Tuesday, December 08, 2015

the haunted tower

this was a strange dream. first of all, i was a girl. and secondly, i had a family, but i don't know any of those people in real life. and nobody in the dream looked indian.

also, i was much younger. in college, or high school, maybe?

anyway, the dream started with us going to a movie. but the movie hall (it didn't look like a cinema at all) was a bright green walled room, with funky murals. it had white desks and seats without backrests. one wall had the screen, and for some reason, i didn't sit with my parents. they sat in front, while i sat in the middle, and there were weird middle aged guys sitting next to me on either side. i was not interested in the movie at all, and the moment the lights went out and the movie started, i put my head on the desk and slept off.

the movie was some indie horror movie, and it was shot locally.

after the movie was over, dad said we should go check out the place it was shot, some sort of haunted high wooden tower, that looked like a lighthouse in the middle of land. it even had a top with huge glass windows all around. the walls of first few levels were made of concrete, which was painted a dark brown to match the wood on the outside, but it was only whitewashed on the inside. the rest of it was wood, and though it was creaky, it somehow didn't seem like it had been abandoned for very long. it was clean and not dusty at all, even though it seemed airy and well ventilated. the paint on the wood wasn't faded or otherwise looking old either. we climbed up the spiraling wooden stairs for a few levels, until we came to a pair of swinging (but full length) doors.

dad squeezed through the doors, and taking one look inside, said that this place is haunted and must be burned down.

without wasting a second, he took out a can of aerosol, and a lighter, and started spraying fire on whatever was beyond the doors.

once he had almost emptied the entire can, we ran down. when we started running it didn't seem like the flame had caught, but by the time we had reached the bottom, it was clear that it had. we could hear the crackling of wood, even though we couldn't see any flames or smoke, or feel any heat.

and that's when we realized the wooden door at the bottom had locked or somehow jammed itself shut behind us.

dad tried knocking the door down, while mom and i stood by and watched.

he then tried using the last of the can and the lighter to somehow burn the door down.

it didn't seem to catch fire, but it was slightly charred. he then tried knocking the door down, and managed to make a hole big enough for us to squeeze through.

there was another set of wooden swinging doors, and dad managed to push me through and get through himself, but the door somehow swung shut and mom was trapped inside.

she tried her best to push through, but the doors wouldn't budge.

but we tried pushing from outside, and the doors moved quite easily. we pushed one door in, and then she was able to squeeze through the gap. dad held the door until she was out safe, and then carefully let go, ensuring he didn't get stuck. once we were out, we climbed a nearby hillock, and sat on the grass, and watched the tower burn down. it was late afternoon when we got out of the tower, and by the time it burned down completely it was dusk.

as we turned away, dad said "good riddance", but i had a chilling vision of some monstrosities that were still there. that's when i realized the tower was built over a huge well, and there was something billowing, seething underneath. in my vision, animals were attracted to whatever was inside, and it would consume them, and eventually spread through the animals to the nearby village.

i woke up with a shudder.

Friday, December 04, 2015

hacking time

one of my lifehacking goals is to make time fully fungible: all free time should have the same value.

efforts in that direction started years ago, when i purchased my first smartphone (my first phone was a smartphone), and in a few years I thought I had reached the limits of what I could do, as I was bound more by what my phone could do, rather than what I could do with my phone. after that point, progress has been slow, but luckily, phones continued do increasingly more, and online services have become more mobile friendly (and now some things can only be done on phones, to the exclusion of my pc).

for the last couple of years, I've actually been in the strange situation where I have too much free time online, but I still don't have time to do the things I want to do. which happen to be offline things.

and so, I've tried trading in online time for offline time. but offline time is rarely fungible, as there are too many variables involved. it needs more planning.

and so, here i am. trying to think of where I can trade online time for usable offline for time, so that when I do get online time that can't be swapped for offline time, I have enough of a backlog to make that time useful. but what strikes me, is that I'm still not sure what I really want from my offline time. other than sleep and exercise, both of which I clearly need more of, it seems like my priorities have shifted to match my available time, instead of the other way around.

