Welcome to Drinks with W+K, our new series offering interesting insights into the lives and times of W+K Delhi-ers.
To kick things off, we sat down for a candid session with Hemant Sreekumar. Read on.
We heard that you think Facebook is a mathematical equation.
I did not say that. I said it is a mathematical entity. I mean the entire thing is a big engineering phenomenon. There are servers the size of football fields and how fast you get your results is pretty amazing. The amount of data they’re crunching. I mean no server has ever dealt with so many photographs. The more interesting thing is that it keeps track of you. Most of your actions of what you like, your friend group and the way these suggestions advertisements work is just a simple pattern matching thing.
We have never mapped human beings like this. Now you can actually understand what this person’s political belief is and sort of preempt what his future belief will be. Because you have almost a decade of a person’s life and personal views all tabbed into a database.
Is that a scary thing or a good thing?
It depends. If you want to be scared, you’re scared. I’m not scared. It’s a database for everyone.
Isn’t it like a 1984 type scenario?
That’s American mythology. It has to happen anyway. That’s what we human beings do. We cluster things. We put them into boxes and try to understand things. That is what we have always done.
Do you have a Facebook page? How many friends do you have?
Yes, I have a Facebook page. I used to be very popular. I had around 800 friends but I did mostly to hunt for women. That’s how I found my wife.
Seriously? You found your wife on Facebook?
Yeah. I mean I knew her from before but then we reconnected on Facebook. And once this motive was satisfied. I stopped using it. Now I find it really p***ing off.
Did you go on Facebook because it is now the new way of flirting?
This was actually in 2007, so…
Do you follow football?
My wife follows football. I sleep on the side and she tells me if there’s been a goal.
Which football team does she support?
I don’t know. I have never asked her. She knows everyone because she used to play when she was young when we were in college. She was always like a tomboy. She was my senior.
So, did you have a thing for her during college days?
No! I hated her then.
Seriously? So how did you guys reconnect?
Just. We were bored in life. And we have never gone around and we just decided to get married. It was more like a nihilistic joke. And now it is working quite nicely.
What was your parent’s reaction?
Within a day we sorted things out because in a way we are pretty ambitious and self-centered people so our parents had to obey us. (he says matter-of-factly)
How long have you been married?
So, it’s good?
Yeah, yeah. We haven’t strangled each other. No, it’s been cool.
No. I still feel like too irresponsible. Like when I see my sister’s kids I feel like teaching them all the wrong colours. Like green is for red. So, it will take some years. We keep a cat so it takes care of our maternal/paternal whatever. You know it’s a small thing and it’s quite foldable.
What were you like as a kid?
I was always bad in education. I could not concentrate for more than five minutes on anything, which made me bad at everything. And growing up in a typical South Indian family you are supposed to be on top and be interested in mathematics. But I didn’t care if the earth circled the sun or went over it. I hated school and was quite happy to finish my 12th standard in the army school.
We heard that you were quite the punk/rock/goth-like guy in your past?
(Highly sheepish) Yeah, in my younger days.
What was that all about?
Just being self-destructive and trying to shock people and the usual crap.
What was the weirdest thing you have done?
Ummm, I don’t remember cause I was you know…maybe someone else could recollect that. (Laughs)
Do you have pictures of that time?
No, I don’t. I would be too embarrassed to look at all that.
Do you play the guitar?
Used to play the bass guitar but not any longer. Now I have gotten more into pure noise music.
Do you produce any noise music?
Yea, and again it’s mostly software based and so I make my own software and play them live.
You make your own software??
Yeah, it just takes practice more than skill.
Pause while we feel like idiots. (Quickly change topic)
What is that tattoo?
It’s just a temple tattoo. It’s from my last day of under graduation. We were deeply into spiritualism at the time so we came down to a temple and we had spent the night doing weird things and came down and caught this guy and he made it. It’s just a trishul.
Are you religious?
No, no. I am not.
Are you spiritual?
Nothing like that. There are too many unexplored things and till then you can assume that there are supernatural entities that takes care of all these things. So till you discover that you can assume that there is a god. And once you cross that threshold of knowledge then you can think otherwise.
Can you cook?
Well, if you are sick then I can take care of you. But no. I wash plates.
Most elaborate meal ever made?
Maybe lots of Maggi. But I wouldn’t put in more effort. (Sensibly) I’d rather just order food.
Do you like Delhi?
I have always been here. I hate this place but I also love this because it’s so familiar. The city has this weird arrogance about it. Too much of yuppie culture but that is ok. All cities are like that. I like Delhi. It’s good enough for me.
Hemant is a Data Visualiser at W+K Delhi and enjoys embroidering coded computational processes to create sonic situations.