Amulya Gopalakrishnan (for Info only, not official)

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Amulya Gopalakrishnan

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    ...But really, Sarma’s explanation was no worse than any of the other random words we use to make sense of cancer. We don’t speak about cancer in a matter-of-fact way, because we don’t know all the facts yet. It’s the way people once spoke of the plague and pestilence, or of tuberculosis as consumption – what we don’t fully understand is fertile ground for fear and fantasy. Cancer is still a bewilderment to many patients and their families. It is not a single capital-C disease, neither its causes nor its cures have comprehensive answers yet. It covers a range of different situations, against which medical science has made big breakthroughs in terms of understanding, lowering mortality and targeting therapies. But to the person diagnosed with cancer, there simply aren’t enough authoritative answers. You’re left wondering about your life, your errant genes, the things that might have stressed you. ...

    TOI on Nov. 29, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Everyone awwed and exclaimed, and an otherwise aggressive corner of social media was more pleasant for a bit, because of all the pet love on display. So some of our politicians have figured out the purest form of clickbait – cute animals. Ask any of the masters of digital manipulation, the easiest route to virality is an animal gif. As the saying goes, the internet is made of cats. Social media offers up these daily doses of cute. When the world is too much with you, you can watch reels of guilty puppies and silly kittens and heartwarming inter-species friendships. There have been ‘cute-offs’ – where scientists shared rare specimens from the animal world, all tiny and big-eyed and goofy, to judge which was the most irresistible. The more human acrimony there is, the more we respond to animal adorability. ...

    TOI on Nov. 7, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Women are telling their own stories, outing abusers, and with campaigns like #MeToo and #HimToo, exposing the wall-to-wall pervasiveness of sexual harassment. In India, this hurricane has hit the academic world. Much like the #ShittyMediaMen list in the US, where a public document crowdsourced names of men that women warn each other about, a young Indian lawyer created a spreadsheet where Indian women spoke up anonymously about unwanted advances from professors and older colleagues. This has been terrifying to many men in academia. Some of their feminist colleagues have also denounced this document as public shaming, as vigilantism, disrespect of due process, and a setback to true accountability. It’s the easiest thing in the world to add to a list, they say. One must have the patience to wrest justice through institutional mechanisms. Indeed, but this document is not a substitute for due process. It is an indictment of its failings. ...

    TOI on Oct. 29, 2017, 12:30 p.m.

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    ...Women are telling their own stories, outing abusers, and with campaigns like #MeToo and #HimToo, exposing the wall-to-wall pervasiveness of sexual harassment. In India, this hurricane has hit the academic world. Much like the #ShittyMediaMen list in the US, where a public document crowdsourced names of men that women warn each other about, a young Indian lawyer created a spreadsheet where Indian women spoke up anonymously about unwanted advances from professors and older colleagues. This has been terrifying to many men in academia. Some of their feminist colleagues have also denounced this document as public shaming, as vigilantism, disrespect of due process, and a setback to true accountability. It’s the easiest thing in the world to add to a list, they say. One must have the patience to wrest justice through institutional mechanisms. Indeed, but this document is not a substitute for due process. It is an indictment of its failings. ...

    TOI on Oct. 29, 2017, 11:06 a.m.

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    ...The British tabloids ran with it next, and soon, solicitous police departments were warning parents. From Brazil to India, by now the Blue Whale story has been heard around the world. And yet, hardly anyone has direct knowledge of the subculture. Forums discussing suicide are not alien to the internet, but there’s a fog of facts around the Blue Whale bogey. A 21-year-old Russian man called Philipp Budeikin was arrested for masterminding the game on the basis of one wild, braggy interview. Many of the first claims have been deflated. The estimated number of suicides has swung wildly, from 130 to “at least 16”. In many countries, including Russia, the original story has been undercut, but to no avail. ...

    TOI on Aug. 18, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...But sadly, they don’t change much. They only rally the already-convinced. In a polarised environment, facts alone do little to persuade anyone. The sides are already taken. If people are swayed by phony videos of cows or soldiers, photos or fudged data about development, they are already leaning that way. No rumour is going to stick unless it confirms something in one’s experience or existing bias, as social psychologists keep pointing out. Exposing logical errors or fibs doesn’t change that deeper consensus. We see facts through our tinted lenses, our social scripts and personal history. So merely busting a rumour does nothing to uproot the tangle of presuppositions that made us receptive to that rumour. Most of us already know this, after the first couple of times we scotch a false story on a WhatsApp group, only to get displeased silence or a tight “forwarded as received”. Then those likeminded people go back to circulating the same kind of information. ...

    TOI on May 18, 2017, 3:15 a.m.

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    ...Many of us can relate to that irritation. Sound imposes itself on everyone indiscriminately. But what do we register as unwanted sound, and what is merely mundane background hum? As many pointed out, Nigam had no problem participating in mata ki chowki all-nighters, but hears the azaan as calculated offence. Noise is “out of place” sound. What we are deaf to, and what annoys or assaults us, says more about us and our ideas of public order. The US scholar Isaac Weiner, in his book ‘Religion out loud: Religious sound, public space and American pluralism’, listens in to such controversies, and shows how “dominant groups have most typically used noise complaints to demarcate outsiders to the community, to marginalise others, and to restrain dissent”. Whether or not we like it, religion doesn’t stay quiet or within bounds. ...

    TOI on April 20, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...A few days later, responding to the popular pushback, and Silicon Valley’s own strong pro-immigration sentiment, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from President Trump’s economic advisory council. Donald Trump makes one thing obvious: this is the age of the viral consumer boycott. If some companies have lined up behind Trump, campaigns like #grabyourwallet try to scapegoat brands that the Trump family profits from. We’ve had our own social media tizzies, here in India. If you hashtagged #noAmazon, after discovering that the site hosted anti-national doormats, or if you were one of those who swarmed upon Snapdeal, forcing them to drop Aamir Khan as an endorser because he spoke of a new intolerance, you know that heady feeling of having participated. Boycotts can make a company bend. But these days, we aren’t holding companies to account for their business practices, but for their branding missteps, their CEO’s political ties, and random unwitting errors. ...

    TOI on Feb. 5, 2017, 1 a.m.