I think it's time to put my phone aside and vacantly stare out of the window of my office bus.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

the unexpected reality

this year has been a year of changes. i think the only other such year was 2007, when I lived away from home for the first time ever, started working at my first job, fell very sick and recovered, and took my first ever long vacation after almost 8 years.

but what's changed this year? just one thing: i'm preparing to get hitched. preparing for the happy ever after. and it's not like this was unexpected. i've been preparing for years: fell in and out of love many times, making mental notes each time. saved up money. purchased a flat. traveled like crazy, to prepare for years when I'd be too busy to (or, God forbid, marry someone who doesn't like to travel).

it'd be wrong to say these things haven't helped. but it's interesting to see that there are a number of things I didn't (or maybe, couldn't) prepare for.

it's interesting to see how theories don't hold up against practicalities. how you can be sure of yourself, but suddenly all theories melt away when you have to factor in another person and their idiosyncrasies. it's strange to observe yourself behave differently from what you expected, in the very situation you thought about years ago. and to realize the things you were planning so intently are now taken for granted and relegated to the back of your consciousness in the face of other far more important things.

it's interesting to see how so much can happen in one year. and it's more interesting to anticipate what more is going to happen in the next, even though I now realise that trying to anticipate any such thing would be pointless.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

brownian motion

the ride to work today, it being diwali, was an absolute pleasure. for once, i actually had the mental bandwidth to think while riding. and for once, I actually didn't have much to think about. but i realized that one minute I was pushing 100, and the next i was happily tailing a slow moving car when there were two free lanes to go. and that's what set my mind off.

when i used to ride a pulsar, i had just two modes: ride fast or ride slow.

with the karizma, there's actually scope for more flexibility. i can ride in the power band, or be lazy or eager with my shifts. i can throttle for mileage or performance or the nirvanic "in between". I can quick shift or easy shift. i can be sneaky or refuse to share my lane with anyone else. i can sit still or slide around on the seat. i can sit up front, in the middle, or at the back. I could tuck my elbows in, or not. the list is endless. and all of these modes are fun in their own right.

for a few years, every time I would set off, I'd actually settle into one mode based on my mood and situation, and stick to it for the entire ride.

but that's what I realized has changed. i no longer have a mode. i just ride randomly.

Monday, October 05, 2015

solo

(I think I may have used the title before... but this one is different!)

1500 km from home, I'm sitting atop a terrace of the guest house I'm staying at, smoking a cigarette (sorry, shru!) while Michael Buble croons "feeling good". there's the honking of buses and rickshaws (the buses sound like elephants, lol).

and I'm feeling good.

there's something in me about being alone. I guess it started as a kid, when I'd spend hours absorbed in any book I could get my hands on, while my friends played cricket or cops and robbers or whatever grabbed their fancy. in college, it was travelling alone by train. initially in silence, and later listening to dad's Walkman on his headphones. when I started working, it was my bike, initially to places nearby, and then further away. and I guess the definition of further grew with years. at 31, it's sometimes (often!) not even in the state. there's always friends an overnight ride away in Goa, or wherever-have-you.

but this time I decided, without much thought, to go further. across India. i've traveled before, and I knew I'm comfortable enough in my skin to do it. I have ridden alone long distances, I know I'm physically capable of it. and I've done solo weekend trips nearby. I know I have that survival instinct that can be trusted and relied upon. and I know that much water has flown under the bridge since I last attempted this.

the first leg of my trip was weird. the bike gave trouble, and the weather wasn't quite amenable to riding all night. I had a good excuse to not push myself the way I had planned. and so, I took a detour and rode to shruti and my other friends. i'd say, her surprise when I walked through that door was worth it.

but half measures are not made for me. I had burned my bridges when I didn't buy my flight tickets to chennai and back. and so it was to be. I rode to bangalore, against all odds, even though late on Saturday morning I was considering riding back home and buying an expensive flight ticker instead. but I pushed my bike 4km, and arrived in bangalore to a welcome bed at an unearthly hour. the highway was wet and almost unforgiving, but I was past the point of no return. and when I reached bangalore at 2am, it felt like nothing. but it was something. the next day, I rode off to pondicherry, through narrow state highways, following my GPS through pouring rain in the dark, even as I swore this may have been one of the worst decisions this ride. I tailed a car, but then realized that's not how I ride. I scouted villages for a tea stall, but didn't find any. and finally, when I touched the national highway again, 50 kms from pondicherry, I felt safe. even though I was in an unknown state, running on empty, with no place booked for my stay, at an hour where most places shut.

