Pandora, Sitar, Paul-Naipaul, 1%
Issue No 46
In Greek Mythology, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus, the king of the gods, took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus. Prometheus was all about foresight and Epimetheus symbolised hindsight. Hindsight is clearly the more popular of the two brothers.
Pandora opened a box left in her care containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world. Though she hastened to close the container, only one thing was left behind – usually translated as Hope.
So even when we lose everything, as long as we have hope, we can battle any adversity. This quote below is an idea from Freud that I have paraphrased. If I am ever granted a wish, the superpower I would like to have is to be able to give hope to people. What would be a superpower you would wish for? Tell us
Many sitar players - only one Ravi Shankar
Many years back a school kid went to Pandit Ravi Shankar to get a book autographed. The book was Raag Anurag, written in Bengali that talked about his journey as a musician. He was staying at a well-known industrialist Bharat Ram’s home. Panditji was performing at Swami Haridas festival that evening. He asked the tongue-tied kid if he would like to listen in as he was about to start his daily riaz (practice).
That tongue-tied awkward kid was me. I spent a day with the maestro chatting with him and listening mesmerised as he played Raga Marwa - an evening raga. That evening when the sun was going down, he coated the sky with the notes of Raga Marwa.
“Listen to it at the end of the day with the setting sun to complete the mood. Every Raga has a moment when it resonates with nature; that is when it sounds magical.”
Pt Ravi Shankar would have been 101 years old on 7 April 2021. There have been many sitar players, but none whose influence matched his. He introduced Hindustani Classical Music to the Western Audience. His partnerships with Yehudi Menuhin produced some legendary albums. <read about it>
Shankar composed the film scores for the Indian director Satyajit Ray’s famous Apu trilogy (1955–59). There were many other films which he composed music for <here is the list>
It was when Beatle George Harrison became his disciple that the floodgates opened. The willingness to collaborate made Indian Classical Music truly boundaryless. <Read about it>
Pandit Ravi Shankar was awarded the highest civilian honour of India - Bharat Ratna in 1999.
Paul and Naipaul
Paul Theroux has been a travel writer for decades. His books have inspired films. His latest book is about a big wave surfer Joe Sharky who is confronting his own mortality and that he is a has-been.
As he turns 80, Theroux reflects back on his life as a writer
“I was deported from Malawi on a political charge, after two years, and declared a prohibited immigrant. I was the target of a mob in Uganda. My decision to leave Singapore was not brave: my department head told me, with a smirk, that my contract would not be renewed; the university was done with hiring white foreigners. Later, there was a marital crisis and divorce, and always the perils and uncertainties of the road.
Read his latest piece for The New Yorker <read it>
For me the most fascinating part of the conversation is his relationship with Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul TC, commonly known as V. S. Naipaul. Paul looked up to him, competed with him, resented his feedback and you can catch a whiff of sadness when he talks about Naipaul winning the Nobel Prize for literature (in 2001).
Paul Theroux was interviewed by The Economist for this podcast. Listen to it.
PS: In this podcast, when he is asked which is THE LAST place in the world he would pick for one last trip, guess which place he picked.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”
I got fascinated about prodigies, Nobel laureates and other such exceptional people that I would describe as “extreme talent”. Think of it like extreme sports - but limited to the field of talent.
What makes them reach the heights and why do they fall? What is the impact of their achievement on their kids? How do they handle their sunset years when the spotlight has shifted to the next big thing? Can they succeed in second careers?
Michael Phelps Olympics medals tally consists of 23 gold medals (from 2004 to 2016) – the most Olympic gold medals ever won - three silver and two bronze medals. The haul of 28 medals makes it the most ever in Olympic history.
Does extreme talent run in the family? If you say no, how do you explain the extreme talent even among Nobel Laureates?
Big Fish in a Small Pond or Small Fish in a Big Pond?
If you had a choice (as a fish), which one would you rather be? Here are the options
Small fish in a small pond
Small fish in a BIG pond
Big fish in a small pond
Big fish in a big pond
As human beings we form our view about ourselves based on those who are “in the same boat as ourselves.” This is called the Relative Deprivation theory. Relative Deprivation is a feeling that you are generally “worse off” than the people you associate with and compare yourself to. The highest suicide rates occur in countries that are high on happiness. You just feel that you are the only one getting a raw deal in life because everyone else seems to be living a dream life.
Social media heightens those feelings when everyone you are connected with on Facebook is sharing photos from their awesome life and your own life seems to be mundane.
Malcolm Gladwell makes a strong counter-intuitive statement and the implications it has for careers. Watch this video and then go back to the size of the fish and the pond. Evaluate your options and see if you would change your mind.
See you at 9:00am next Monday with some more interesting ideas and resources you can use. If you liked the newsletter tap the heart below. And if you think you know someone who would enjoy this kind of stuff, please share this newsletter’s “subscribe now” link