Monday, June 18, 2018

the weirdest way to pack

yesterday, I was contrasting our last trip to the UK with this one:

a year ago, we booked our flights, then got our visa... and then did nothing for a month. packing was started 3 hours before we left for the flight, and finished half an hour before we did. there was no time to make a packing list, let alone check it.

yesterday, on the other hand, we were done packing a full 12 hours early. we were so free, that we packed one bag a day and had the last day reserved for weighing and reorganizing bags. but the biggest contrast is that, we started packing 2 months ago. well before we even applied for the visa or even had a date. and in fact, there was still a doubt whether we were actually going at all.

and now, over 90% through our flight (the seatbelt sign has just come on), I just realized that I had a packing list that I completely forgot to check! luckily, I could tick off every single item on the list other than the one thing I intentionally decided to leave out.

life just has its own way of getting stranger and stranger (in a beautiful way) after every twist and turn.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

moving

the decision to move is a strange one. for most of my life, I assumed that I will never move. I loved my city, my locality, my home. whenever anyone brought up the thought of moving, I had a score of reasons to justify not wanting to.

the first move was pretty simple. it was time to move out of my parents home. and though I loved the locality (and still do!), the commute was killing. and the move was not too far off. pretty much halfway between my then home and office. and it was pretty smooth. I moved in two steps: first, the minimum stuff that I needed to be able to live in the new home, and then the day I actually moved, two bags of my clothes and stuff.

adjusting to the new place took longer, but it wasn't just about changing location: it was mainly about moving out from my parents home, and it was also about adjusting to living with my wife.

a few months later, it felt like we were settled in. we had moved with the intention of staying put for a fair amount of time, and we had planned it accordingly, with no stop-gap measures. and then came an unexpected career opportunity. although we had plenty of time to think about it after the decision, the decision was made on the spur of the moment. we decided to take the leap. and surprisingly, although the cause was the career opportunity and the effect was the move, it sometimes feels like it was the other way around.

as a friend was saying the other day, unexpected opportunities do not happen by accident. you have to work, consciously or subconsciously, towards enabling them. it could networking, keeping "a ear on the ground", or just giving luck a free hand by keeping an open mind.

and so, this move seems almost predestined, despite not being so. it's a move of a lot larger magnitude than anything we've planned or done before, although there are literally scores of friends who have done a similar move, (I'm assuming) successfully. and they've all done it in one go. planning, taking their chances (calculated and uncalculated), and taking the leap of faith. of course, there are the countless people who refused to move, for various reasons. I'll probably never know why, or if their reasons were valid or imagined.

but before we actually jump ship, it's nice to think back about the reasons I initially had for not moving, and what has changed. and I'm surprised at how much my perspective has changed after my first move. it all seems to make sense in a beautiful way.

cheers to moving!

Monday, June 11, 2018

suicide note

ever wonder what it'd feel like to write a suicide note, and then call off the whole thing? and maybe find the note few years later?

this was in my drafts from 3 years ago:

my blog has always been a tricky place. when I started off, I never imagined it'd feature anywhere on Google. I wrote some rather questionable stuff. I loved my blog. it was the uncut, truthful face of me. a few friends read it, but i didn't really care. it was one place I didn't have to worry about what I said, who'd read it, or what they'd think of me. I told people I write for myself.

but then people started following my blog for what I wrote. my family started reading it. people at work started reading it. I had to be conscious of what I wrote, but that was fine. I've mellowed a bit as a person, and i don't usually feel the need to rant. my blog was largely personal and philosophical, and in keeping with my life philosophy of having nothing to hide, i didn't really find it a burden.

but then suddenly, things changed. I'm suddenly no longer just answerable to myself. and apparently more people read my blog than I imagined. end result: it's no longer about what I'm comfortable with posting. and if there's one thing I dislike, it's not living on my own terms. I'd rather die than be caged. and so, it seems, it's time to abandon this blog until I'm free again. I say this with a heavy heart, because I hate to admit that i'm no longer free. but that's what it is, and there's no mincing words.
so finally, hope I managed to make you guys smile, laugh, or at least go hmmmm some time during the last 9 years. if you see another post, it means I'm free again. until then, you can always contact me using the links on the side... but this is it, here. adios.

i'm glad i didn't go through with it :)

the kitten on the plane

i was at home, sitting at the dining table with mom and the brother. we had a little kitten. a really tiny white furball, round eyed and small enough to literally fit in one hand. the kitten was playing around, but a little unsteadily.

we were making unremarkable talk, and munching on stuff. it seemed to us like the kitten wanted to sleep but was too excited to do so. we were trying to figure how to get it to sleep, but nothing seemed to work.

but then, I held out my palm, and the kitten crawled into it and curled up. it was tiny enough to fit! and before we knew it, the kitty was asleep.

the dream paused. I think I woke up, or something.