my luck saw me through, and time slowed down while I stopped to Google for "decent budget hotels in pondicherry", and then rode around aimlessly until I stopped at one. the night watch woke up the receptionist, and I had a room and a bed, but no dinner, and no shot at the beer I was longing for. I rode around, without the sense to note my bearings, until I found a place that was shutting. they were kind enough to serve me tasty leftovers and accept my credit card for it. no beer, but that was okay.

I slept after two hours of letting the adrenaline settle. tomorrow would be different.

and today was different.

it's something else to wake up, not knowing what to do, or indeed where exactly I should go to figure that out. there were people I could call, but I tried not to. I did, eventually, but disregarded most of the advice and found myself in a lovely place I could spend hours doing nothing.

and I had a day I will remember.

days like this remind me of why I enjoy being alone.

I walked around, clicked photos, read, rode around, met a friend who was serendipitously around. watched a movie on tv. had a drink or three. listened to music. missed shruti, but not too much... because I know that when I'm with her, we're too absorbed in each other to think about the rest of the world. watched the sun go down, without my phone, because I knew that it was going to be too beautiful to not click and upload.

climbed to the terrace of the guest house, with a chair around my neck (the ladder was too tricky to climb with the chair in my hand!), because just being alone wasn't enough.

and when I look back, I wonder what made me do it.

perhaps I will never really know.

perhaps I don't need to know.

cos I'm feeling good.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

rickshaw wala

I took a break in the middle of an awesome ride around bbay late at night (thane to borivali via ghodbunder road, about 130 am, to be specific)

my phone has been giving trouble (it only charges when switched off), so i was just standing near my bike and having my chai (more like waiting for it to cool to a drinkable temperature, actually), and observing the people there.

there was a random assortment of people at the chaiwalla, quite appropriate for that hour: all guys, some in cars, some standing with their bikes, chit-chatting, some smoking, others having tea, and one group having cheap "chinese" food in plastic plates and bowls at the only table at the stall.

while i was there, a rickshaw pulled up and a driver got out. he didn't buy anything though. he just stood and leaned against his rickshaw, visibly drunk. after some time, he walked up to me and pointed at my bike's rear turning lights, and asked me if I had them custom made. i wasn't particularly interested in talking to him, but it'd be rude to not answer, so i told him that yes, I actually had them custom made. he asked me if it was just for show. I told him that no, it was so that I could fix my bags on my bike without them getting in the way.

he was curious about why someone would need to have bags there, so i described my saddle bags and told him I use them for long bike rides.

he asked me how far I had ridden. i told him I have done bike trips up to 4000 km, and i was expecting to do an even longer one in a few days. unlike most people who usually react with surprise, he took this in rather matter-of-factly and wanted to know more. he asked me where I had ridden to, whether I ride in the day or night, and even what makes me decide to ride at night.

he noticed my patched-up mudguard and asked me if it was an accident. i told him it was potholes in aarey road.

the conversation seemed pretty normal until now, when the topic changed and he started talking about his day. he said that he didn't know that there's a different permit for drivers in Mumbai and Thane, and he found out the hard way today, after 9 months, when he was stopped by cops. he also doesn't have a license, just a photocopy - the original was confiscated months ago and he didn't bother collecting it as he didn't want to pay the fine. he also didn't know when the registration and insurance papers disappeared from his rickshaw. apparently when he had taken a few days off, the substitute driver had stolen the papers. so when he was stopped today he didn't have a license, permit, or papers. he said he was lucky, the cop was sympathetic. he had 250 rs with him, so the cop pocketed 150 and left him with 100 rs for fuel.

he said he was lucky, if it wasn't just a lone cop at the checkpost, he'd definitely be jailed and his rickshaw impounded.

i told him that drinking and driving was even worse.

that got him started.

he told me, he does only one trip every day. there are ladies who live in malad that he has to ferry to work in nalasopara, and back home. he has to pick them up at 9:30 pm, and he reaches them at a bar at nalasopara at precisely 10:10pm. never later than 10:15pm. and he reaches them back when the bar shuts in the wee hours of the morning. they pay for his food and drinks while he waits for them: he said that he had a plate of chicken lollipops and a quarter of whisky today.

