Sunday, November 11, 2018

all filler, no thriller

at what point do you stop doing things for the thrill, and start doing them just to fill your time/life?

I had a month to experiment with this thought.

it turns out, the point is much sooner than I thought.

but it also turns out, it's not about what you do, but how/why you do it.

if you keep your mind open to experimentation, and positively pursue it at least a few times a day, it becomes enough to keep yourself on the edge. but if you don't, complacency sets in quickly. and complacency becomes contagious.

for example, my playlist: listening to my ipod on shuffle sounds like it might be un-complacent, but it turns out that not having to think about what you're listening to is actually less experimental than picking an album for your mood. at the very bottom of the scale is of course listening to the same album over and over again because you can't be bothered to change it... as opposed to wanting to listen to the same album over and over again for whatever experimental reason (eg. I sometimes do it to create correlations with feelings/activities/whatever have you, just one of the infinitely possible *conscious* reasons!)

if found that it takes me about two days for complacency to turn into boredom, and suddenly, everything turns into "fillers". life loses its essence.

complacency is a many-headed monster. I've seen it in others, but without asking them (which I haven't done yet), I may be operating on a flawed premise. when it comes to myself though, I've seen it actually varies between extremes of optimization and non-optimization. and this itself is self-propagating. non-optimized activities force me into firefighting, basically hyper optimization. and that comes with the general feeling of not being in control. and of course, how do you experiment when you're not in control? you don't.

it's actually much harder to slip out of complacency than to slip into it. complacency almost seems addictive. experimentation, on the other hand, is self-propagating, but needs constant effort and revival.

and so, the experiment is over, and luckily, I'm back to experimentation with a vengeance.

time to finish my strange-but-nice cocktail (lager + tonic + ginger ale + lemon), the photo of which I did NOT instagram, turn off the radio, and go to sleep on the other side of the bed ;)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

beyond lucid dreaming: daydreaming?

I've been having a month of almost-daily lucid dreams. At the start of October, it was so extreme that I would wake up multiple times each night, at the end of a dream, only to lie there and drift off to sleep and wake up from another dream few hours later.

It reached a point where I was almost wishing the dreams would end, or at least reduce in frequency.

Luckily for me, the frequency seems to have reduced. I don't wake up in the middle of the night any more, but I do have the occasional memorable dream that I half-wish I could blog, but for the lack of inclination.

Thursday night, (or more like Friday morning) though, was different.

I was back home in Borivali, with the parents and brother. We were sitting at the dining table. It was evening, slightly before dinner-time I guess. We were expecting friends over: Natasha and Komal, my friends from college. And also, for some reason, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, the Bollywood actors.

I had a wireless mic, and was running a radio show of sorts. I'm not sure what the show was supposed to be about, but in between talking on the mic (it was one of those weird mics that I've seen cricket commentators use on TV, that have some sort of hood to block out outside sounds), I'm assuming there was music being played, but I wasn't playing the music.

Natasha and Komal arrived, and we had dinner together.

Somehow I skipped the bit where the actors arrived, but after Natasha and Komal left, I started taking questions on the phone (I must have had earphones on, though I don't remember them, and I wasn't using a phone myself - was I being patched onto the calls that were taken at radio station?)

Somewhere at that point, I woke up, and I was lying in my bed.

But the dream continued.

I got a call from the actors, who were both in a car together, driving to wherever they lived. They wanted to answer some of the questions their fans asked on the show.

When they were done, I announced that it's now 10:30pm, and time to wrap up the show for the week, and that I'll be back on next Sunday, as usual.

My parents asked me if people actually listened to such trash.

I told them that unlike a few decades ago, Sunday night is mostly either spent watching TV or eating out, so we have very few listeners - among the lowest listeners of all week. And apparently the show is quite popular among people with nothing better to do.

They started reminiscing about how back in the day (before they were married or even met each other), Sunday evenings would be spent with their respective families around the radio, listening to the songs, singing along, and even dancing.

I told them there's nothing that stops people from doing the same even today - and I might ask listeners to give it a go next Sunday.
That's when I checked my watch and realized it was 5 minutes past my second alarm, and that I had to end the dream or I'd be late for work.

