The Daily Khan



Note: This post contains major details on the podcast Serial, and I would advise you to read this after you have listened to all of season one. Essentially, this post is for the five people I know who are familiar with it.

On an overcast afternoon in November 2014, I tried to figure out what to plug into my ears for a 20 minute walk I had to negotiate to the laundry. I had spent the previous weeks enjoying the free experience that Spotify allowed me, and I was beginning to get a bit sick of Spotify throwing in random songs when I wanted to listen to one in particular. Shuffle playback is a curse when you want to listen to one song in particular.

I had heard about a new podcast that was skyrocketing in popularity in the US, and I was intrigued. I had never listened to podcasts before, thinking it more of a niche media catering to an audience that were more forgiving to amateur produced aural entertainment. But I did some quick research and learnt that the podcast was about a true crime story, and aspired to be an aural version of Game of Thrones or House of Cards. A major story arc unfolding episode by episode every week.

And, it was freely available on SoundCloud.

I decided it was worth checking out.

I prepared myself for what I thought would be a relatively entertaining 53 minutes of a story; an amusing experiment in a new medium that I may very well lose interest in after the first 10 minutes of so.

That's what I thought would happen at least.

The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that the story was a murder. As macabre as it sounds, I love a good murder mystery. I've read them my whole life and I've even attended a murder mystery dinner. And then, almost as if they knew I was listening, they released the big bait. They announced the name of the guy who had been charged with the murder:

Adnan Syed.

A young Muslim boy.


All of a sudden, I needed to know more. As a young Muslim boy myself in 1999, I realised this was not just a random story I happened to peruse. This was, very quickly becoming a story I, bizarrely enough, identified with. I was immediately convinced of his innocence. I knew for a fact that he was set up, and was serving a sentence that wasn't his to serve.

My internal bias kicked into full gear, and 20 minutes later, having hurriedly spoken to the people at the laundry, I marched back home, my face a picture of seriousness as I heard more and more about Adnan's story.

Episode one ended, but I needed to know more. As much as I could. Luckily for me, there were a good 6 or 7 episodes that I needed to catch up on, and I dove right in, shunning phone calls (not that there were that many), texts and emails. I lay on my sofa, staring at the ceiling, listening to Sarah Koenig narrate her investigation into this 15 year old case, that for all legal purposes, was closed. I anxiously paced around my living room, as I was introduced to Jay, Adnan's friends and the investigation tapes.

Each week since, I've listened to a story that I am so far removed from yet am so obsessively involved with. Each week since, I have tried to understand the whole case through the filter of Koenig without resorting to more knee-jerk biased conclusions. Each week, I was more and more emotionally invested in a radio show.

This was new for me. Radio was always about music and the news. Talk radio was just people sounding pompous and liking the sound of their own voice. But this...this was casual yet intricate. A story unraveling page after page, except there were no pages, but this was still hitting the same creative nerves. This was a hark back to the very ancient art of storytelling by a single person.

I finally understood the power of the radio, and how mismanaged it is in today's day and age. I understood how it must have been way back when, as a new medium, when people got not just their news and music, but all their information, entertainment and everything in between, sitting around the fireside, listening to the big boxy beasts.

And now, season one has ended and, understandably, there are no concrete answers yet. Will the DNA testing prove the killer to be somebody else? Or will it point the finger back at Adnan? Why was Adnan communicating with Jay about his murder, when they weren't really the close to begin with? Why did they spend the day together? Why did Jay change his testimony multiple times? Why did Adnan's lawyer not do a better job? How did the jury reach a verdict so quickly when there were so many holes in the case? Does the mysterious Mr. S. have larger part to play in all of this? Who is lying and why?

Is Adnan innocent?

And when will season two broadcast?

I know as much as you do, obviously, but for me, this has been an unexpected indulgence. I've never, ever, been so emotionally invested in a radio show. But this show makes a great argument that radio can be involving, cutting edge and thought provoking.

Podcasts and radio have benefitted from this success. 

Adnan's story has benefitted. So many more people are now asking questions that were never asked.

Sarah Koenig has benefitted, becoming a cerebral celebrity (in a world with a dire lack of such specimens).

But who's benefited the most? 




Panic at the interview

I experienced an actual face-to-face interview yesterday, which surprisingly, in my experience, has been a rarity. I've gotten so used to faceless Skype encounters with disembodied voices in different countries, that I realised I wasn't quite sure how to react and interact in an actual physical interview situation.

While I was grappling with this sudden onslaught on my senses, the interviewer, who was doing his best to be friendly and put me at ease, said something that completely threw me off:

"I read your blog."