I didn't want to ask him questions, wondering if he was some sort of pimp or something. he continued his story anyway: they pay him 800 bucks a day, flat. they don't always pay him daily, but by the end of the week the makes sure he gets his 800 for each day. they never go with anyone else, and he doesn't bother with any other rides even though he very well could.

he said that life is good. he has a family, has a place to live (he even told me where, somewhere in bhayendar), and he has his day to himself. he even has time to have a drink or two before setting off for work in the evening. and he gets 800 bucks a day, every single day. he even asked me to calculate how much that adds up to.

he said there are 3 ladies, and their job is to serve drinks and deal cards at the bar. he said that sometimes these ladies wear little more than just underwear. he told me I should come to the bar sometime, to eat and drink with him, and he'll tell me stories.

as i finished my now cold cup of chai, and wore my bag to get ready to ride off, he told me his brother had once brought a bike, but he had an accident not far from where we were, and broke his leg. after that he decided that he will never try riding a bike.

as i rode off, he told me we should meet again. I wonder if we will.

Monday, August 31, 2015

climb every mountain

yesterday marked the end of a trekking month. a few friends ("adventure lovers" is the official name we've given ourselves) decided we'll trek every weekend in August, and we succeeded, except that I missed trekking on my birthday weekend (although I'd have loved to do a trek in Goa, I somehow didn't think about it at the time 😁)

the reactions people give to my trekking habits vary, from mom's cynicism: "what's the use of trekking every weekend if you don't manage to lose weight", to my manager's advice "try to trek only on Saturday and rest on Sunday, you seem to be exhausted on Monday", to the majority of my friends saying I'm living the dream life: posting yummy food photos on Facebook all week, and spending every weekend trekking.

but trekking is more than just that. it's not just about getting fit, getting refreshed, and what not.

I love trekking because it feels natural. it feels like I'm using my body and mind for what they were designed to do. my body wasn't designed to spend long hours on a couch, or (over) drinking with friends. my mind wasn't designed to passively consume entertainment. to do the same things over and over again, expecting different results.

there's something about covering distances, conquering the unknown: hills, plains, valleys, streams, on my own two feet. there's something about honing that survival instinct. about rationing limited food and water and mental and physical energy, and enjoying it to the fullest. about embracing pain and discomfort till they cease to exist, or cease to matter. trusting instincts and abilities to get out of any situation I find myself in. making friends who I can trust and depend on, and work with as a team. people who share that passion. people who share my belief that survival is more than mere existence.

and most of all, there's something about enjoying being lost, and finding my way.

trekking is a metaphor for the journey of life.

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.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

personal

i guess i keep my personal life out of this blog (although i'm not quite sure why - is philosophy more entertaining than juicy gossip from my life? think not!) but recently a lot of things have taken a backseat due to personal stuff that i wouldn't normally talk about.

so what is this big secret?

i'm in love.

again.

but this time, i'm convinced it's for the last time. the one.

and it's changed things.

finding the one you want to spend the rest of your life with is a very interesting experience.

it starts with downplaying it. for some time, you're not sure if it's for real, and it's quite easy to convince yourself that your mind is playing tricks on you (to be fair, my mind does play nasty tricks on me with alarming regularity).

then you see that it is for real. and it's overwhelming. you're like... is this really happening? yes it is really happening! you stop denying the symptoms. you think everything has changed. but the funny thing is that, nothing has actually changed much. most of it *is* in your head.

and then you share that realization. the honesty is a high.

words are said. promises are made. dreams are shared. everything is rose tinted and pretty.

and then, life hits. now that you've got the similarities out of the way, you start seeing the differences. some differences are awesome. some are nice. some are tolerable. others... the less said, the better.

the important thing at that point is to remind yourself that everything is still in your heads and your hands. and even though the promise to stay together, through thick and thin, better and worse still stands, there's a lot of leeway despite that promise. lots of things that can and will change. lots of things that were assumed, will need to be looked at, and worked out again. and maybe, again and again.