It was weird, dreaming while awake, and yet feeling so detached from the dream that I didn't feel the need to influence it (unlike most dreams that I think I try to influence when I'm somewhere in the waking stage - but then again, those dreams end when I'm awake!)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

the boiling candle

after waking up from this dream, i decided to light the bedside scented candle. and then dozed off.

when i woke up, the candle had been burning for a while, much longer than we usually leave it burning. i looked in and noticed all the wax in the holder had melted and i could see through the translucent green wax all the way to the bottom. and then a curious thing happened. the wax began to boil. first, in tiny bubbles, and then abruptly, it became a rising opaque mass of foam, with bubbles so tiny that it almost looked solid! the foam rose to the top of the candle holder, and i was scared it would spill over, so i started blowing gently at the centre of the candle, near the wick.

blowing at the boiling wax started to break the bubbles and halt its rise, and strangely, also kept the candle going, because the bubbles had crossed the level of the wick.

i decided to take my chances and stop blowing, and see what happens.

the foam of wax bubbles extinguished the flame, and the foam died down almost immediately.

i tried lighting the candle again, to check if i could reproduce the phenomenon. sure enough, i could.

i then tried waking shruti up, to show her the candle's strange behaviour.

it was early in the morning, barely past sunrise, and shruti understandably took her time to wake up, and definitely wasn't interested in watching the candle.

meanwhile, the wax cooled down, so when i tried lighting the candle again, it didn't boil over. irritated, shruti went back to sleep, while i continued to watch the candle burn.

sure enough, after a few minutes, the wax began to boil again.

i extinguished the candle before it fully boiled to the top.

i woke shruti up again, and told her to check out the candle. she told me the candle was off.

i turned to light it again, and then realized the candle was solid, and hadn't melted or boiled at all.

in fact, it was all a dream!

ps: i then did light the candle, just for this photo :D


belfast to mumbai in summer

it was a summer weekend. i was walking around in belfast. it was pretty hot, so i had taken off my shirt and put it away in my bag. as i was walking around, i passed by a crowd of people standing around and watching something. a lady was sitting on someone's shoulders and recording a video on her phone. i looked at her phone screen (the phone had pretty good zoom!) and could see it was pointed at my friend rama sitting in the balcony of her apartment. rama was being interviewed by a tv reporter in her balcony. i didn't bother asking anyone what was happening, as it started drizzling at that very moment. i wanted to wear my shirt, and suddenly started feeling embarrassed, but there were other shirtless guys around as well. i didn't want to get the insides of my bag wet, so instead of taking out the shirt, i covered my head with the bag and walked towards a more sheltered place.

the rain subsided a couple of minutes later, and i wore my shirt while i kept walking. i met vane and we made small talk while walking together. we were stopped by a couple of random indian guys who said hi and asked if i remember them. they claimed that they bumped into me a few weeks ago in belfast as well, and i didn't remember them back then either. i told them i unfortunately still couldn't remember them, but i might if they told me how we met. they said they knew me from mumbai meat marathon, but i was still blank. as we walked on, and vane asked me how come i never introduced him to the mumbai meat marathon guys. i told him it's because the mumbai meat marathon guys aren't particularly big fans of chicken biryani :D

we walked along tree lined (but unfamiliar-looking) streets until we came to a corner where nickolai and shruti were waiting for us. i was glad to see nickolai as it had been over a year since we had last met. i told her about a recent conversation i had with shruti about how i had found her "hand twin" many years ago in mumbai, and i told her that shruti's hand looks quite similar to hers. they both held out their hands and refused to agree, and it was pretty obvious that their hands looked quite different, but i refused to change my mind. finally they agreed that their hands look similar "from some angles", and changed the subject.

i told them we were walking on sydenham road, and nickolai pointed out sydenham college.

and that's when i realized we were not in belfast, but in mumbai. somewhere in khar west. and we were walking north along SV road, parallel to the railway tracks. at times, we randomly decided to climb up the stairs of buildings and walk through them instead of on the road. somewhere in between, we got separated. and then i noticed kevin following me. i stopped and called out to him, and he pretended not to see me, but then realized i was sure i had seen him and walked up to me. he told me he had been following me for a while, and was playing a game of avoiding me for as long as possible. we discussed shortcuts to home from khar while we walked, and he told me about the secret routes he'd take while walking home.

we had walked a good way, when we realized nickolai and shruti had reached the road below the building we were walking through, and we got back down on it. they had met dannika, and were about to cross a busy street, which looked like a highway.

nickolai ran across, dodging cars and other vehicles, but we didn't follow, as we were too scared. nickolai called us from across the road and told us it's safe to cross - it was actually a red light and the vehicles were moving illegally and had to stop for us. we ran, one behind the other, kevin, followed by dannika, myself, and finally shruti.

across the road, there were a line of stalls, selling tea and fruit juices. beyond the stalls, there was a high railing, and on the other side of the railing were the railway tracks. we were somewhere near kandivali. nickolai told us she had planned a surprise, but first, she had something to give us. she opened a bag of sugar coated chocolate "gems", all red in colour, and told us we could have as many as we like. we took about a fistful each. there were still some left over though, and nickolai encouraged us to have more, as they would get spoiled if not eaten soon enough. i told her i can take some home for my parents, but she said i couldn't - these were "special" gems, and were strictly to be given by her, and not to be passed on to others :P

that done, it was time for the surprise: nickolai pointed to 4 glasses on the roof of the shed on my left. they had straws in them, and had a pale amber liquid.

