The Curiosity Project

As humans, we are wired to be curious. All of us.

We are supposed to ask questions like why and how when we see something that we don’t understand. All of us wonder about these questions. The difference lies in what extent one would go to find answers to these questions.

Today with so much data relatively easily available, we somehow don’t want to spend time to satisfy our curiosity. Which is not really a problem. However, trying to find answers to such questions helps us spend more time with ourselves and thinking about something unrelated to our jobs, hopefully.

I read quite a bit, as most of you would probably know. I also love knowing about things, as most of you are probably annoyed with. I propose we combine your questions with our need to find answers. Give me your questions about ‘why does it exist’ or ‘how does this work’ or ‘why this way’ and I will try my best to find answers to those whys and hows.

The questions can be about sociology, culture, history, technology or economics. Invariably all questions come down to a few of these basic concepts in any case. All I ask is that it be interesting.

Questions like,

What is the deal with fondue and how did it start? Hint: It’s a Swiss post world-war conspiracy.

Why are the buttons on a woman’s shirt on the left hand side? Hint: There was a time when maids used to dress up women.

Why are the number pads on your phone and your keyboard different? Hint:  Twist-dial phones and Calculators.

Is there an underground sneakers market that behaves like the commodities market? Hint: Yes. In the US.

In Burma, why do they drive on the right of the road but the bus doors are on the left? Hint: History.

See? Fascinating!

I will try as much as I can to find a complete and all-encompassing answer or explanation to your question. I will read books, read journals, listen to podcasts, watch videos, talk to people who know better (I know a LOT of people, and they know a LOT of people) and if need be visit libraries as well (yes, they still exist and are quite lovely places).

The idea is not to make you lazy, but to push you to be more curious and eventually, curious enough for you to find out the answer yourself and not bother waiting for me to find out.

A few ground rules though:

  1. Refrain from asking questions on life, love, religion or philosophy. All of these are subjective and I honestly can never have enough knowledge or sense to give a satisfactory answer.
  2. Ask one question at a time and please wait for my answer. I have a full-time job and I intend to keep it. You might have to wait for a few days or maybe a couple of weeks. But, we shall try to get the answer together, as long as it is interesting.
  3. Ask the question via email only. You probably know my email address already, or know someone who knows it. I am honestly not sure of the response to this and hence would like to keep it constrained to begin with.
  4. You are free to ask a question and suggest an answer that you think is the right one. We can weed out and get to the fact together. It will be fun!
  5. At times, I might point you to links where you can read/hear/see stuff for yourself. This is just to save our time and effort from reinventing the wheel.

All of this in no way means to imply I know more than anyone else does. And we always have Wikipedia. I am sure you search and read random things as well. But I also want to know those random things you read. Your questions will give me interesting topics to read about. That is my selfish purpose behind this. If you don’t have questions, mail me the last fascinating thing you read somewhere? Just a snippet, maybe.

None of us can know everything. But we can try. I have friends who are doctors, journalists, bankers and lawyers and I am not afraid to ask them your questions. And we will make more friends to get answers.

I am honestly not sure if I will get even a single question, which is fine as well, or if I will even be able to answer the questions one would ask. So, shall we give this a shot?

What say you?

Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time you tell someone the name of the last book you read or the one you are currently reading, the logical question asked would be ‘What is it about?’ I can assure you Jonas Jonasson’s ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ (which is quite a mouthful, and to be honest, we love it, don’t we?) will not raise that question.

It is a great book to go to for some stress free reading. Jonasson follows a tone of dark humour throughout and anyone who takes this book seriously is probably reading the wrong book anyway. Having said that, it does follow a parallel story-line which conveniently chronicles the history of the world over the last century along with one of the best characters I have had the pleasure of meeting in a book, Alan.

It might be unfair to compare this book to any other in a similar genre. The writing is simple and straightforward and assumes the reader to be knowledgeable enough to differentiate between facts and fiction. It does quite well at satarising most of the key events that have occurred in the recent history of our species.

The book has a good mix of characters going through a series of fortunate/unfortunate events depending on the perspective you look at it from. It is a story with an astounding number of coincidences that can only occur in a story.

It is a well written book and I would recommend one to read this just so you get to meet Alan.

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Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book about books. It is a book about words. It is a book about writing those words. A book about reading books. A book about the love for all of the above. About our first love. About friendship. About war and destruction. But at the end of it all, about love.

As Zafon says, ‘Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.’

The book I read before this one was a light hearted, dark humoured, hilariously fictional story about a 100 year old man and his journey. The Shadow of the Wind managed to rip my soul out of that merry world and slam it right onto the civil war ravaged streets of Barcelona. Do not expect a Barcelona of Gaudi and Naruda or of what you see in any movie. This is version of Barcelona is bordering on being Dickensian.

Having said that, Zafon takes you on a journey of a curious teenager, Daniel, who is just one of us; not brave enough, not old enough, completely in love and trying to fit in with grown ups.

It is a story summed up by Zafon himself when he says ‘Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.’