it's weird. it's one of those big things for me. it's another level of abstraction that's been willingly tacked onto my life structure. the willingness to throw away well planned, coherent philosophies, because they have evolved to the point where i now have to accept the influence of some contradictory ones.

and that's not the only thing.

i'm becoming like her. she's becoming like me. i find myself reacting to situations in unexpected ways. so does she (i'm not sure if it's conscious on her part - but given that it's subconscious on mine, i'm willing to bet that it's the same for her).

i realize that i'm not sure who i am any more. depending on my state of mind, existential crises that i thought i solved 15 years ago present themselves again. sometimes it's awesome. sometimes it's weird. sometimes it's scary. i wonder if this is how it's gonna be forever. are we gonna be two people together? or are we gonna merge into one person-couple? are the questions gonna get deeper? or will we figure out all the big things and start debating curtain colours?

in a way, my life has prepared me for this. prepared me through the realization that problems are proportional to abilities (or do we only tackle problems on a level that matches our abilities? seems like a self-referential question!). i wonder if we will somehow find a way to turn picking curtain colours into some sort of paradigm-changing debate, just because we've reached the point where we eat paradigm changes for breakfast.

and that's where i am. that's where we are. working towards the big day, when it's no longer just in our heads. wondering what will change, only because we're sure of the one thing that won't.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

5 paise

we were somewhere in Kashmir. somewhere near pakistan occupied Kashmir. we had to walk a short distance to a restaurant. only problem was, there was some sort of armed conflict happening on the way. the army guys assured us we would be safe, as long as we stayed under cover. we stood for a few minutes on one side of a parked car, while on the other side, soldiers opened fire at (presumably) terrorists we couldn't see. the firing stopped.

suddenly, we realized two men, dressed identically (pista coloured button down shirt and black trousers) had walked towards the car from the side the soldiers and firing was. when they had almost reached the car, two soldiers appeared, chasing them from behind, shouting something. they caught up with these two guys a few feet before they reached the car, spun them around, and shot both, point blank in the face.

as the rest of the soldiers took the bodies away, one of them approached us and said the situation is safe now, and we could come out from behind the car and walk freely.

while my friend stayed put, i walked in the direction the firing, a few minutes ago, was towards. it was a narrow lane between two buildings, partly blocked by a van, parked sideways, across the lane. when i walked around the van, i saw that it was just the shell of a van, and the interior was hollowed out and filled with what looked like explosives and flame throwers. I looked at the stuff, and was about to touch something when a soldier who was standing next to me stopped me.

disappointed, i turned back to where my friend was waiting, and we walked forward, down a broad road, towards where the restaurant was. we passed someone who recognized my friend - apparently they were colleagues or something. barely a minute away, the street grew crowded, and we realized we were in the middle of a demonstration of some sort. people were out on the streets, shouting slogans, and the road had been blocked by a red double decker bus that had collided with a black-and-yellow taxi. luckily for us, the demonstration was happening on the street, while the sidewalk was empty, letting us pass easily.

someone walked up to me and told me that since my friend is pregnant, i should hold her, so that people know we're together and don't harm her. I found that weird, but agreed.

it was very awkward, holding my friend and walking, and we made very slow progress now. eventually, we reached the entrance of the restaurant, which had green carpeting. it was more like a passage on the side of a garden, with a glass wall on the side facing the garden, and a concrete wall on the other.

as we entered the lobby, the carpeting was now red, and the decor was very plush - it had that old worldly vibe. the waiters were wearing red jackets and turbans, and their outfits were very elaborate.

I told my friend that I can't hold her any more as walking like this was very awkward and my arms were aching badly. as i let go and looked at my hands, I noticed they looked completely different from mine - the fingers were oddly twisted at very strange angles, and my hands were quivering so badly I couldn't even grasp one with the other. my friend, alarmed, asked me if I'm fine. I told her my hands would recover soon, and there's nothing to worry about.

we climbed a couple of flights of the very broad stairway, and we were at the restaurant. the restaurant had just one big oval table (maybe enough to seat 15 - 20 people) and a bar at the side. the table was mostly occupied, it was a mix of people our age and others who were much older, and formally dressed.

my friend said she'd like a large old monk and coke, and i told her I'll get it from the bar.

