Notes from a Conference Campaigner

On 9th February, we are organizing Wordcon 2017 –  2nd International Freelancer’s Summit in Calcutta, India.

As a Chairman of the initiative, I was working with my team in terms of connecting with potential associates locally, in India and abroad. The core objective of Wordcon is to connect Indian freelancers to the global community and share best practices. Here are some of the learning in this Campaign :

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https://in.explara.com/e/wordcon2017

 

  •  Communication is the Key but depends on the lock too. A rusted lock will not open with any key, however well designed.
  •  Power and interest to listen to a stranger’s proposal without prejudice is directly proportional to fulfillment of one’s own interest.
  • Reference from a credible quarter is important but not sufficient.
  • Small Business Owners ( < 100 employees) are agile and supple but they believe in a philosophy called “grow or get squeezed” and this philosophy with an urgency attached prevents them in “concentrating” on distant and profound themes of business.
  • Communication on the theme – “Will you be this Conference’s friend with association, money, outreaching and all of them combined ?” must be without any agenda. It must be clear, unambiguous and fixed.
  • There must be a philosophy – simple business logic may get a hand to write a cheque but not a heart that shares your beats.
  • Social Media has high noise and is ruled actually by probability in predicting being sold to delegates although most of the campaigners – successful (in getting paid delegates of critical volume) and failed ones (not reaching the said critical volume) do not acknowledge it. The former believes that it was their hard and innovative work and the latter does not because failure is an orphan.
  • There must be one person in the Team who must be simulating the unpleasant but the necessary role of the proverbial “nagging wife” – continuously reminding to tie this loose end or that. Fortunately, we have one in our team.
  • There are four kinds of “influencers” or “speakers” a Conference will encounter while selecting its speakers / panelists.

Universal Teachers : They are natural teachers and are always interested to share their experience. Honest and competent, they also have highly effective communicative power. They also do not have “airs”. They consider it their duty to share their learning not for any purpose other than for the joy and duty of sharing.

Top of the Circuit : They  have made a niche in the speaking / talking / mentoring circuit. Soon, they find themselves busy in these activities and this becomes a regular job. Too much frequency necessarily brings a) re-hash communication b) spreading out in apparently diverse areas

Auto-Promotion : They are generally poor in terms of buying marketing time, prime time or social media horns and trumpets. They do it themselves and in an auto-mode. Writing about self in an interesting manner even in a surface level needs quite a high level of literary skill, repetitions and urgency make the task onerous and it becomes visible that the “self” is getting tired in “self-projection.”

The Entitled : This type must be avoided at all costs. These people consider being a speaker /panelists a kind of entitlement, a divine right, an universal imperative. They are called “কেষ্ট-বিষ্টু” in Bengali with a pejorative tome which translates roughly as “High Level Deities” and since they consider your invite as an entitlement or a divine right, they are least interested to consider what value they bring to your customers, i.e. your paid delegates or their areas of interest.

I shall close this post with a method by which I had this classification made and it was during the Wordcon 2015 –  1st Freelancer’s Summit in November 2015

We described our conference concept and target audience and sought speakers in certain predefined areas and in a pre-defined format and within a deadline. An “interested” speaker responded after deadline and proposed to speak on an unrelated theme. Proposed is a wrong word – he demanded to speak on a theme. We communicated that his proposition did not match our target audience’s area of interest and more important, being past deadline, we had our speakers already finalized.

The first three would have considered this as a routine thing. Not the Entitled one and our sample was of that variety. He was livid. He considered this as a “rejection” – a heretical posture. The more we explain our reaction as “not-fit”, he was educating us his importance as a speaker / panelist and recited a list of his “gracious presence.”. We humbly explained that we do not contest that at all but this was a fitment issue and we did have such instances and no other person reacted that way. He would not budge and pressed on. It became very unpleasant as we found ourselves interrogated about not appreciating his greatness.

Then, a lady of our team asked him with sweetest of voice – “My noble Sire, why do you bother so much ? By your own admission, you are of a higher category and we are convinced, yes, we are – we promise by keeping our hand on our grandmother’s head, we do understand. Ours was an inconsequential one considering the ones you have been invited and anointed perhaps as per your own admission. Then, may I ask, why are you so livid ? Why do you bother so much ? Why are you so angry ?”