but then, next thing I knew, a big vehicle was parked outside our place. the vehicle felt like the body of a small plane, with a ramp to get in and all. we loaded our luggage, and got in with a couple of bags, including a tiny suitcase that would fit in the overhead bins. I had a left side window seat, mom was next to me, and my brother was in the window seat in front of us. the vehicle was quite empty, and it wound its way through the western suburbs. I opened the suitcase on my lap, and the kitten was there, quiet and waiting for my reassuring touch. I petted it, and shut the suitcase before the stewards or any other passengers noticed. when we reached andheri, the vehicle crossed over to the east.

somewhere around seepz, the vehicle stopped moving and the attendant announced on the PA system that we're getting ready for take off. but before we take off, there will be a round of snacks passed around for the benefits of all the pets on board. there was a choice of roasted chana, boiled peanuts, and a couple of other things. i asked for a packet of boiled peanuts.

but when i opened the suitcase, the kitten was gone.

my brother searched under all the seats (discreetly, as we didn't want anyone to know our pet has gone missing - wouldn't that be considered irresponsible?). i searched inside the suitcase to check if it was hiding among the stuff packed in it. the suitcase was packed with packets of maggi and other noodles. these were snacks for the kitten. but there was no kitten.

i asked mom, what's the date. i asked her if it's still may.

she said no, it's not may, it's june. i asked her how that could be possible, when i have no memory of the days between the one where the kitten slept in my palm, which clearly happened in may.

mom told me that i have a problem where i have episodes of short term memory loss. and, in fact, that's the reason why she and my brother were traveling with me - i wasn't allowed to travel alone.

and that's when i woke up.

Monday, June 04, 2018

the good mood checklist

lunchtime conversations at work have frequently led to this topic: what do (or rather, should) i do when i find myself reacting negatively, ro simply not performing at my best?

there's an informal checklist that i follow, which i have probably blogged partially a while ago (but somehow can't find now, because i have too many blogposts and cant remember the tags/keywords to look for!). but luckily for me, i came across this article today about "self-sabotaging behaviour" that had a deceptively different title, but contained my exact thoughts! as good as opportunity as ever to rewrite my post. so, my checklist (merged with theirs, but shortened and adapted to my life):


  1. have i slept enough? 7 hours usually is enough for me, but if i've been regularly getting less than that, i'll need to make up for it. sleep (like everything else) has diminishing returns, so anything above 9 hours is a no-no (unless i'm exhausted from say a weekend overnight trek or something). if i'm chronically sleep deprived, i might need to fix it over a few days of sleeping 8 hours a day.
  2. am i hungry, or have i eaten but am still low on energy? hunger usually gives me very obvious signals, but sometimes eating wrong messes things up. irregular mealtimes, random snacking, going overboard with cravings, getting on the coffee cycle, not enough fiber, all add up. usually takes a couple of meals (or in the case of coffee, one day) to set right.
  3. have i been drinking enough water? water is one of those hidden triggers, as we've learned to shut off our thirst reflexes with all sorts of hacks. 3 litres a day is the bare minimum for me. 4 is just about right.
  4. have i had enough activity? physical laziness creeps into my mental condition pretty quickly. all it takes is usually a brisk walk to get things going. lucky for me, i'm good at pushing myself physically, so i just need to set aside some time for a quick fix... and then make sure i don't fall back into the laziness pattern tomorrow.
  5. am i getting into an addiction pattern? everything is good in moderation, but when something gets out of proportion, it usually imbalances everything else. could be anything from smartphone use, binge watching, to more sinister addictions which i've had to battle occasionally.
  6. am i feeling "out of control"? there have been times when i've been in a constant state of "firefighting". work stress, pending household chores, too much fun squeezed into too little time can take their toll pretty quickly. within a day or two, i usually find myself moving into unhealthy coping mechanisms, (the above 5, mostly). these mechanisms work with each other to demotivate me and worsen the firefighting feeling. they need to be fixed, one at a time, based on severity of each factor (which differs every time).
  7. are people dragging me down? this is a tough one. there are toxic people (no, they aren't bad people, just not right for me beyond a certain level of proximity), and there are good people going through tough times. i'm lucky to have a great family, so i can differentiate negative behaviour from positive behaviour by reference, and i generally can't stand negativity so i luckily have very few such people that i have to deal with. generally, i find that "it helps to help" if the person is sufficiently close and understands your vested interest in keeping them happy... and helping people is also a positive mental boost to myself ;) if the person doesn't want to improve... give them a break or distance your reactions from their behaviour. easier said than done, i know!
  8. am i stuck in a rut? sometimes, everything seems fine but boredom has crept in, and the boredom borders on demotivation. this is actually not a very bad thing, because it means there are actually no problems to fix! my "solution" is to usually go overboard with fun (which could even be something as simple as learning a new programming language, or doing a nice weekend ride and camping trip), which usually leads to sleep deprivation, going out of control, etc etc and then starting the checklist all over again ;)
wish you a jolly good mood too!