I went to the bar and ordered two large old monks and coke. the bar was very different from any bar I had ever seen before - it was a low ornate table with a green velvet tabletop. the bartenders (there were two of them, dressed in the same livery as the rest of the staff) poured our drinks. meanwhile, I noticed there were books lying on the bar. I looked at them and realized these were books I wanted to read. the bartender told me I could keep them for myself. the books were quite large and heavy, and i realized i couldn't carry them with the two drinks. also, at that moment, I realized that my friend shouldn't be drinking, as she was pregnant. I reasoned that it was her decision to make, but i will remind her once I took our drinks back to the table.

meanwhile, I paid, and got some change back. strangely, the change was all in coins. most of the coins were 10 rupee coins, but there were a few 5 rupee coins as well. and when counting the change, I actually noticed one of them was a 25 rupee coin, which I picked up with surprise. I had trouble stuffing all the coins into the change pocket of my wallet, so i put a few into my shirt pocket. the last coin I picked up was a 5 paise coin, which I put into my wallet "for good luck".

and that's when i woke up.

and btw, I actually have a 5 paise coin in my wallet. I've been carrying it around for years, but i don't remember how I got it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

motivation

a conversation about the joys of life, some of those so called simple pleasures, got me thinking. i realized that i don't care about the afterlife anymore. heaven or hell seem irrelevant. but they weren't always irrelevant for me.

maybe karma, the afterlife, etc, are simply constructs designed to push us to look beyond hedonism. because, strangely enough, at some point, you realize this life is motivation enough... but you have to put yourself through a lot of wilful torture before you truly believe it.

it's hard to motivate someone to look beyond the hardships of life, the difficulties of doing "good", when pleasure is so accessible.

it's hard to see through what most people consider "pain" and "sorrow" without a light at the end of the tunnel, fake though it may be, to keep us going. but when you go through enough tunnels, you realize the light at the end is an unnecessary fixture. when you start looking around in the darkness, instead of focusing on the light, focusing on getting through, you start to savour the moment. savour the pain, if that's what you call it. because, to me, pain doesn't exist.

pleasure and pain are both just labels for feelings. just like various flavours complement each other to complete a meal, pleasure and pain exist only to produce some sort of contrast. they layer themselves upon our existence, but once we realize the role they play, they cease to feel like a burden.

like it or not, the pursuit of pleasure is as much of a burden as the evasion of pain. but we need neither, once we realize what we have built these mental constructs for.

life is beautiful.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

life

death is always an uncomfortable topic, and even more so if you're discussing it with someone you love. but it's something I feel we all need to come to terms with, well before our hour is actually upon us. preparing for death when it doesn't seem imminent should be no less unpleasant than writing a will, or buying life insurance. and it is definitely far more important than those things, as material things like possessions and money can be done without; on the other hand, losing your loved one's life's purpose in your sorrow on their death, is an irrevocable loss.

i do not fear death. i fear dying before my work on earth is done. I fear dying before teaching the ones I love, and even the ones whose existence I do not know of, how to live.

as much as I would be sad to have my loved ones live years feeling my absence, i would be infinitely sadder if they spent even a moment feeling there was something I could have done, that they can't do even if they wanted to, or tried their best to. if they felt unhappy because i wasn't there, because they don't feel my presence inside themselves. if they felt they needed to hear my voice or feel my hug when they felt weak or afraid, because I have not made them strong enough.

still, i realize I would betray everything I stand for, if I lived in that fear. and so, I spend every moment of my life working towards alleviating that fear. it is the sole direction of my life. it guides me in everything I do. everything I want. everything I wish for.

immortality doesn't mean never dying. it means living after death. just as we live in the physical universe we have been given, our spiritual universe is also given to us, to hand over when our stewardship is over. and hence, we are all immortal. our physical life is merely our preparation for it.

we can't choose why we die. we can't choose how we die. but we can choose why we live. we can choose how we live. and more importantly, what we leave behind after our life is not our remains, but our creation. it is what we are. and it determines what we will be.

why do you live?