I watched the Entitled one some five feet away in an oblique angle and a strange silence hung like drops of mist for few seconds and that silence was deafening.

[1987 – 2017] – Physics Remembered

It is the easiest of times for Physics. You have the largest collider, you have huge army of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, computer people, data scientists, PR machine, model like writers and media reporters, fantastic wordsmiths (God’s Particle) and 2500 years of work behind of some of the greatest minds and brains our genes are capable of producing.  You also have a very awed and believing public  when someone finds that one sees in front (in person or in screen) someone who has produced equations of such beauty and concise elegance that this can be written in a T-shirt and what are these ? These are the mind of God, written in mathematical symbols.

It is the hardest of times for Physics. So hard that barrier of entry of a theory will be zero as the most-advanced theories now declare that there can be any number of laws, theories and universes (multiverse). Cutting edge physics reads and looks like hieroglyphic scrolls with a benign, dreamy man speaking something which is closer to “faith based initiatives.”. There is no answer or admission of not having an answer or a tragic grandeur of utter failure against Olympian odds but speculation and defense of not calling a speculator a speculator. This while coming from scientists of European origin would have brought a blush of shame in the cheek of Hellas of antiquity.  Physics may survive everything, including Quantum Theory but it will not survive the current trend of “celebrity scientists” or whose only claim and contribution may be becoming a celebrity.

Some 30 years back, I was a 17 year old boy and was mesmerized by the charm of Physics. I wanted to devote my Life to the subject and become a humble servant in the search of the truth in the inner sanctum of Nature. It was a very high ambition but it was physics and works of physicists like Feynman, Planck, Schrodinger, Dirac that was radioactive enough to instill such a fire inside a 17 year old boy in a muffsil town in North East India.

I did take an elaborate preparation and devoted myself totally and even getting myself admitted to a prestigious college as a regular student. On my own and guided by these giant mentors, I did progress to String Theory, starting from classical physics. It was a great, enjoyable, hard adventure as we must remember that unlike Europe where Classical Physics was taught in colleges since 1700s, whereas in India it started in 1860 with the establishment of Calcutta University in 1857.

I felt some instinctive disgust (at that time I was not sure why my soul was rebelling and matured people thought of this as some adolescent instability or imbecility) and left Physics for good. Being steeped in Indian mysticism, metaphysics, spirituality and cosmology, my “soul” perhaps felt that the progress through String theory, Tao of Physics, Dancing Wu Li Masters is surely towards the same half-lit, half-shaded, unabashed and carefree world of “holy speculation” and creating priests and attendant believers.

Classical Physics was developed by a wholly aristocratic age. We may justly regret the brutal critic who could not estimate the hidden greatness in the poetry of Keats but one good thing they did was to filter out the statistical averages and mere adventurers. It was a brutal method but it achieved one thing for sure : except the highest talent, nobody was ready to pay the price. Physicists of those age did not make money. There was relatively little funding for their work and many did earn their livelihood by humbler professions – tutoring, text-book writer, teacher (not tenured professors writing grant applications for projects that appears more and more like faith based initiatives written in mathematical language which handfuls understand but belief must be ensured to attract the money from the un-initiated)

String Theory was developed in liberal democracies. In a democracy, one of the greatest dangers is that a man’s only identifier in the cosmic drama is the job he does. Hence, in a democracy, the responsibility becomes diffused. This is clear from the public building projects in an aristocratic age and democratic age. The general quality difference is clear to naked eyes.  This is because, in an aristocratic age, the leaders who commissioned this project were not dependent neither for their income nor for their social reputation on the financial outcomes of these projects. In a democracy, since the man’s only social relationship is money and fame vis-a-vis equal and equally felt fellow-citizens, the primal objective is to ensure continuation of the status quo.

One of the greatest attraction for young Indians for Physics for the first generations was the direct antithesis of world-view it presented against the prevalent one. It was noted by an Englishman while addressing a Convocation of the Calcutta University in the 1880s. India produced some luminaries and real greats in the domain in addition to a constellation of talented scientists. The confluence of mathematics and physics charmed the synthesis minded Indian, especially the initial irradiated ones.

