Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2^5

I turned 32 last weekend. took a 4-day mini vacation to celebrate it. rode off straight from office after work to goa, overnight. alone.

on most such rides, i would spend most of my time in introspection, but somehow, this time was different. i simply mentally switched off. i was just blankly riding through ghats and dense forest, clouds and rain. it felt awesome. I stopped counting hours and milestones.

when i reached goa it was noon, and I was quite tired. i wanted to nap, but instead I unpacked, cleaned the place a bit, showered, and set off alone to grab a bite and a beer. my fiancé arrived a couple of hours later (she flew down), and we spent most of the next 3 days just doing random stuff, me showing her around and trying to locate good places for her to visit and eat at. at midnight on my birthday, we were on the highway, somewhere between an art exhibition in a 350 year old mansion, and a club which had a live band belting out rock and roll hits from the last century.

i didn't cut my birthday cake until lunchtime, and it was just the two of us.

if my birthday is an indication of what lies ahead, i see myself spending more time with shruti and less with my friends, and being perfectly happy about it. i see myself being picky about what matters and what doesn't, and being quite headstrong about picking the former over the latter. i think life ahead is going to get more exhausting, and more full of ups and downs. i think despite all attempts to slow down and take it easy, i'm going to continue to push myself. I am going to have to pay more attention to my mental and physical health. i'm probably gonna be more dependent on shruti than I've ever been on anyone else. i'm probably gonna be more emotional when dealing with people I'm close to than I've ever been. i'm probably gonna question a lot of things I thought I figured long ago. maybe even disprove some of my assumptions. do unconventional things just because they feel right to me.

life no longer feels like it's running on autopilot. it feels more like racing up and down ghats on my bike. and surprisingly enough, this exactly the opposite of what I imagined it would be. but it's awesome. I look forward to each day with more curiosity and eagerness than ever. and i don't think any day is going to disappoint.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

reaffirmation

it's interesting, how things change. how certain things that used to work quite nicely suddenly seem to be deficient. I was wondering whether the secret to happiness has changed as well.

I was wondering whether I need to continue being selfish about my happiness. after all, selfishness isn't something people usually associate with relationships. and selfishness done wrong has ruined plenty of relationships. but then, selfishness isn't something most people associate with happiness either. and selfishness done wrong can ruin pretty much anything.

also, while it seems really romantic and idealistic to put my happiness in someone else's hands, I've realized that everybody has a different way to find happiness, and in most cases, the thoughts that go behind it are so different that even your soulmate probably won't think they same way as you do. so yes, while we now put greater efforts into making each other happy, it doesn't diminish the importance of our own efforts.

conclusion: well calculated selfishness is still required. relationships are not designed to make you happy... because nobody can make you happy other than yourself. others can give you excuses to be happy, make it easier or more difficult to be happy. but they can't "make" you happy. just like the best meal on earth is wasted if you have indigestion, the best efforts of someone to make you happy will be futile if the internal drive to be happy is missing or not working at that time.

as always, selfishness for me means focusing on my own happiness as the cause, and not the outcome of others' happiness. the happiness of people around me is more important than it was before, but that doesn't mean I can relinquish responsibility for my own.

there is one caveat though. while the selfish approach to happiness seems to work and all, it doesn't do anything to minimize conflict. and conflict is inevitable when two people with different approaches to happiness start playing a greater role in each others' lives. it's funny, how happiness, while being accepted as being so important, is rarely discussed. to the point where "will this make you happy" is negative enough to be considered a taunt. maybe that's something that needs to change, more than any fundamental principle: a healthy dialogue about what helps and what does not.