To which my first reaction was:


Unfortunately for me, if there is one thing I do not trust 100%, it would be my memory. I'm not sure whether this is genetic or a case of growing old before my time, but in work situations and otherwise, I depend on my little notebook. If it's not written down in a neat list with corresponding ranking and capitalisation to indicate urgency and importance, I would probably forget it even exists. I've struggled with this when it comes to remembering names of people I've met, to the extent that somebody once accused me, rather accurately, of not remembering her name, to which my feeble protest only made things worse.

When it comes to this place, I literally only remember the last thing I wrote. I guess that ties in to the nature of what a blog is, since it is supposed to be only relevant to the most recent post, but as is usually the case with such online properties, your first visit to any place makes you explore things a little more thoroughly.

All this went through my head in a split second (I'm still amazed at how quickly the human brain can function), and I hoped I hadn't written anything particularly detrimental to the current situation I found myself in. If you haven't noticed, most of what I write about, at least over the past few months, are intensely personal and relevant mostly to an audience of one (meaning me), so I was fairly sure that I couldn't possibly have written about anything offensive to anybody. And thankfully, the conversation swiftly progressed onto other topics from there.

What makes this doubly striking for me is that just the previous evening a friend of mine was talking to me about how blogging about the industry you want to work for apparently helps you to get employed in that same industry. And I was wondering if I wanted to do anything in that regard.

But I came to the conclusion that for me, this blog is a purely personal endeavour, that I do because I enjoy it. If it manages to support a career (or keep my unemployed as may be the case), well then that's just something I'm going to have to deal with. I like this just the way it is.



The Newsroom just wasn't good enough.

Note: This post contains several plot details and character references that would only be understandable to you once you have finished watching the entire series of Aaron Sorkin's HBO show The Newsroom. Suffice to say, SPOILER ALERT.

This isn't the first time I've written about this show, but it just might be the last. Primarily because the show aired it's final episode and can now live forever in rerun heaven (and online streams). But this has been one of those shows that I find very difficult to thoroughly enjoy. It's something I struggled with after one season, and now, having watched every single episode, it's something I continue to struggle with.

Let me say right now that this is my opinion, and as always, everybody is welcome to counter it with their thoughts, but for me, the show was never very good. It was nowhere near as great as many (including close friends) have proclaimed. Instead it rather quickly paled in comparison to other shows with stronger writing that launched since it's first broadcast (I'm thinking specifically of House of Cards, which is by no means perfect, but much more entertaining and addictive).

Why was it never good enough? Well, to begin with, let's talk about what I actually enjoyed about the show.

I always found the idea of a behind-the-scenes show about a newsroom very appealing. Considering how much news and information we consume on a daily basis, it seemed on point to me to explore this as an hour long TV show. And, to it's credit, the production values and the ensemble cast made for a rather epic, if thoroughly modern, TV show that fit very well with the kind of stuff we've come to expect from people like HBO.

But, unfortunately, the good news stopped there. Will McAvoy's opening lambast against the hypocrisy of the current discourse of the United States made for a very compelling hook, at least to those of us who live outside the US and are not American citizens. It seemed, finally, that the most powerful nation on earth was exercising some sort of inner soul searching and much delayed reflection on just how it portrays itself and others in its news broadcasts. But then Will said something that should've been a clear indication of exactly which direction this show was going to go:

"We sure used to be."

This was the first ten minutes of the show, and those five words immediately diffused an explosive start that was spontaneous and raw into something we could see coming from a mile away. And that was the birth of a TV show that was all indignant shouting and screaming at the current state of the American news system, and their valiant efforts to save America from itself.

Suddenly the show became almost tame. We were introduced to numerous (and I do mean numerous) characters that were fast-talking, noble, spirited and cerebral that were different variations of the same person. We were showcased the difficult jobs journalists have, and the sanctity of the news that ACN was trying to preserve. Most annoyingly, we were told to care about quite possibly the worst love stories I have ever seen on any TV show.

The fact is that the emotional connection you tend to feel with characters on a TV show...well...I didn't feel that with anybody here. Everybody was so sanctimoniously involved in the shadow of their own halo, that they came across as people who were dramatically out of touch with the realities of the world and the competition.

Cue Season 3 and the inexplicable attack on all things internet.

Why? The argument that the internet has somehow dumbed down the populace is a lazy and insulting one. Never before have these many people around the world had this much access to this much information. And instead of celebrating the great equaliser that is the internet, The Newsroom decided to pinpoint its weaknesses, under the impression that corporate owned news is somehow more trustworthy because hey, it's older.