The decline followed thereof. A race or nation responds to a new stimuli with an intensity much higher than the successive ones unless and until the stimuli is not proportionately either of higher intensity or of higher frequency or both. Since 1950s, the “peacocks and leopards”of the European and American Physics bade adieu save an endangered species like Feynman remained and then started the “Dance of Hindu, Chinese, Mayan, Egyptian gods”. 1970s witnessed some kind of democratization of cannabis Indica and Physics – a synthesis, founding fathers would have found arrant degradation of the highest level.

Nothing really happened in this period. Nothing significant.It was a halting – there were talents who “managed” but there was no genius and all the avenues were carefully blocked. As the best were few and were lacking conviction, the worst rose with passionate intensity and the age of celebrity physicist arrived. We, the old lovers watched with horror how no such celebrities talk of the hard path, the fight to death between idea and representation, the elation and heart-break. The great joy and the great fear and forewarning in print and lifestyle to all the young ones. It is very soon we shall be gifted with “User Friendly Calculus” or “Social Media Rated accurate Maxwell Equations.“.

I remember Nietzsche’s bitter cry on democracy : “who will save Democracy from England and England from Democracy….?”

“Who will save Physics ?” Rather the question should be “What will save Physics ?”

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When one grows old, one forgets the humiliation and the pain of the unrequited love and the past becomes mellow and instead of a pixel image, it becomes what impressionist paints – with more spaces and silences. The old man fills those silences and a new time-variant portrait emerges.

On a personal note, I left the orbit of Physics as it was then but occasionally checked the goings-on. Nothing changed, I mean what made me leave. Worse, I observe some of my countryman have discovered a kind of fused snake oil, made out of oversimplified physics and re-used Eastern mysticism. In a democracy like America as foretold by Alex de Tocqueville in a highly aristocratic prose the trends thereof, my countryman are doing good business. This is fine and one can take a hearty joy in success of such a venture. But this does little honour to the seminal fathers of Physics who did rage a life and death war against such intellectual short-circuiting.

I leave with a hope. May be in some eon, a genius will arrive in God’s own Time (not the invariant Time) and he will laugh at most of the wooly mish-mash and the genius will wash away the Agean filth accumulated over last 60-70 years and the Vita Nuova will be there again.

I cannot die even without this faith.

Book Review – Teen Paharer Katha [ 3 stories in Bengali – “Stories of three mountains” by Chitran Choudhury

 

Review Context

In 1991 (Collapse of the Soviet Union), I was a hormone driven  17 year old heterogeneous male. In 2008 (Credit Crisis), I was thinking of putting my leisure into some channel. In the seventeen years from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the near collapse of World financial system, one thing in India became scarce – leisure. Middle aged corporate men talked more of the conflict between life and livelihood instead of “adda, amateur drama, novels, films and such frills of life.”

The author informs us of his profession and we first wonder how he could manage to get time to complete the project. Many prisoners of the cubicle nation might get inspiration from this. This is a virtue of the book immediately discerned from the flyleaf itself.

Reviewing a work of fiction can only be termed as “recording of reader’s reaction”.  In that reaction also, the most-important aspect is how the work has “re-created” things inside and things of outside. The review below follows this philosophy.

The language is excellent – simple, clear and highly readable. The last story – নীলান্তিকা, I liked most. The story has been told with a great restraint from the author’s side and the natural landscape s no longer a part of the narration but a character itself, i.e. having autonomy in the narration.

teen-paharer-kotha_complete_cover-page1. The 2nd story appears, from the middle segment to the end of lengthening the “thinking of a story part” ; more dialogues between characters instead of narration by the author would have brought more three-dimensional aspect to the characters.

2. The first story  followed the framework of many stories with “urban, tallish complex and longish car, weekend scotch, aspiring but a bit bored” class of contemporary Calcutta but when the reader expected something obvious, the story takes a very dark and sinister turn of events – completely unexpected. The epilogue is darker still when the female protagonist is forced to take a turn which is pure evolutionary instinct as evolutionary biology tells us.

