Blog logoNihal Sahu

Twitter's 300: How To Avoid Distraction

 • 

Twitter is free from peer-pressure. Unless you're one of the privileged few whose following lists are subject to analysis, no one cares who you follow. A month ago, I deleted Twitter because I just couldn't keep up with the 300 or so people I was following. As with the battle of Thermopylae, 300 is more than it seems.

300, including respectable magazines and newspapers in the dusk of their relevance, desperately re-posting links and neon-sign images.

300, including organizations tweeting events and campaigns, press releases and damage control, statistics I can't do anything about and petitions that will come to nothing.

300, including a President of the United States who repels you and transfixes you in your seat with his repulsiveness as you watch with horrified satisfaction the tragedy porn that is the unraveling of the state of a union.

300, including titans and deplorables, newsmen and fake-news, and every single voice I want to agree with or rebut, with either unqualified approbation or knowing derision, on brand, it comes with the box, I'll have fries with that, thank you.

Redemption

To escape the 300 and their depredations, you need a rule. Enforce this rule with good sense and you will curate a Twitter feed you can sift through every morning with an understanding of what you're sifting through.

Follow people, not organizations. I love Vox. But I can't follow them. I don't want to hear about how Taylor Swift's new song unveils a new persona, or how old images are colorized. Or rather, I don't want to know about it as the articles come out. I don't want to keep up, except with the stuff I want to keep up with. So, instead, I follow Ezra Klein, their editor-at-large, and the host of some of my favorite podcasts who will retweet anything particularly noteworthy, along with his own observations about Vox's publications. When possible, follow journalists, not newspapers. Follow people, not organizations.

Poem: Money

 • 

Money walks around me in circles;
I try not to give away what I have,
For what salesmen make me want.

But they surround me,
with purple lace, and books,
Large apartments, unfurnished nooks.
With their pleading eyes,
and their daily sadness.
I try not to let them down.

They want me to buy things,
high heels, kettles,
and new tires,
Bowling pins, and electric fire.

I pay the gods who decide my fate,
and then the restauranteur for what I ate.
A trainer, then, to keep me fit,
And cigarettes that patches don't help me quit:
I pay them all:
to kill me
and to keep me alive.
Doctors prohibit my early end;
They have to send me bills,
So does the Government.

Money gives me moments,
they are fleeting but true.

My wise friend shouts:
“Burn paper money, you fool,”
That I will gladly do.

These moments, they are fleeting,
But yet they are true.
As true as you and true as me,
Or was it you?
The moment gives me whiplash,
permit me to turn the corner,
stretch and bend,
and swerve right to avoid the end.

But even ending is only just,
Perhaps we would like forever for us,
Immortal hydras chained to roots,
cursed with wanderlust.

Money is what they have
and what I want.
The men and women, come and go:
Talking, like Prufrock, in a farther room,
Talking of stocks, and talking of bonds,
Talking of precious rocks, and expensive haunts,
Talking of money, and Michelangelo.

Poem: There To Die

 • 

I wrote this over Whatsapp, which is the worst focused-writing app ever devised. Every line of the poem was sent as a standalone text message, unedited and unadorned. I am sure this is visible. You may feel the rough edges and fallacies on your palate, reader. You will feel them, when you walk around a ruined and infested fountain, weeping and cursing and thinking of the dead.

Her voice was the swirling sky,
and her eyes were starry nights.
Her story was a fantastic lie,
and she showed me love atop the Golan Heights.

She turned over and sighed,
and turned out the lights.

My voice was rocky ground, with shattered bone,
I found my mind with a bloodhound,
scavenging alone.
She picked me up unwound the knots,
in the back of my mind.

I may really have lied,
I betray my own kind.
None of this is mine.
None of this is owned.

And then I asked her, among the works of days and hands,
what sins and sorrows
had led her to find my outstretched hand.

She said, she had told a lie, sold exotic furs,
lied and cheated, hurled a curse
and land and land and land.

The sea is open, and I am free.
At the helm of my destiny.
Alone, and I ignore the shore.

A lone tree beckons, and I murmur
"Not today. I must tender to a festering sore.
I must take care of the herd. I must write down
the truths that I have heard"
"I must walk among the the crowds, and speak in a voice of thunder

I must walk with kings and gods,
and tear nations asunder.
I must be cold with hate,
and I must tender to my grudges
It must not get too late, I cannot wait for spring bloom or golden midges.

And then she called, and I followed.
I grew old, and my living room halls
were legend, hallowed.
I sold the sea, and blotted out the sun.
Set the price of tea, and shook gunpowder
out of gun.
I bought this happy isle, under a swirling sky.
Recanted all my lies, and lay there with her.
there to die.

The Foliage And The Roots

 • 

We weren’t this short sighted back then. India used to listen to those who saw ahead, who saw beyond the immediate foliage and the leaves to note the patterns in the roots. Those men and women are still here, pushing agendas, pulling at the weed that threatens to choke out our democracy. We don’t notice or care.

What we see and talk about is the foliage and nothing else. What is relevant is the meme, the moment. It is no wonder that a sexually deprived nation with a small-prick complex is desperate for satisfaction. That’s what Twitter, for example, gives us. Satisfaction. That lingering feeling of churning hate at the bottom of your belly can now be projectile vomited at someone. The dissent of the patriot: that weird love at the center of the Indian Experiment, can be excised with a witty comment.

This has been the curse, not just of our nation, but of every nation in this weird age. To badly paraphrase Chaplin in the The Great Dictator: "We say too much and feel too little."

We are content, on Indian Twitter, with expressing our discontent without doing anything about it. Satisfied with expressing our dissatisfaction. Befuddled and Stupefied by the intricacies of our politics, we stick to repeating our platitudes. One for the right. One for the left.

A Fragment For Obama

 • 

These are times which make you feel intensely sad.

Barack Hussein Obama was a leader nearly as great a Lincoln. He was greater than the people he served. He was bigger than his country. He was more than they deserved.

And now he is gone. Out of the shadows. In the sunny isles where fat men do not scheme in quiet rooms guarded by men with sidearms and earpieces. He is not in the shadows, where men can kill 60 million others in 20 minutes, and when the president laughs, the senators roar with laughter. And when he cries, the little children die in the streets.

So much for democracy.