It started to feel more and more like a cranky old man yelling at the internet because he did not understand it. Instead of embracing it and implementing the high standards of journalism that seemingly pervade the newsrooms of the United States, the show outshouted the single greatest loudspeaker the world has ever known. That takes some doing.

And, rather tragically, the most interesting person on the show, Charlie Skinner, who was never quite the same as everybody else on the show (especially in the episode before the finale), was never given enough of a back story or a more fleshed out character, and turned out to be the only casualty of Sorkin's pen. Apart from some hastily written in scenes for the final episode.

Sorkin has a template and he write within that, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. His work from The West Wing to The Social Network has not been perfect but it's been (somewhat) entertaining at least. I will forever wonder what could have been had Studio 60 been given a few more seasons. But, such is life, and now we await his work on the Steve Jobs movie that seems to be stuck in development hell. He can't possibly ruin such a great read.

I understand TV with a message. And I appreciate when it's done right. Hitting me over the head repeatedly with your message is not the correct approach. But that seemed to be the only approach that this show took. It seems almost apt that all the people in the show ended up with each other and not with anybody outside ACN, and the only different person who I would've liked to have learnt more about, had to die, more dramatically than required.

Clearly, smugness doesn't get you very far. As it turns out, only about two and a half seasons.



The Struggle with Inspiration

I make it a point to learn more about myself as I go along with my life. Mostly because I am rather self obsessed and am quite narcissistic when it comes to dealing with other people. But apart from everything else going on in my life (primarily centered around acquiring and maintaining lucrative and fulfilling employment), I have been struggling with inspiration off late.

I'm not sure if that's really the case to be very honest. Usually I am able to convert really minor and uninteresting moments in my daily life into a few paragraphs over here. But over the last few months, even though I have been all over the place and have met new people, I seem to struggle to put my thoughts down into words. For whatever reason, I don't seem quite as excited to be sharing stuff with people.

Of course, the other answer is that I've become terribly lazy.

But I feel the extended time that my decisions regarding my career is taking is causing a bit of lull in my confidence, to the point where I feel slightly embarrassed talking about mundane and idiotic things while most people I know are essentially contributing to society and not being a leech.

For me, purpose is essential, and right now my purpose seems quite definite: find a job. That's step one, but it just isn't enough. It never is. Irrespective of how much I have or will ever have, I doubt I will ever be fully satiated and satisfied with what I'm doing. Unfortunately, for my sake at least, I can't help but compare myself with others and think; "I'm not doing enough."

Such is my struggle with inspiration. I remember quite clearly 8 to 10 months ago when I was writing pretty much everyday, and for whatever reason, it was enough. I was happy with it, I actually had things to write about. Or maybe I didn't, and I just made it up as I went along. For some reason, I had a burning desire to write as much as possible as quickly as possible. Now, I feel like I'm doing an injustice to not only my blog, but to the people who read my blog, if I don't write about something completely fantastic. And the difficulty is identifying what that 'completely fantastic' thing is.

I have a feeling once I do re-enter the land of the working again (only a matter of time), I will be struggling to find the time to write. Inspiration will hit me like a ton of bricks and suddenly there won't be enough hours in the day. Just like life to be annoying.

Up till then, I just have to make do with what I have. 




One of the things I didn't quite realise prior to being outside Dubai for the past two months, is just how much of a hub this city is for people from around the world. The more I think about it, the more I understand just how open this city is to everybody. And that is why people keep wanting to come back.

One of the greatest strengths of this city (which I believe has improved over the last few years) is how their immigration works. Undeniably, the first people you meet in any new country is the immigration officers at passport control. And I'm very proud to say that I have never once been harassed or questioned in an aggressive manner by anybody in Dubai. Always welcoming, always smiling. This time I was even wished good luck.

It makes a huge difference to your first impression to any place. And it infuriates me to no end knowing that I am often questioned in my own country when I travel. Are you travelling on your own? Are you carrying any cash? What do you do? Are you sure that is how much cash you are carrying? And the most frustrating thing is that I have to smile and be polite and deal with these rude questions because if I don't, I get into more trouble. It isn't a coincidence that I always dress well and shave before travelling. The last thing I want is to be mistaken as some sort of threat, just because I happen to be a young Muslim male.

But, in all my years of travelling in and out of Dubai, this has never been an issue for me. I'm not saying it's never been an issue for anybody, I'm just talking about my own personal experience. There are very few places on the planet about which I can say that. It's one of the reasons I still feel terrified to travel to the United States. Ridiculous, I know, but fear mongering works both ways.

It's a great place to be. And it's not surprising that so many people I know from so many parts of the world also want to live and work here because...why wouldn't they? Everybody likes to be welcomed and pampered, and Dubai manages to do it just that bit better than a lot of other places.