3. The female character of the first story  – a kind of heartlessly rational and survival-focused organism is in direct contrast to the pivotal character নীলান্তিকা who  chooses, not by rationality but by pure instinct something completely against better survival. She validates and redeems the wisdom of Pascal – “Heart has a reason which reason will never comprehend.”

4. The stories tell me something between the lines – an oblique hint on the excess of 70s in Bengal – the landscape is also part of the Mother Nature – something which not only soothes but appears in double role in the cosmic drama – as a female form, it charms and soothes us but at the same time, it is also focused on betraying us. All the characters in the novel get solace and peace as well as endanger themselves in those landscapes – literally and psychologically.

 

[Film Review] Dangal

Position  Statement con Self declaration 

[I am restless in a sense that I find it very difficult to sit in front of a lit-up screen in a semi-dark hall with strangers or acquaintances for 160 mins or sometimes for 180 mins. This makes me disqualified for being a gentle movie watcher. This does not mean that I do not like movies. I like some movies so much that I have become unpaid researcher for them. The more I read about them, the more I find something to appreciate in the next viewing (private with air, light, coffee, cigarette, a bed / recliner and freedom to move and walk around). Or in other words, I re-discover new things in the movie and since the movie did not change in between my viewing, the “new” must have been within me. It becomes a self re-discovery. This potency alone qualifies cinema to be an Art form]

My tryst with “Dangal”

I watched the movie in a family configuration like  3 (middle aged men and women)  + 1 (senior citizen) + 3 (teen age boys and girls) + 1 (young boy) in INOX theatre and the business model of this seems to be exceedingly simple : of selling pop-corn at an eye popping price and margin. The movie expedition was funded by an US based aunt of the children, pop-corn by local currency and my going was a political move – not to offend the group and also to retain home peace.

Review 

I make my living partly by reviewing written text. Reviewing a film is not my line of work. I would rather list what came to my mind while I was there for 161 mins from 5:15 pm.

  • I was curious to find sudden interest of our country’s movie industry in wrestling. I learnt one thing as a private citizen of Calcutta that if you are not sure of of your indisposition, it must be “gas”. Similarly, if anything is difficult to grasp in India, we can pin it by a term called “politics”. I smell some politics in the sudden interest in wrestling by our movie industry’s top players and actors.
  • I failed to understand that why was the director so deeply biased to close-up shots, especially for the lead actors. One of the pivotal powers of the language of camera is to create space – this was not used at all. I am also not convinced that such close-ups allowed us to learn wrestling better because it can be argued with reason that people did not buy tickets for watching a wrestling tutorial video.
  • But this appears so because of a very dangerous disease entering our movie industry – of being cerebral, of being with a cause, of being serious, of being taken seriously. I think this as a disease not because I am against them per se but this will make the movies sterile and although the “newness” will be rewarding for sometime but the “Eastern excess” will manifest and the genes of the new customers will reject this “serious-cause-cerebral-take me seriously”  stance very shortly. This is not good for the industry in the long term.
  • The “eastern excess” I mention is about the length of our movies. Every stakeholder believes that unless something of everything is someway not cooked in a crucible called movie, the thing has not become worthy to be served. This is our culture’s greatest power as well as the greatest weakness – the art of synthesis.
  • There was the last sequence when the old wrestler was cunningly locked-in and his daughter as well as chela was fighting the decisive round in the ring, he was completely disconnected  from the outside world but the national anthem became the sentinel and the climactic moment. This reportage was not possible to be done in any Art form except performing art.
  • It is just a visual match and may be purely co-incidence – the senior wrestler’s demeanor and post-hair cut looks have a striking similarity with someone in our erstwhile ruling elite.
  • I had asked our non-adults as how they thought the movie was. This is serious question because you cannot fool children as you can fool adults by some performing art. Three children rated the movie as mediocre. Child is the father of man and I am in agreement with their verdict.

Nostalgic Thoughts

By the time the movie was nearing intermission (in our college days, this was the time to smoke the cigarette in the toilet. INOX-es are like high-security jails for everything including your person except your money for pop-corn), I was feeling nostalgic.

