The Curious Case Of... Sidin Sunny

curious cases  

(All of us are born curious. Some of us actively practice it, irrespective of age. Our Curious Cases series give you a glimpse into the minds of such curious folk. May they rub off you the right way!)

Sidin Sunny Vadukut always keeps referring to Raveena Tandon, is a big Arsenal fan, writes some of the most insightful articles on little-known things from Indian history; is one of the most RT'ed handles on twitter, an MBA-from-IIM-A, and the torch bearer of Mallu pride on Twitter!

He also happens to be the author of the Dork trilogy and Managing Editor of Livemint.com. You can read more about him here and more by him here.


 

sidin

Name Sidin Sunny

Location London

What I do Write things. Mostly for the Mint newspaper. I also write books.

On the Curiosity scale, I am... Off The Scale Curious

What I prefer to consume (in descending order of preference): Books>Audio>Newspapers>TV Shows>Movies>Social Media

Number of books and movies I get through in a year 30-40 books a year and 20-30 films.

One book I’d recommend to a friend / colleague: Will Storr's The Heretics. I always recommend this to everybody. Superb book. Changed my life.

My best source for book / movie / website recommendations: I get my book recommendations mostly from a combination of books review pages in newspapers and magazine: London Review of Books, the Literary Reviews, the Observer's New Reviews etc. I also use Twitter to poll for recommendations. For movies I usually go by Netflix recommendations or by the BBC's Film Review podcast. Which is quite excellent. As for websites... well I am not a huge new-website person to be fair. But social media is probably the top source here.

One movie / show I’ve loved that hardly anyone else has watched Count Arthur Strong, Danger Mouse

I am currently reading: Angus Deaton's The Great Escape, Ready Player One, Hobsbawm's On History, The Church Of Spies, Jonathon Haidt's The Righteous Mind.

One place on Earth that I am very curious about: Istanbul. (By which I really mean Byzantium. I find the history of Byzantium most interesting. Also Istanbul is perhaps my favourite city in the world.)

Website(s) that I get a lot of useful info from: BBC, Guardian, ALDaily, Lifehacker, Livemint (obviously), Wikipedia is excellent as a first step for exploration. I also use both Google Books and Hathitrust. Also I am a big user of electronic journals that I access via JSTOR and other academic portals.

One topic I am super-opinionated about: The virtues of reading.

People come to me to find out what I think about these topics: The Indian constitution, history of the church, random London history and trivia, Indian history, the veracity of popular notions of Indian historical greatness, crime novels, Indian media, business school education, and in general I am often approached for book recommendations.

What I prefer to use (in descending order of preference) Twitter>Everything else is a formless mass of lesser fail.

The strangest food item I have eaten Umm. Err. Snake meat is pretty good. But the strangest is probably fried frog legs we used to cook and eat back in my village in Kerala. Very, very tasty.

If I could spend a day in the mind, body, and shoes of a person, it would be... Umberto Eco. Partly because he has this most amazingly vast and versatile intellect. And partly because I have no idea how his brain processes all this material.

One interesting / fun fact I recently learnt: We still don't know why exactly people get hangovers after they drink alcohol.

I stay up-to-date by doing this... Compartmentalising things. I use RSS feeds to keep a track of content and news that I really care about. I always have one or two books I am reading because of immediate current affairs relevance. And then I spend the rest of my time focussing on things of long term academic, professional or personal importance. One of the things I do very consciously is NOT consume news or content I don't want to. My brain has limited real estate and I want to use it wisely.

One interesting/fun fact about myself When I was a child I had most of a toothpick go into my head. Which then had to be surgically removed. And then many years later a branch of a tree fell on my head and hit me in roughly the same place. True stories.

I express my curiosity by doing these things: Reading a lot. And then analysing my reading through my writing. One of the things I like doing is putting the things I read in the context of things that are happening around me. This helps to fix new ideas in my mind.

The one thing I am very interested in I have an insatiable appetite for interesting things. At any given point in time I am trying to understand two or three things very very deeply. Currently I am very very interested in figuring out biases in human thinking and how these biases influence our approach to science, politics, data, history and so on. Also I have developed a sudden and intense interest in gaming on the Nintendo 3DS.

A habit or skill I’d love to acquire: Be a much better recorder of ideas and thoughts and insights. I think I forget around 80% of all the ideas I get in the course of the average day.

A movie or TV show that taught me something new I pick up a lot of random trivia from the QI TV show that is popular in the UK. But otherwise I love documentaries. Though I usually watch them in DVD boxsets. I've learnt of a great ideas for food and drink and cooking from Masterchef and the Great British Bake-off.

If there was one mystery I’d like to solve, it would be Why are so many Indian atomic scientists dying/dead in such mysterious circumstances?

I would love to do this at least once Visit Pakistan and talk to people. I know this sounds like an odd aspiration. But I have no idea what Pakistan is like and what the people there are like and how things are different or the same and so on. It just fascinates me how drawing a line along the ground changes lives and cultures so substantially.

People I would like to ask all these same questions to: Umberto Eco, Narendra Modi, Manmohan Singh, Alexis Sanchez, Arsene Wenger, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Melvyn Bragg, B.N. Rau, Pope Francis, Nirmala Seetharaman, Helen Mirren, Steve Coogan, John Cleese, A.R. Rahman, Sjowall and Wahloo, Eric Hobsbawm, Tu You You, V.S. Ramachandran.

Curiosity is important to my work because... It helps me be a writer who is constantly telling interesting new stories that people want to read. I am not, by any means, a literary giant. So I have to make up with substance what I lack in style. Which means I need to be very well read and always curious.

Someone I know who asks a lot of questions Stand-up comedians. I know this is odd. But stand-up comedians ask the most interesting but unasked questions.

My curiosity tip Join a library.

Where you can be found online Twitter. Always. All the time. @sidin.

 


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