i told her it's impossible to get up there, and maybe there's been some sort of mistake? but nickolai persisted, and kevin looked around and pointed out that the roof was actually a sloping wooden sheet with planks nailed to it, like a rough ladder. he climbed up, and had a sip from his glass. he said it tasted like fruit beer, and the view was amazing - he was lying flat on his stomach on the sloping roof while sipping on his fruit beer. the rest of us were trying to figure how to get there ourselves.

and that's when i woke up.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

hiking around Belfast - cavehill

a few weekends ago, we decided to make the best use of what's left of summer and hike to cavehill, which we had heard is a good hike, and also had happened to pass by sometime in august - it looked great from the highway that ran past it.

and so, some notes after getting back, for anyone who might want to attempt it:

overall verdict: great place for hiking - not difficult at all, superb views on the way up as well as at the top, but might get lost if there aren't people around, as we encountered a lot of unmarked paths that seemed to branch off. there's a cellular network tower on one of the adjacent hills, so you aren't offline at any point.

there are 4 main routes that we saw:

  1. via Belfast zoo (pretty narrow and quite overgrown) - we ascended via this one. there were signs saying some paths are closed due to landslides, and we had to hop over a fallen tree trunk on the way as well.
  2. via Belfast castle - this is the widest path, with gravel all the way. seems like the easiest and most popular route - we descended part way down this path.
  3. via old cavehill road - this one joins the Belfast castle route about halfway (a small gate marks the point where it joins the castle route) has a spar supermarket near the start, which is good if you need to stock up on snacks/water. stone steps and well packed dirt (until it joins the gravel path of the castle route) - we descended by this path once it branched off the castle route.
  4. we saw a path that seems to ascend directly to the fort at the top, but have no idea where it starts from. we did see people climbing it, but the final stretch by this path would have been much steeper than the rest.
route 1 seemed like very familiar experience, as the overgrown path and bushes, and minimal markings reminded us of hikes we did in konkan. also gives you a slight feeling of a challenge since it feels like you could get lost (while you actually can't - if you veer too far off the path, you will encounter barbed wire fencing!)

route 2 seems to be easy enough for little kids - you will even be able to even push an off-road buggy up it!








Saturday, August 18, 2018

the other side of the 30s

i turned 35 earlier this week. the celebration was a quiet, relaxed time with shruti at home - and for the first time in my life, i also went to work on my birthday! felt weird, but did also fit in with the low key mood.

and so, at around 12:30am, after cutting homemade cake and downing a "wee glass" of traditional irish ginger wine, i opened my blog to last year's birthday, just to remind myself of what my last birthday was like. yes, i actually couldn't remember!

and then i realized that by many measures, this birthday wasn't quite different from the previous one.

the only main difference (besides going to work and the yummy goodies by shruti, of course) was the absence of family and old friends. i guess that's part of moving to a new country. but the similarity was that my birthday was once again a day for looking back and introspection - and also about living a "normal" day, but with more self-awareness than usual.

because, i've realized, that age is just a number. days, months and years mean nothing. it's what you do with them that counts. and if you feel you're living the way you want to, you don't need anything different to celebrate.

and i guess, that's my resolution for this year of my life, as much as it was for the last: to live each day to the fullest. with no room for regrets.

happy birthday to me!





Monday, August 13, 2018

success

of late, i've been getting sucked into quora, especially questions about human interactions - both because i find them fascinating, and because i've found that it's something i can contribute to and impact others' lives in a concrete, positive manner. sometimes, though, more than helping others, the questions make me think and crystallize my thoughts to myself. like this question, today:
What is something that others see as success but you don't? Why?
funnily enough, the existing answers seemed (to me) to be quite one dimensional, and coloured by the respondent's perspective - more like they were venting their pet peeve about someone or something widely regarded as successful. and that prompted my answer:

When I saw this question, my mind spun off into multiple directions, trying to think of all the things that “others” see as success, that I don’t. When I tried to summarize them all, it came down to this: 
“Success is internal to you. You succeed when you feel like you have, and nothing else.” 
Nobody else’s definition of success applies to you (if you ignore the paradox this creates with my statement above). If you want to appear successful to others, sure, go ahead and find their definition and try to conform to it. But you’re truly successful only when you feel it - even if nobody else can tell! 
As for why, I can put it down to experience: there have been plenty of times I have felt successful, when others did not see or even realize it, and there have been a comparable number of times when others have expressed delight in their own success, but where I failed to see it. In fact, I have reached a point where I do not think about whether or not someone else has been successful, but instead, I watch out for cues that suggest they feel successful, and compliment them or encourage them to achieve further success without suggesting terms for their future success.

all filler, no thriller

at what point do you stop doing things for the thrill, and start doing them just to fill your time/life? I had a month to experiment with t...