I've never had to do that with friends, because I guess the impact they have on my happiness is well diversified. and you can't diversify it in a relationship. maybe that's something I need to get my head around.

cheers to a happy life!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

the bus to work

i was on my way to work. it was a rainy day, but the sort of rainy day where it'd pour and then stop while the sun would shine through for like a minute before it started pouring again.

i was in an air-conditioned bus. it was the bottom deck of a red double decker bus, with very limited seating (a row of seats along the sides, and that's it). i was standing, as were most of the other passengers. the bus was quite full.

there was a guy standing near me, well built, with close cropped hair, slightly taller than me, and wearing rimless glasses. he bore an uncanny resemblance to abhishek. i was startled for a second, but then i realized he obviously wasn't abhishek as i could see the differences. plus, of course, abhishek has been dead over a year now.

but for some reason, i thought, let's freak the guy out, by pretending i think he's my dead friend.

i caught him glancing at me, and i said: "dude... abhi... what's up!"

the guy looked a little startled, but then replied, in abhi's voice: "kris! how've you been man... it's been a while! are you on your way to work?"

and i almost jumped out of my skin.

the guy started chuckling, and that's when i realized, his mouth was shut and his lips weren't moving.

and i said back "abhi, what's this?"

and then i realize i'm not actually moving my own lips, it's just a conversation i'm having in my head. but i can hear my voice, and it seems real.

the guy was looking very confused by then, and i realized it was probably because i was staring at him so intently.

so i said "sorry man, thought you were an old friend. are you abhishek by any chance?" and this time i could feel the words escape my mouth.

the guy said no, and i decided to move away towards the front of the bus.

i could hear abhishek chuckling again and say "scared you, didn't i?"

by then i had moved near the front of the bus (near the door). the sun was out again. and i was like damn... i was hoping for major rain.

but then i realized that i had forgotten my raincoat at home.

and then i realized that i had intended to wear my raincoat and bike to work.

just then, the bus stopped. some people got out, others got in. the bus design was quite funny. the part near the door was actually an elevator to the upper deck, which opened outside as well as onto the bus. the door opened and closed. some people, for some reason, decided to stand in the elevator itself. i was thinking to myself how weird that was, when a cyclist crossed the road in front of the bus and forced it to brake hard and stop.

that's when i recalled i had no reason to be in the bus as i was planning to bike to work. so i asked the bus driver to open the doors, and i got out while he was waiting for the cyclist to get out of the way.

i was on borivali SV road, near kora kendra, except that there was a petrol pump and mall nearby.

i started walking briskly back towards where i usually park my bike. but then i realized i have been in the bus longer than just one stop, and i also don't remember parking my bike there today.

i started thinking back: did i park my bike at the other usual spot (further away)? but i don't remember walking from that parking spot to the bus stand. in fact, i don't remember where i caught the bus from. everything stopped making sense.

in the distance, i saw a mountainside, covered with patches of clouds. i thought, this would be a lovely photo if it wasn't for all these buildings and traffic.

i started running instead of walking. and the buildings ended, the traffic ended, and i was suddenly running alone along the same road, but which was now going over a gently sloping hill.

and that's when i realized: it's a dream.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

anger management

a friend recently asked me: "do you ever get angry?"

the question kinda took me by surprise. i am human, after all, and i think all normal humans experience the whole gamut of emotions to varying degrees. but still, we chatted for a while and dissected my behaviour (more like she asked all the questions while i dissected my behaviour). i guess there's something uncommon about my anger. and it might be that thing that gives some people the impression that i don't get angry.

first of all, i'd like to differentiate between irritability and anger.

i'm irritable when i'm hungry, tired, sleepy, in pain.

the problem with being irritable is that it amplifies other "negative" emotions. it also reduces my mental capacity to process what's happening to myself. when i'm severely irritable, i may even switch off the introspection that reminds me that i'm irritable. and in extreme cases, i just "let fly" - say stuff that i will regret.

but that's irritability. i'd say irritability is more of a physical condition than a mental one. i never notice my sleep deprivation or hunger when say i'm doing an 12 hour epic bike trip with just 2 hours of sleep, because though i may be irritable, my overall mental condition is extremely positive.

so that brings me to anger.

to me, there are two types of anger: the quick, short term anger, and the longer term, burning anger.

short term anger is what i feel when i'm put in a bad situation for no fault of mine, lose or break something, stuff like that. there's usually nothing that can be done about it, and there's usually no point reacting to it either.