The book borders on quiet a few genres and leaves you wondering how you can eventually try and summarise it. But that might be it, not easy to summarise a book which has quotes such as ‘Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not for the merits of who receives them’ and ‘We exist as long as somebody remembers us.’

At a point I was reading the book more to discover such words than to know where Daniel would end up next. The plot might be akin to certain ‘Bollywood’ movies of yore, but you can’t really argue with the way it unravels.

This one is bound to stay with you for days after you finish reading it.

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What I want to do every time it rains.

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No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, no matter what I’m wearing; when I see rain falling, there’s only one thing I wish I was doing at that exact moment.

Tagged

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief. – Kafka

via Kafka on Books and What Reading Does for the Human Soul | Brain Pickings.

Kafka on Books and Reading

And still we vote…

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I don’t mean we shouldn’t be voting.

We must.

But, is that enough?

Between roofs

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I always wanted to know
What you get when you reach the end,
The proverbial end of the proverbial rainbow,
Is it the proverbial pot or just more snow.
Curiosity killed the cat they say,
I’m curious, who’s the cat and who are they?
Now my curiosity is visible as plain as day,
Let’s let the proverbs and idioms and clichés stay.

Curiosity led me to run my first 21.097,
Or half marathon as some might prefer,
Though I don’t know what led me
To run the next 5 thereafter.
I ran to know how it felt, running
more than you ever thought you could.
I found the end easy but the journey cunning,
And I got hooked, like a wannabe to dude.

I wanted to know what it feels like,
To go higher than you thought you would climb,
Climb using your legs, not a mountain bike,
So I took a journey through snow and grime,
To try and reach a summit in the Himalayas,
Which was just one of my numerous gurus,
None better than the people around me,
Without whom I would’ve made a lot of booboos.

I was once told, even a flower can be
Your guru, every thing or person,
Teaches you something for free,
All it costs you is just your vision.
It means every journey one takes
Teaches one more than one paid for it.
So travel and some sense try to make,
And you’ll be richer when you’re done with it.

Saranbir taught me that a leader does not have an age,
Umesh, that you need to keep up to keep an eye,
Satvik that you need a leap of faith to turn the page,
Jayanthi, that positive attitude can bid a doctor g’bye,
Aviraj’s determination lay expectations flat,
Prithvi taught me to be a mom to your mommy,
Sharanya, to smile no matter what,
And others taught me more for me to carry.

The mountains taught me there
Always will be someone taller than you,
You don’t need to fret and care,
Just stand tall and be true.
The stars taught me to look up above.
Look up and believe,
Even if you don’t see them, love,
They never actually leave.

I always thought a beach person I am,
The sound of the waves, the sun on my face,
Having now seen the Himalayas in all its glam,
Doubts I have in my mind more than a trace.
Never will I forget the moment I stood
On the roof of our planet, our home,
Above me I saw another roof just as good,
Standing between roofs felt like reading a never-ending tome.

Unwelcome

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You show up as you please,
No matter how hard we squeeze.
In fact, that gives you speed
Like you’ve a mind of your own.

You come when you’re most unwelcome,
You don’t when we want you to run,
You sure seem to have a lot of fun
Like you’ve a mind of your own.

All it takes is a stifled yawn,
Or a scene in a stupid movie,
You be a bitch then and show up
You do have a mind of your own.

I wish you didn’t exist, were never born,
Especially when you’re not mine,
You ensure no one’s deceived,
Maybe it’s good you’ve a mind of your own.

Old is gold that was never sold

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This store exists here for 50 years now. He has nothing essential that you would need. No groceries, no staples. Near a school and a church, his shop stocks the same things all year round. Indian flags, brown paper to cover school books, Christmas decorations, Diwali decorations, calendars, a few chocolates and some stationary. Most of it is unsold for months. He says ‘I keep them because one never knows who might need to buy a calendar in September. They’ll come to me then’. He hardly gets customers, but he keeps the shop open till about midnight. He has seen the small town of Thane accommodating the spillover of Mumbai over the last 6 decades. But he has this smile stuck on his face which seems almost nonsensical to us, the all knowing people of today.

My dad graduated from the school nearby 45 years ago. That’s my dad taking to the 78 year old shop keeper about old teachers who’s names they still remember. That, is eventually what life is all about.

Redevelopment of a home to a house

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As a metropolis, there is never enough space in Mumbai. The city of dreams. Everyone wants to buy a house in this city. As a result, a lot of old buildings are brought down to be ‘redeveloped’ into large swanky skyscrapers. The flat owners love it as they make a neat sum and get a larger home. The developer makes a large bundle of money. This is one such building that awaits demolition. None of the residents who called this their home are inside. I wonder what these walls, now on death row, that once kept them and their kids safe would say. The memories the families shared outside their doors as they greeted each other when they met on the stairs. The festivals they celebrated within these compounds. The things they did that defines this city – helped each other. Well, they’ll all be back in a couple of years, with big smiles. There will be new walls then, they’ll keep them safe too.

They trades their homes for a bigger house. Then they move into the reconstructed building, and piece by piece reconstruct their home inside the new walls using old and new memories as the brick and mortar. The house becomes a home again. And hopefully as good as the old one.