Learn Reflect

Being Mortal

I discovered this book thanks to a couple of podcasts, I came across. Also a cousin whose taste in books I quite like, highly recommended it.

The podcasts had Atul Gawande, sagaciously explain the issues around caring for the old and infirm. Atul Gawande brings in a lot of data, a lot of empathy and accepts that a lot of medicine is work in progress.

Fair warning, there are plenty of triggers in this book, as it does tackle a difficult topic. The topic of growing old, or falling sick and being mortal.

There are some beautiful and profound insights in the book. The writing is often arresting and sometimes beautiful.

Below is one of my favourites from the book

As our time winds down, we all seek comfort in simple pleasures — companionship, everyday routines, the taste of good food, the warmth of sunlight on our faces. We become less interested in the rewards of achieving and accumulating, and more interested in the rewards of simply being. Yet while we may feel less ambitious, we also become concerned for our legacy. And we have a deep need to identify purposes outside ourselves that make living feel meaningful and worthwhile.

From Being Mortal
Culture Learn

What’s really important in your life?

A couple of days ago, I met a friend with whom I went on a very long walk. We walked for over 3 hours, waiting for breakfast, coffee later and some cheesecake by noon. There is something great about walking and talking with a friend for hours. For some reason there is a lot of clarity and elasticity in thought while thinking about things during a walk.

So I wondered if the best way to enjoy my walk was not just walk to music but also listen to a podcast and think about things. Today I loaded listened to Atul Gawande and Tom Jennings talking about mortality.

There is a lot to take away from that podcast with quotes like

What is turning out to be the powerful way of actually having this conversation is, you put the pills down, and you talk to the patient and you say: ‘What’s really important in your life?’

While listening to it can tear you up a bit, especially if you have lost someone, but it has a lot of amazing insights into how we view our work and how it can make a difference.


Mr. Ambassador, you say light at the end of the tunnel, but how long is the tunnel?

Over the past week or so, I have been watching this riveting, well edited documentary series, namely “The Vietnam War: A film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

I like documentaries by Ken Burns and hence started to check this one out now that it’s available on Netflix.

Ambassador Elsworth Bunker during the Vietnam war suggested that they were now looking at the light at the end of the tunnel.

The interviewer replied “Mr. Ambassador, you say light at the end of the tunnel, but how long is the tunnel?”

The political bluster, the terrifying ego of an empire willing to send thousands of their young into war and death and millions of their so called enemy, the sheer resoluteness of a people – who has just won their fight against colonialism are some of the narratives captured very well.

I am only half way through it but really liking it. Also quite disgusted by much of what it reveals.

That said I wonder what people from Vietnam think of such documentaries? 

Do they think of this as an indulgent America putting balm on their own wounds from a war, while more or less forgetting the lessons from that war?

About the title:

Ambassador Elsworth Bunker during the Vietnam war suggested that they were now looking at the light at the end of the tunnel.

The interviewer replied “Mr. Ambassador, you say light at the end of the tunnel, but how long is the tunnel?” – episode 6 of the documentary.


Tolstoy on Hypocrisy

I was reading Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall. On a chapter on Tolstoy, it quotes him about writing and exposing the hypocrisy of the wealthy and respectful, including himself.


Independence Day: Need for the noisy riffraff press

My grandmother told me stories of her mother who participated in the Quit India movement, and got arrest warrants issued on her name for writing seditious articles in her journal. She was one among thousands who took part in a political struggle by publishing something in a small printing press, often clandestinely.

India’s political awakening during the freedom struggle was led by a press that essentially self published. The large established newspapers did not necessarily take anti-establishment positions.

In terms of number of consumers, capacity to print out journals, the 1940s India was nowhere in comparison to present day India.

Yet, the impact of the media that was loud and clear.

Here is an interesting extract from Everyone loves a good drought – P. Sainath

As early as in 1893, Reuters assigned a correspondent, S.H.S. Merewether, to cover the famine-hit districts of this country. Apart from his reports, this resulted in a book, A tour through the Famine Districts of India. In it, he wrote that his assignment came about after a request Her Majesty’s Government had made of Reuters. The Raj, among other things, wanted to counter the riffraff of the nationalist press.

This is back in 1893, a when journals were published in numbers less than 1000s. The number of people who could read back then were probably less than 10% of the population. Yet, this press (media) was writing and reporting with moral authority. And it had caused enough noise for the colonial powers that be, to dispatch a correspondent to counter their arguments.

Compare India’s media today. It is massive. Seemingly free but highly controlled through varying overlapping layers of ownership and conflict of interests.

Here is a nugget of a video by P. Sainath.

We do need a noisy riffraff press that self publishes with some moral authority.

Happy Independence Day!

Image Credits


APJ Abdul Kalam is a very wise man!

Over the years I have ended up being a fan of Former President APJ Abdul Kalam. In recent times, no person who has held political office (though Presidency is pretty much a ceremonial role in India) has the sort of connect that this man has. I was catching the late night news and caught a story about Dr. Kalam visiting the International Book Fair in Delhi.

Just out of curiosity about Kalam and the Book Fair, I decided to Google him for some latest news. Two links that I came across showed why he is such a wise man.

Let children choose their subjects

Let children choose the subjects of their choice. They will excel, if they study something that they love

Simple enough?

Turn students into autonomous learners

I have met 13 million youth in India and abroad, in a decade’s time and have learnt that every youth wants to be unique. However, the world around you, is doing its best, day and night, to make you just everybody else.

Interestingly, he seems to be the only public figure in India who talks incessantly about education.