Gulf Kids

One of the strange realities of my life has been how I always manage to automatically align emotionally and mentally with people who have spent some portion of their childhood in the Middle East, specifically the Arabian Gulf. Truly speaking I am Indian, but as always, I sometimes find myself as confused and fascinated by certain Indian traits and behaviors that I am not familiar with. And considering just how large and diverse India is, there are quite a few of those.

But something that I thought only existed in my life because I lived in the Middle East has since proven to be much more powerful than I could've imagined. Over the past few weeks I have been lucky enough to have reconnected with a friend who left Dubai 15 years ago. And yet, we seem to be on the same page on most (if not all) things. Last night, I was privileged to have met his wife, who also spent a significant portion of her childhood in the region. And somehow conversation flowed freely. In most cases, I usually find myself in awkward silences and idiotic conversation with new people I meet, but with 'Gulf Kids' as it were, I never seem to have that issue.

It is worth mentioning that a lot of the people I meet who have spent their childhoods in the Gulf have been South Asians, like myself. But I still believe that because there are so few of us who actually grew up as expat kids in the Middle East, we automatically have an exclusive connection that feels more like an invite-only Facebook group rather than anything else. Everybody can see it, but only we can be in it because membership eligibility is quite speciliased.

What amazes me though is just how powerful this connection is, so far away from that part of the world, both geographically and culturally. Human beings are social creatures, and we tend to gravitate towards our own comfort zones. But it feels nice to know that even though I am in a different part of the world, precisely for the reason of stepping outside my comfort zone and meeting new and different people, I can still fall back on my little bit of familiarity where people would get my obscure references and odd jokes. Because, for whatever reason, we all flourished in the desert.



Failure and Success

Over dinner last night I engaged in a particularly deep and relatable conversation with a good friend of mine, as we discussed our own struggles with success and failure over the years. After a significant amount of back-and-forth, we both realised that the schooling system through which we both came through didn't really prepare us for failure, which is a certainty in everybody's life.

We discussed what was essentially the lowest points in our academic lives, and how we managed to bounce back from it to essentially be able to discuss it at this time. But we were both quite adamant that much of that credit would not go to our respective schooling system and the mostly unilateral development that we both received. It seems odd, but I believe failure is essential to success. Unless you've failed you don't really know how badly you want something and how strong you actually are.

For example, at the moment I am still looking for work. In a perfect world, I wanted to be able to graduate with a job in hand. Instead it's three months later and I've yet to lock down a definite offer. And were this even 15 months ago, I would've been extremely distraught and may have very well been back home, sulking in my room, licking my wounds in the dark.

Instead, if anything, I feel more and more determined to make this work. Yes, I do return back home next month, but I am sure to return next year to continue plodding, as it seems that's what is needed for success. Now's not the time to quit and undo all the work I've done over the last year and a half.

Maybe it's life that toughens you up. Maybe it's other people. Whatever the reason, we were both agreed that it wasn't school. And that academic excellence at school doesn't seem to prepare you for much after school.

Then again, education doesn't end once you finish school. If only somebody made this clear to us while we were still in there.



Pop Culture Accesibility

Over the past few weeks, I've been lucky enough to have absorbed quite a lot of popular culture from a variety of sources. And as I sit here watching After School Club on Arirang (don't ask), trying to understand Korean pop culture which inherently consists of (from what I can perceive) several young Korean girls with different colour hair dancing to highly choreographed routines, I keep thinking back to a certain conversation I had with a friend a few days ago.

I ended up watching the latest Hunger Games movie, except that this was the first time I was watching any of them. My friend, who has seen the others, asked me if I was familiar with the story. I narrated what I knew, and was quite impressed with my knowledge of the story even though I hadn't read the books or watched the movies. I answered with, what I believe, is the truth of much pop culture nowadays:

I surf the internet. You tend to pick up these things.

It's unbelievable how much junk I pick up spending hours on the internet everyday. To the extent that I actually watched the Hunger Games movie and had a fairly decent idea as to what was going on. Couple that with several other movies I've been indulging in recently, and a comedy show, a few books, and my daily dose of the internet, I realised that I am actually absorbing and processing tons of information every day. On top of which this city is still new to me, which is in and of itself, new information.

This came to me recently as I was fretting over not using my brain since I'm still looking for work. It's a very traditional way of thinking I suppose. One feels like one is not utilising one's mental abilities unless one is either at work or at school. Clearly not true.

If nothing else, I end up feeling better about myself at the end of the day.



Tim Cook is gay

Note: While I do understand that a very personal subject relating to the CEO of Apple has literally nothing to do with me, considering that he has made it public and is therefore public information, and this blog is all about me, I am going to make it all about myself.

