Learning Dispatch — April 1st 2017 — Mumbai Observations, Films and Plays

Why the dispatch? — I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new insights and learnings. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started.

Ola Auto-Rickshaws in Mumbai

Mumbai Observations

I was in an auto rick-shaw in Mumbai and suddenly struck up a conversation with the driver. He told me that they fill gas to run the auto-rickshaw two times in one day. They do it at midnight and then late in the afternoon. These two refills normally last them the whole day as they pick up and drop passengers. But the line at the petrol pump or refill centre is often very long because most auto-rickshaw drivers go and fill it together.

I then realised why some of these auto-rickshaws drivers did not stop for me in Mumbai when I wanted to travel shorter distances. They were often weighing the opportunity cost of taking a passenger from one point to another. In Economics, ‘Opportunity cost’ refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. So it makes sense for them to get more returns from one passenger rather than getting the same returns from several passengers. So they choose passengers that would normally give them higher fares or a ‘lamba bhada’ in Bombay talk. They are trying to maximise their returns from every refill of gas. They also have the additional pressure of competition from the more sophisticated Uber and Ola drivers with their air-conditioned cars, online network of repeat passengers and higher fares.

Films

You get to learn a lot from movies. I really like the emotional roller-coaster good films can take you on. Also I sometimes put myself in the shoes of the central characters and for those two to three hours experience life as they experience it through the plot line of the film. I have attached a link to the trailers to some films I recently got to watch in their one line personal reviews below.

I, Daniel Blake (2016) opened my eyes to how bureaucracy in the welfare system can sometimes work against the very people it was designed to serve. American Pastoral (2016) is based on a Pulitzer prize winning Phillip Roth novel and it showed me how social and political contexts can bring out different shades of individual human behaviour that is not often directly correlated with the individual’s own self — identity. Irrational Man (2015) was this fascinating portrait of a man that philosophically justified killing another human being as an act that gave his life new meaning. Cafe Society (2016) was the story of Bobby Dorfman, who was an ambitious young man that fell in love with a woman and then is forced to leave this woman which has further consequences on the way he perceives his future relationships.

Plays

The play ‘Shikhandi — Story of the In-Betweens’ premiered at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai in March 2017. It was written and directed by Faezeh Jalali. I really enjoyed watching her first play 7/7/7. It was about the story of Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari who was hung for murdering a man who tried to sexually assault her but happened to be a former employee of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. This new play was a retelling of the story of Amba who was reborn as Shikhandi, who was a transgender character in the ancient Indian epic, ‘The Mahabharata’. You can read Deepa Punjani’s review of the play in the Mumbai Theatre Guide or Snigdha Hasan’s article on the creation of this play in the Mid-day at the above respective links. Two aspects of the play stood out for me which included the questioning of gender roles in society and the effective use of dance, movement and music to re-tell a forgotten mythological tale (full credit to the talented group of young actors). I would highly recommend you experience watching this play yourself when it comes back to the NCPA in April 2017. You can read more about Faezeh’s work at the FATS Collaborative Website.

Some Links

Reading Ruth Vanita’s translation of Munshi Premchand’s short stories and a collection of essays by Lillian Ross

Watching Yale Open Course Lectures — Financial Markets by Robert Schiller (2011) and Introduction to Ancient Greek History by Donald Kagan (2007)

Listening to BB King’s, ‘The Thrill is Gone’ and Dave Brubeck’s, ‘Take Five’ and learning how to play the ukulele

Abhishek

1st April 2017