The nostalgia was for the sincerity of the most of the old movies of my college days – paisa usool  rated ones. They catered profound pillars of Existence in their own crude, crass, loud, unbelievably unsophisticated ways : Sex, Fight, Love, Betrayal, Hate, Music, Dance, Death, Injustice.  It was brutal, long, loud and repetitive but it was a khichdi – may not be tasteful for every tongue but  authentic.  

Movies like Dangal indicate for me an a-synthesis. The industry is trying to ape another tradition viewed through its own cultural lens and in this process distorting both and thus remaining unfaithful to  both and hence eventually becoming sterile, counterfeit and counter-productive and a-productive.

 

 

 

 

Infocon 2016 – a photo essay

As our monies, ideas, emotions flow through the digital infrastructure, our money (Money is the top trending item in India nowadays – black, white, banked, un-banked, cash, digital and so on) is essentially data. Britons found out an equation no less profound that E= mc*c that time is money. Today, time is not only money but data is money.

Money is needed by all as a medium of exchange because unlike a tree we cannot stand in a place and do all biological activities, including reproduction. It was once sea-shell,then metal diced, then paper printed and now a pattern of bits.

Money has no intrinsic value but our collective belief and trust on it. Civilization’s march has seen changes in the intrinsic aspect of money but the faith that money is backed by collective faith has remained unchanged.

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Photo Legend : Infoconglobal Chairman Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee felicitating the musicians of Surma Dohar

The rich and poor alike need money. The rich fear that their money may be stolen, confiscated, de-monetized or they may not be able to possess ( legally or illegally) the money in the future. The poor fear the same with the added irritation that rich have more money than what they have. This tension appears to be eternal as Nature Herself seems to be aiding it.

Since money is changing its material carrier from metal, paper to bits and codes in binary, the question rich and poor both ask is : how secure is my money in its storage and in its flow ?

In Wild West movies, we used to see ambushing a train carrying currency or gold. The “outlaws” were heroes in a sense that they absorbed the rich-poor tension and had a Robin Hood aura. Since rich are always lesser in number than poor, democracy must channelize this real, deep-rooted, intense and ever-present feeling to its own advantage, i.e. to have the greatest number of faithfuls. We are finding a Wild West type of heroes emerging in our times when money’s storage and flow are both in the form of codes and information strings.

This new species is called Hackers. One speaker in Infocon told that a brilliant young man in Banglore while being interviewed told that he was interested to become a hacker, work for few years and retire with millions. He is is not wrong in his judgement. If a train full of billion dollars worth of money moves in a dangerous terrain and a mercenary says that at 10% commission, he guarantees safety, the business makes perfect sense and the “owner” of the train will happily oblige.

If a poor man now finds that he needs to travel in the same route and if he pays a small “protection money” for the store and the flow, he will also oblige.

The power now lies not in muscle and feat of arms but in the domain of mathematics, statistics, programming, cryptography. One cannot point a gun to a cryptogram and ask it to tell its secret.

History has proved again and again that super-excellence of such skills cannot be trained or ordered by amazon.com. These kind of skills appear in extremely unlikely places. Hence a very rich man’s store and flow of money is threatened by the inner workings within the head of a young man in some classroom and in an unknown and obscure school.

The poor must protect themselves being careful and aware. The must educate themselves. For the rich, the same prescription will not be enough. They are too visible and they will be attacked institutionally. They must think in the future. They must contain and remain a benefactor to those “unknown enemies”. In plainer English, they must see the social contract in a different manner.

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Infocon 2016 Team 

Infocon 2016 has been a very successful event and great learnings. Here is the photo essay of the Event

https://sushobhanm.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

Cashless Society, Democracy and Information Security

[Disclaimer of Co-incidence : We have been working on organizing a Conference on Information Security for last one month. The Conference called Infocon was going to be held on 18th November at CII-Suresh Neotial Hall of Excellence. I have been editing a journal called Infoquest and was royally rewarded by getting some “expert” knowledge from a range of experts. It was a week back, Government of India announced that Rs. 1000/500 ceased to be a legal tender and this is supposedly a step towards cashless society with other co-incidental benefits. This blog would not have been written or rather would not have undertaken the themes had this announcement not present.]