Monday, May 28, 2018

open source ideas

it's interesting how, when hanging out with a similarly inclined person, ideas abound. execution may or may not follow, but seemingly valuable ideas are generated at a far higher than "average" rate. more like a spike, from what i've seen.

and it rarely happens in online (textual/one way video) contexts.

can humanity be bettered by getting similarly inclined persons to hang out, and open source their conversations? like live transcribe it, separate it into context blocks, and then let the participants filter the irrelevant bits (or personal stuff, etc), and upload it?

i'm throwing this idea out to the world. let's hope something comes of this :)

Monday, May 21, 2018

riding in gujarat (in summer)

we just got back from gujarat the other day. this year, just like last, we ended up with a few free days, and the only unexplored destinations in the vicinity was in that "dry" state next door.

last april, we headed to diu. it was a nice place, we had a lot of fun, but we didn't see anything around (ie outside) diu or elsewhere in the state.

this may, we set off from home intending to see a couple of places around diu while keeping it our base, but ended up riding quite a way off course as well.

i think gujarat in summer can be most appropriately described in two words: intolerably hot. yes, most people would assign the same adjective to most of india, but with temperatures peaking over 45 degrees c, and staying over 40 for at least 5 hours daily, this part of india deserves it the most. and so, riding in these temperatures has taught us quite a bit: visor down all the time, wear light layers that let air pass through, rehydrate generously (we'd easily down half a litre of water each, at each break), and generously douse ourselves with water to cool down. still, most days would end with a mild headache by sunset, and that seems unavoidable. mornings are pleasant though, and until 10:30 am or so, it'd be hard to believe that the same place we were riding though would turn unto a furnace very soon.

it also helps not committing yourself to large distances, so that afternoon breaks can be longer and more closer spaced - i've done 800 km on one day, but 300 - 400 seems to be most achievable.

the other things to be aware of are: road conditions, rest stops, and driver aggression/idiosyncrasies.

gujarat, by virtue of being largely flat, is crisscrossed by networks of highways (national and state) - mostly straight, always flat, and dotted with intermittent villages. i did not encounter a single ghat in the entire week of riding (2200+ km!). the advantage and disadvantage of this feature, is that there are multiple routes between any given places, and no obviously better route. distances can be deceptive, as a route 10km longer may have marginally better roads and less speed breakers, and thus end up being far better. also, national highways are not clearly marked on road signs - you may find that a short stretch of narrow village road may take you from an frustratingly-potholed state highway to a smooth-as-butter-with-the-occasional-village national highway - but nothing on the road will tell you that. in fact, google maps' route determining abilities have proven to be woefully inadequate every single time: there have been times when it has chosen a worse route that (according to its own statistics) would even take more time, just to save a few extra km! what i've found, is before setting off, one should look at all the national highways between the start and end point, and try to connect them with as short stretches of state highway/village roads as possible, note down the towns/villages at such connecting points, and use those for navigation.

last year, for example, we had such a terrible experience riding to diu (blindly following google maps' navigation), that we were dreading the ride back. however, we ignored the navigation prompts and stayed on the national highway we found ourselves on, and actually had a smooth ride back, which was much faster and very comfortable too!

the other thing to be wary of, is rest stops. the mumbai-delhi highway is peppered with restaurants and food courts, which are reasonably comfortable and good for riders. however, other national highways have few, if any, such stops, and most are likely to be in a state of disrepair - we were happy to find a place to sit with a ceiling fan and a washroom of questionable cleanliness - air conditioning and clean washrooms simply did not exist. the food is also barely passable, and you mostly have to survive on packaged junk and tea if you are not particularly fond of gujarati food (which i also find to be nap inducing!). non-veg (or even egg) is simply out of the question. and these are the national highways. state highways have nothing more than tea and sugarcane stalls. let alone finding a fan, a bench to sit on with a roof over your head would be about the best you can expect - we have had stops where we had to choose between shade and a seat. the people are nice though, like one guy who charged us just 10 rs for a glass of sugarcane juice and 3 glasses of lemon juice - he said the lemon juice was free as "i can't charge you for water"! many of the petrol pumps do not have shade, which is insane considering the weather. everyone has huge vats of water though, which you can judiciously pour over yourself to cool down.

and finally, driver idiosyncrasies: people seem to hate driving at night, so there's a great increase in aggression just before sunset as everyone wants to get to their destination before dark. by 8pm (barely half an hour after sunset), the roads are largely deserted. i've found the aggression starts around 5pm, and peaks just before sunset. it's a rather hair raising time to ride, as innumerable incidents of being run off the highways by large oncoming speeding vehicles have shown, but sadly, it's also a good stretch to complete distances as the heat is somewhat bearable and sunlight helps dodge potholes, speed bumps, etc.

bonus tip: be prepared for crosswinds. i'm not sure if it was just the time of year, but the crosswinds have been extremely strong for majority of the ride! i'm sure less experienced riders would have a tough time at mile-munching speeds, as i've done hundreds of km with a constant pressure trying to blow me in one direction or the other.

ps: be prepared for a lot of curiosity from people if you're fully geared up: most villagers, having never worn or even owned a helmet, look at you as some sort of alien!


the weirdest way to pack

yesterday, I was contrasting our last trip to the UK with this one: a year ago, we booked our flights, then got our visa... and then did...