. The phenomenon of punctuated equilibrium resonates with the birth and furtherance of feminism and other movements upholding the cause of and case for women. “The term “sexual harassment,” for example, was coined in the 1970s, first used in the legal system in the 1980s, given legal status by the Supreme Court in 1986, and given widespread coverage in the upheaval after Anita Hill’s testimony against her former boss, Clarence Thomas, in the 1991 Senate hearings on his Supreme Court nomination.”

Similar has been the sprouting of opinions by celebrities reacting to and forming part of the #MeToo movement. On October 15, 2017, American actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter, “If all the women who have ever been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, then we give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,”.  Her act was soon emulated by a slew of high profile women celebrities of the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman.

We are still a long way away from restoring the rights and privileges that are inherent and inalienable to the life of every woman. But as Ms. Solnit points out we have at least commenced asking the right questions. In “The Mother of All Questions” Ms. Solnit proposes that we narrate the stories of women to the world. Such an act would change the way that the world treats women. In so far as this initiative is concerned, Ms. Solnit is a trendsetter herself.

Fractals of Tension

Fractals of our self furiously gravitate towards the world wide web

Some attracted by Tinder, others lured by Facebook as for likes they beg;

Biographies and memoirs don’t go beyond temporal ‘stories’ on Instagram

Calmness and quietude was once a languorous ride on a tram.

Burden of peer pressure making shoulders sag

Why can’t we screw everything and just LOLLYGAG!

(Word Count:60)

Courtesy of Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt#138

 

 

 

The Pugilists

(Photo by jfelias @ Morguefile )

The place was buzzing with an excitement that was palpable. The atmosphere was electric. An unceasing procession of premium cars regurgitating celebrities of all stripes and colours made for some dizzying viewing. The media was represented in full tilt and microphones were being thrust under both accommodating and angered noses at random. Fans and fanatics were buzzing around like a veritable horde of army ants, pushing, craning their necks, standing on their toes, all to catch a mere glimpse of their favourite persona.

Joanne sat across the happening luxury hotel, oblivious to the chaos and confusion punctuating the night. Nursing a dirty Martini, she clinked glasses with her husband Mervyn who was cradling his own drink, a Cherry Orange Old Fashioned.

“So, Anthony Joshua or Andy Ruiz?” asked Mervyn.

“Who cares”, Joanne answered. “There are better things in life than watching two grown- ups trying to change the dimensions of one another’s facial features.”

“You have a point” admitted Mervyn.

“At least we have the place to ourselves. This peace & quiet is a rarity. So let’s make the best use of it” said Joanne. “Cheers!”

“Cheers” replied Mervyn as they touched glasses yet again before downing their cocktails.

(Word Count: 199)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE

 

 

Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology’s People Problem – N.Chandrasekaran & Roopa Purushothaman

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A book that is bold and enterprising in intention, but falling short of concrete suggestions for implementation, “Bridgital Nation” is a welcome addition to the works that attempt to lay a concrete path for solving problems concerning access to basic resources and means in India. The credentials of the authors make the work one to be taken seriously. While Mr. N Chandrasekaran is the Chairman of the Tata Group, one of the world’s best known multibillion dollar conglomerate, Ms. Roopa Purushothaman is the Chief Economist and Policy Advocate at Tata & Sons. Hence, a slew of references alluding to various social, economic, cultural and innovative initiatives undertaken by the Tata Group, within the book, does not strike the reader as surprising.

The basic premise permeating the pages in the book, is an exhortation by the authors to shed the notion of viewing problems as well as solutions through the reductionist binary lens of technology against jobs. Technology, according to the duo can and should be employed as a powerful tool to improve and embellish the functioning of various sectors such as the legal process, education and medical services.