If you are a citizen of India or of a democratic country or interested in democratic countries (presumably you are not citizen of such a country), you may read some 400 words here to get the orientation.

I present some of my concerns and anxieties after fortified by my newly gained knowledge on Information security but not on the technical aspects of the theme but more on the political and societal aspects :

  • Is the system where Government knows everything about citizen absolutely and unconditionally good and benign ? Imagine your teen years and as if you sleep in a room with glass walls and parents and parents like people have a round the clock view of the room, including sleep time.
  • Today, we find that due to a decision, online transactions remain a back up option. In case of such an event in cashless society, either through cyberattack or the Government becoming rogue, what are the scenarios ?
  • In a cashsless society which is possibly not classless, will a digital attack by a 3rd party or proxy may lead to class conflict / war ?
  • The inner technical world of cybersecurity as well as cashless infrastructure is virtually unknown and unknoawable to a very large proportion of the citizenry and in case of any emergency, unless the citizenry are aware of how things are, there will be catastrophic consequences of law and order situation.
  • Our next generation will find the Internet / cyber world not simply an extension (facebook conversation / socialization) but something deeper and more tighter. There are many lurking dangers related to privacy, control, access, targeting, dissent.

Infocon 2016 will discuss these and other themes on Friday. It is getting colder in Calcutta and you may choose to end your Friday with such deliberation.

Type STANDARD at the registration to have a discount of INR 500 (yes, we accept this digitally) and see you !

Register for Infocon here 

 

 

 

 

Cashless Society and Democracy

Cashless Society (just like paperless society) is a recent construct. But money or medium of exchange is very ancient. In other words, money circulation is as ancient as civilization itself, even in those societies where “paper” was a curiosity. We can easily trace 3000 – 4000 years back.

In the week following (8th to 16th November 2016) when 500/1000 notes ceased to be a legal tender ( i.e. will not be accepted by anyone except Reserve Bank of India that issued it) we in India are part of a remarkable experiment.

India has been a shining beacon of democracy in spite of many shortcomings and flaws. But future historians will not withheld their praise for last sixty years when such a country like India.

I find it interesting to ask a question as how a cashless society and democratic type of governance will interact.

There is no text written by any Indian (leave Indian media altogether) in democratic times on this theme of technology and democracy for the simple reason that we are too much beholden to technology. We have, as a society, contributed very little to the seminal aspects of the technological world, including information technology on which we have to reply so much for the cashless society. At the cost of being labeled imperialist, I remain with the side of truth and declare that all the seminal aspects of the modern world were conceptualized, deployed and exploited by WEM (White European Male).

One such WEM wrote a book in 1833 – a Frenchman Alex de Tocqueville, an aristocrat whose family’s many necks had their fatal shaving at guillotine during the French revolution. Monsieur Tocqueville traveled in the United states for nine months and wrote Democracy in America where he shared some insight which may be interesting for politicians, policy makers and citizens now in India where we have been told that a march towards cashless society has started.

  • In a democracy, the greatest threat a ruling elite faces is not from war or revolt but from the threat to comfort of the citizens
  • In a democracy, the greatest inequalities remain in full view ( the ratio between the salaries of CEO and a common employee) and is tolerated but slightest inequality becomes intolerable (marginal difference of bonuses between employees).
  • In a democracy, life tends to become trivial and flat where there is much movement but little change and the consciousness of being alive draws its sap from sensation and shock. Hence in a democracy, writers and producers and sellers of written words, spoken words, art, news, social conversations always gravitate towards materialism.

The final fate of democracy hangs on the balance of being shocked and being in comfort for the citizenry, so argues Tocqueville in an aristocratic prose.

Today, in Indian democracy we have the shock as well as our comfort being under threat.

There will be a limiting time which no one can accurately predict when this balance between shock and comfort will be disturbed.

In an aristocratic society, such danger does not exist. Since except a very small elite, no one knows what comfort or a stable life is, no one misses that.