Apparently this is old news. However, I only found out yesterday. So this is new news to me. When I first heard, I was quite shocked. For some reason, I never attributed any kind of sexuality to Tim Cook, or any major CEO for that matter. I just never thought about him as anything other than the CEO of the world's most valuable company. And while I realise now that he is as much a human being as I am, his personal life really is none of my business.

But then, yesterday's public acknowledgement was not for me. It was for others who would be able to identify with him at a completely different level now that he made this information public. And while my first reaction of shock quickly turned to embarrassment and essentially a confused mass of 'not-quite-sure-how-I-should-react-to-this-without-coming-across-as-completely-bigoted', I thought about the weight of this announcement.

The fact remains that had this been anybody else, it wouldn't really have been that big a deal. But this is Tim Cook. Tim Cook runs Apple, a company that is still strongly associated with it's co-founder, and he does the terribly difficult job of being the first CEO of the most valuable company in the world after it's co-founder. And while there is some debate about the quality of innovative products Apple has been producing over the last few years, the fact remains that for a person at that level to come out as gay, it is a pretty big deal. Considering that Apple does business with practically every country in the world, including governments and private entities, and that homosexuality has differing legal status globally, this is a big deal.

Maybe a move like this will lead to a more unified and open legal recognition globally. It's difficult to have a more important spokesperson than Mr. Cook. It is refreshing to hear a business leader talk so openly and personally about themselves, and in many ways, it makes him more human. I only hope that his legacy is not consolidated on just this fact. It would be a great disservice to his acumen and his accomplishments. But it is important to recognise the gravity of his announcement. It took him becoming CEO of Apple (for a while) to publicly announce such a thing. It really shouldn't be that difficult for people to do so.

In an effort to make it more relevant to myself, I thought about how I would feel if he had to come out and say he was Muslim. I would've been very proud, and would've thanked him for it, for showing the world that being Muslim does not mean something negative and deplorable. In fact, as a contributing and functioning member of society, any personal announcement he would've made should be celebrated. In any case, his announcement was extremely personal and hurts no one. But he still did so to show support and courage to those who still can't do what he did. Not many can, after all, there is only one CEO of Apple.

Maybe a day will come when such announcements will not be a big deal. But we've still to deal with a lot of bigotry over a lot of different human characteristics. We're not quite there yet. But maybe this is a step to catalyse things for the better.



The Waiting Game

One of the great challenges of looking for work (apart from the actual looking for work) is the conversations you tend to have with people. Networking with new people is sometimes easier and less stressful than connecting with and catching up with those you already know. Because, inevitably, irrespective of what is being discusses, the conversation always winds back to that familiar yet dreaded question: 

"How is the job hunt going?" 

The truth is that as an active member of the funemployed, the only answer to that I would like to give to that question is:

"I just accepted a lucrative offer in a highly promising and rapid growth organisation. Everything is as I would like it to be. My professional life is on track, aligning perfectly with my grand plans and now it's just a matter of time before everything beautifully comes together in a way that only the God's could have designed." 

Instead I am forced to launch into an excessively long and overly complicated tale of interviews, meetings and online applications that are not quite as concrete as I would make them out to be, assuring my listener that something is going to fall in place very soon. Round the corner. In the near future.

Very soon indeed. 

To be honest, my rather ambitious plans of relocating to SEA have yet to hit a brick wall. As with most of these things, I'm still awaiting feedback from potential opportunities. Until they say 'Thanks but no thanks' I refuse to let go of even the slightest bit of hope. But with every conversation with every well meaning member of the human race I do have regarding this, I wish I could give them the news that would allow us to progress to the next level questions in that line of discourse:

"So how are you finding your new job?" 

At the same time, the conversations I do have with other members of the funemployed give me support and hope. Gives me the strength to know that I'm not alone, that we're all in it together and that nothing would make me happier than to see one of us migrate out of funemployment to the proverbial rat race. It helps me to make sense of the whole grand scheme of things. To the sense point where it makes sense to me that I've squatted in Singapore, determined to make things work, to fight off roaches single handedly, to engage in domestic bliss while awaiting a more lucrative opportunity. It all makes it worth it. 

And even those who keep asking me how things are going, I do realise that it comes from a place of affection. I've been in that situation too. The only thing you can do to help is to ask after them and offer any sort of advice or support. And, unfortunately, the ungrateful wretch in me only wants the kind of help that involves an offer letter. 

But this is all a matter of playing the waiting game. As I battle my demons along this (hopefully) short road, I know, if nothing else, I'm really sharpening up my patience skills. 

As I firmly belive, it's only a matter of time.