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


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.

Monday, August 06, 2018

#firstworldproblems and my carbon footprint

about a month and a half after moving to belfast, there are a few things i'm still trying to come to terms with.

for most of my adult life, i have tried to be conscious of my "carbon footprint", and i took it upon myself to live a reasonably fun life without trashing the environment in the process. things seemed much easier to evaluate in india - i never used airconditioning at home, i reused plastic bags which i would get in situations where they were unavoidable, and decline plastic bags whenever possible. i probably have not had a hot water shower in over 10 years (except when i was unwell). i tried my hand at making compost at home, although honestly i gave up when i ended up with more compost than i could use. i commuted by bus whenever i could, switching to bike only when traffic became insanely unmanageable (how does 2 hours of diesel fumes by a bus stuck in a traffic jam compare to 45 minutes on bike? i don't have enough inputs to do the math). i would buy my groceries from vendors who sourced locally.

sadly, there were environmental issues that were outside my control. garbage segregation and recycling was quite a mess, and i'm quite sure everything was being mixed up and dumped somewhere anyway. there wasn't much i could do with e-waste, and things like milk and meat were always sold in non-recyclable (and non reusable) plastic bags. in fact, we used our plastic bags so sparingly, that despite refusing bags wherever we could, we still received more bags than we could use. also, the poor quality of public transport meant that i'd have to travel by cab, and despite carpooling, i know that it was a significant compromise.

and then, we moved to the uk.

the first few days took a lot of adjustment, especially for shruti who needed the heater despite it being "summer", just because we weren't used to the temperatures. while we're now used to the temperature and haven't used the heater in the last month, i still can't bring myself to have a cold shower (i tried!).

and then there's the food. while the meat, eggs and milk seems to be sourced locally, a lot of the other stuff we've been eating seems to have come from really far away. lemons from south america, chillies from africa, and fruits from southern europe. seafood from pretty much anywhere in the world. and yes, some of the veggies actually come from india!

and of course, everything is pre-wrapped in plastic. a lot of the plastic is marked as non recyclable.

after a couple of weeks, we happened to attend a cooking workshop sponsored by the city council, and realized that we were doing our garbage wrong. we now discard our compostable waste separately, and our general "non recyclable" waste has come down a lot. but still, we're generating way more waste than we used to. and i'm not sure how energy efficient the recycling process is, without further reading. and i know most people don't know or don't care - i've seen bottles and plastic packaging thrown into general waste, along with food and everything else. our own food waste bin was sitting in a closet, stuffed with odds and ends when we moved into this house - which means it wasn't even being used before.

on the other hand, i do walk/cycle to work, and thankfully the buses are well maintained - no visible fumes at least! but i don't know how significant that saving is, compared to the distance our food has to travel.

but it's summer now. once winter sets in, our lighting and heating bills will definitely shoot up. our home is far more spacious here than it was in india, and while we enjoy the comfort it brings, i don't like the fact that so much space will have to be heated for just two people. and also, i recently read that (contrary to my belief) it's been proven that heating uses more energy than cooling - which means i may just wipe out a few decades my life's energy savings in a couple of years! so i guess that means, my baseline carbon footprint itself has grown significantly.

what i dislike the most though, is that i don't have a reasonably accurate means of gauging my carbon footprint any longer. and that, for all the focus on recycling and promoting public transport here, the real problems seem to be hidden and without publicly available metrics, let alone a plan to reduce them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

a month in belfast

a month ago, after a long wait, and as much preparation as we could do, my wife and i hopped onto a plane with four suitcases (and a couple of other bags... literally as much as we were allowed to carry!) and landed here. in a practical sense, it didn't feel very different from any of our past vacations, other than the greater than usual number of bags (yes, we usually pack tight and travel light!), and the fact that we didn't exactly have a budget - we just had to be careful with money until my first paycheck.

but as the days progressed, our behaviour and mindset changed from vacation mode to... i don't know exactly what to call it yet, so let's just term it "behaving sustainably". after about 3 days we realized we had to start sleeping and waking at civilized timings. cooking, house hunting, figuring transportation to work, buying stuff we needed but (intentionally/unintentionally) didn't pack, etc. by the end of the first week, i was ready to start work - we had figured our laundry, and picked up some semblance of a lunchbox and water bottle (yes, for some reason they were so hard to find initially!), gotten an appointment to get my bank account, getting a grip on my alcohol/protein/fibre/processed food intake, etc.

my first week at work started off rather strangely, with me forgetting to carry my passport (yes, that's literally the only thing i was absolutely required to carry on day 1, and i had to go back home and get it!). once i was at my desk, it was all the little things like getting my stuff setup and software installed on my workstation, figuring how the cafeteria works, getting company for lunch, finding my way to and from work and whatnot... but by the end of week 1 at work, i was ready to actually contribute and get stuff done - and granted that it's been 6 years since the last time i started at a new job, it's still a huge improvement!

meanwhile, we actually managed to get our permanent accommodation sorted sooner than expected... and our second sunday in belfast was spent moving to our new home. it was a big step, finding a place to call our own, and despite our initial reluctance to put our roots down at literally the first apartment we saw, we realized it was actually perfect for us! with a lot of goodwill and a fair bit of assistance from the guys moving out of this apartment (yes, we can actually call them our friends now!), we managed the move smoothly and i was able to get to work on the subsequent monday, still tired, but without much of a hitch.

as we got into the thick of things, time began to fly, and before we knew it, week 3 was done as well. we had mostly finished unpacking our bags, done another round of household shopping (my wife now jumps at any opportunity, however trivial, to head to ikea!). week 4 started with us getting home the last of the furniture and accessories we wanted, and moved on to figuring the oven, me getting annual membership to the cycle rental scheme, and by the time the weekend was upon us, we were invited over to two different friends' homes - a sure sign of having an actual "social network" of sorts.

and of course, our first month ended with my first paycheck here, and with it the relief that we're no longer living off our savings.

sitting on the couch, with my wife snoozing comfortably with her head in my lap, and looking back, it's hard to believe it's only been a month. life in india already seems far away. our home, my office, the weather, our parents, the food, my motorcycle... it seems like another life.

and as the days go by, time seems to fly even faster. like a movie reel, spinning up until it's at the pace it should run at until its end. and it already seems like we're at that pace. as i was telling a friend: we're pretty much done with our short-term to-do, and back to our long-term todo. the stuff we were working on before we decided to move.

it's been an amazing month in belfast.

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


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 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 wen...