the longer term anger is what i feel when i see something going terribly wrong, or about to go terribly wrong, and when the actions to prevent or reduce it are not immediately obvious.

it's easy to recognize anger. i'm sure everyone recognizes anger. sometimes before we react, sometimes while reacting, sometimes after. but it's best to identify anger before we react rather than after - hence the popular expression to "count to 10". counting to 10 isn't the best thing to do though (but it's definitely important with regards to anger management, if you aren't gonna try anything more complicated)

when i feel angry and am about to react, i first go through my irritability checklist. i try to gauge how irritable i am, as that gives me an idea of how much i might be blowing something out of proportion.

the next thing is to classify the anger. short term or long term?

short term anger usually doesn't need a reaction. if it's something i did, maybe when i'm calmer i'll do a bit of introspection and figure if it's a pattern that needs addressing, etc. if it's something someone else did or a situation i found myself in, i'll think about whether i should be avoiding that person or situation, or deal with it differently. it's important to do this, because hiding the reaction without looking for a solution doesn't help. sometimes the solution is as simple as "this is how that person is, and there's no getting away, so i'm gonna have to learn to live with it". but it's important to decide that when introspecting, so that when i'm angry the next time, i don't need to rethink it. it becomes "one of those things" that i ignore unless i'm very irritable.

long term anger is the tricky one. first step when recognizing long term anger is to double check the irritability list. is there something i missed? if not, we have a genuine problem. in such a situation, i'll usually make it clear that there is a problem, and then try to dissect it into things that can be addressed and things that can't. sometimes it's just stuff that needs to be discussed. long term anger is usually interpersonal, and having a discussion with the person is definitely the first step. it could be misunderstanding, misinterpretation, miscommunication, etc. i usually don't ask if the person is irritable as that somehow doesn't seem to go down well unless it's someone i'm very close to (yeah, don't we all fight with our significant others?). if it's none of those, then we both sit and dissect it, usually in relaxed circumstances. there are some people who associate the unpleasantness of the original situation with the discussion, and that makes discussing it particularly difficult and sensitive, but it can still be done.

the thing about long term anger is that it's recurring, so even if each discussion doesn't yield to a solution, there are plenty of opportunities to refine it. the important thing is to try.

all this sounds very wishy-washy and idealistic. what about severe or extreme irritability? that's where most of the trouble (for me) comes from. but the good thing is that once you get into the habit of thinking about your reactions, the ones where you didn't think stand out like a sore thumb. and then, of course, you have to take corrective actions.

the first step is to apologize. but also explain why you reacted like you did. tell the person your reaction was out of proportion. tell them that it wasn't important and you shouldn't have reacted like you did. try to make it up to them.

and then think about the cause for irritability. was it avoidable? was it the result of some other experiment (yeah, i'm constantly experimenting with my diet, sleep patterns and other lifestyle stuff, and irritability is a good measure of how well the experiment is working or not). was it something that the person you snapped at had a hand in? if that is so, you need to let them know, and try and figure it out.

the goal for a happy life is to first be non-irritable, so that you're free to focus on positive stuff without having to be cautious about the negative stuff. and anger management eventually becomes a part of your life. it's a system that works for me, and hopefully it'll work for you as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

road rage

today, while riding to my bus pick up point, I happened to be stuck at a traffic signal because of a bus that blocked the free left lane, when it was waiting for the light to go straight ahead.

I was early, so i didn't quite care. there was a rickshaw beside me though, and he was clearly infuriated (wonder if he was late or simply being obnoxious). in between his continuous honking, i gave one pip of my horn so that the bus driver knew there was more than one vehicle he was blocking.

the rickshaw was packed with kids - at least 12 if not more of them squeezed into that tiny space. they looked like they were on their way to kindergarten.

when i honked (it really was just a polite pip, i hate honking) one kid who was looking at me said "uncle, uda do usko" ("uncle, knock him off") while pointing at the bus.

I laughed and asked him "kyon"? but the bus moved ahead at that point and the rickshaw and i got through the junction before he could answer. but I'm still thinking about that kid. what has he been learning by example about road etiquette? scary.