The book begins with a bleak overview of the gap between supply and demand of even rudimentary essentials that is plaguing the population of India today. “For example, it will take a further 600,000 doctors and 2.5 million nurses, a million teachers, about 400,000 agricultural extension workers, and 1.7 million commercial vehicle drivers to meet India’s current needs. Despite the 30 million cases pending within India’s judicial system, the country has only three quarters of the judges it needs. There aren’t enough researchers, plumbers or welders either.” The quintessential issue, leading to this situation, is, according to the authors, two-pronged. First is an inability to bring women into the work force, and the second, a lack of a vibrant ecosystem that encourages and nurtures entrepreneurship. Consider this: “Nearly 120 million Indian women—more than double the entire population of South Korea—have at least a secondary education, but do not participate in the workforce. If even half of this group of women entered the workforce, in one stroke, the share of workers with at least a secondary education would jump from 33 per cent to 46 per cent—the equivalent of fifteen years’ worth of improvement. This alone could add 31 trillion ($440 billion) to India’s GDP.” In so far as the entrepreneurship landscape goes, the authors highlight the fact that the Indian business landscape although boasting a large number of micro businesses, predominantly encompasses self-employed individuals who are optimistically called ‘entrepreneurs’. “What they run are survival ventures, the only road available, the last throw of the dice. If they had a choice, many of these ‘entrepreneurs’ would probably opt for staid, unglamorous salaried jobs.”

The solution: “Bridging India of the numbers with India of the senses.” Enter process Bridgital.

Bridgital recongnises an urgent need to redefine the means that are necessary to deliver a service or solution, especially in a manner that prioritizes the challenges of those without access. Behind the Bridgital process, lies the attribute of digital technology.  A judicious and prudent combination of Digital technology and low-cost service delivery models can complement the skill and talent of workers. The Bridgital process, can, for example ensure both the safety and mobility of women thereby enhancing the existing workforce and more importantly bestowing upon women, their deserving share of both monetary rewards and more intangible considerations such as recognition and progress. According to the World Bank economist Girija Borker, ‘women’s willingness to pay for safety translates into a 20 per cent decline’ in the salaries they could have earned after graduating college. The Bridgital process, can, in addition, also lead to the establishment of a ‘21st Century Cutting Edge Care Economy.’

In the authors’ own words, for instance, childcare workers—whether attached to a care-centre or standalone—could be integrated into a cloud-based management system which allows them to do administrative tasks like reporting attendance, health and safety records, and also to undergo training. This would also enable real-time check-ins and scheduling, and offer a source of collaboration amongst parents. Moreover, individuals can also create a transferable professional history by adopting this platform-based approach, deepening their integration into the formal economy.”

The authors breeze through, at breakneck speed, some of the initiatives that are currently implemented, and are yielding results in the various spheres such as healthcare, as a result of a blend of human capabilities and technical knowhow.

The noble exploits of Nikhil Burman, a driver in Silchar, who by virtue of his selfless service, lends an extraordinary degree of credence to the usually maligned word, ‘middleman’ is worth recounting. Possessing no professional medical qualifications or training, Mr. Burman has redefined the concept of medical care in so far as a multitude of the poor and underprivileged are concerned. Parking his conveyance on the kerb of National Highway 37, he receives a stream of patients, mostly villagers who have made long and exacting treks just to meet him. Armed with a mobile, Mr. Burman then proceeds to make doctors’ appointments, arrange affordable lodgings, along with conveying honest expectations around cures, costs and timelines. This intrepid and tireless individual could be empowered to do much more, if he was equipped with the right type of technology.

A Tata Consultancy Services (“TCS”) pioneered venture in the domain of healthcare that is making waves in the district of Kolar, Karnataka is a case in point. Goaded into action by the then health Minister Mr. Ramesh, TCS converted an otherwise plaid sanatorium in Kolar into a Digital Nerve Centre. Local health workers popularly known as ASHAs, are provided iPads. Armed with these devices, ASHAs make house visits, talking to patients, recording their symptoms and updating their medical records. The data is uploaded onto a cloud server, thereby enabling doctors to deal with patients on a remote basis even. The necessity of and for proximity is thereby restricted to purely inevitable circumstances.

The book concludes by positing the potential for porting technology into diverse sectors of the society thereby harnessing the power of both intellectual and Information Technology capabilities. This process would usher in a new and vibrant India. Although not a teeth-to-tail handbook dealing with the measures that would make the Bridgital process meaningful, the only shortcoming of the book is a heavily macro-level and 30,000 feet exposition of both the nature and feasibility of the Bridgital process. Racing through the proposed solutions does not provide the requisite and appropriate degree of amplification that is otherwise necessary for identifying, evaluating and appreciating the cures for the social, economic, cultural and technological shortcomings ailing our nation.

Perhaps Bridgital Nation – 2 may alleviate this lacuna.