Friday, April 03, 2015

solo

as a biker, unlike a lot of bikers I know, I have no problem with pillions. they're fun, a good pillion doesn't quite change the riding experience (as long as the bike is powerful enough, which mine is), and if you're riding to a vacation, your pillion hopefully enriches that part of the experience too. 

but there's something about riding alone.

maybe it's a symptom of what's wrong with my life. if i'm not surrounded by people, i'm busy interacting with people. it takes a major effort to go offline for a few hours, and i get restless quickly.

but not when i'm riding.

i rode to goa yesterday. alone. I did it against all odds and challenges, because I really needed it. it's been over a year since I did a ride to goa without a pillion, and it's been a year and a half since I did one without company. just me and my bike.

and i was reminded so completely of what I've missed.

to begin with, I rode 7 hours, 425 km, without a break. my previous record was 5 hours, 300 km. but it wasn't about setting records (although, I must admit, the potential bragging rights did push me a bit). i ignored hunger and the urge to pee for 4 hours, before I stopped. and even after that first break, i had my eyes set on besting my previous timing of 10 and a half hours to enter goa (which i did, albeit by just 15 minutes). but it was actually about mind over matter.

when you have company, it's different. i can't push my pillion or co-rider. he or she won't push me. we stay in our collective comfort zone, even if it's not in our individual comfort zone. and as I say, nothing was ever achieved by being comfortable.

and then, there's this thing about being alone on a deserted highway at night. ironically, i had watched nh10 on wednesday, literally a few hours before I set off, but that didn't change the experience at all. there's something about seeing just blackness in my rearview, just trees and the tarmac in my headlight. deciding which curve I'm gonna brake for and which I'm gonna bounce through. singing at the top of my voice, talking aloud to myself. praying, not to reach safely, but to be as self-driven though my life as I am through each bend of each ghat. 

i'm happy I did this ride. i'm lucky to have people who let me, even though they weren't quite willing to begin with. and i'm happy to have rediscovered my solitude.

the stage is set for bigger and better things. I wonder what's next.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

fascination

I'm on my way to work, with a blocked nose, inflamed throat, and possibly conjunctivitis.

the conjunctivitis (or whatever it is) doesn't seem to trouble me at all.

the only time i realized I'm battling a respiratory infection, is after a 50 metre flat out sprint, when catching my breath was downright painful and needed consciously controlled breathing. but I'm sure I'd have survived (albeit a bit more uncomfortably) if I just let my body control its breathing while I focused on the pain or maybe distracted myself with watching this fistfight that was happening on the road near the bus I'm in.

it got me thinking: my body is never (and possibly never has been) 100% functional in its optimum capacity. it's always in a state of graceful degradation, but there's so much of redundancy and compensation mechanisms built in, that a fully functional human is probably pointless, and maybe also pointlessly unattainable.

and then i look around at the stuff humans have built. we have built everything to operate at close to optimum parameters. we build fail safe systems, redundancy, feedback systems, but at what level? it doesn't even come close to where primordial living systems are at.

to me, humans are very far from building any sort of self-sustaining lifelike system, not because the stuff we build is rather limited in its ability to gracefully degrade and adapt under adverse conditions, but because the stuff we build is too simple to bother putting such abilities in. the complexity of even the most simplest forms of life fascinates me and fills me with awe.

Monday, March 09, 2015

just a minute

my commute usually runs like clockwork. there's a plan a, plan b and plan c, each with tweaks defined for each situation. i wasn't prepared for today though.

I left from home one minute late, expecting to follow plan a: bike to borivali station (west) and take the office bus. however, a traffic snarl on the way caused me to miss the bus. since I realized too late that i wasn't gonna make it, i was unable to follow plan b (the other office bus) - that requires me to take an alternative route, and park in a different spot. i decided to take plan c: the AC bus.

when i reached the AC stop, there was a huge line, and the bus was packed. i decided to wait in queue for the next bus, as I didn't fancy standing for over an hour (i still haven't worked out where the non AC buses start from, that would be a viable plan d). the next bus arrived a few minutes later. I got a seat. brought my ticket, settled in with my headphones,  when suddenly everyone started alighting the bus. i waited a few moments before I realized they were all boarding the next bus, and the driver himself wasn't in this bus either.

I followed the herd into the rapidly filling next bus, sorely cursing my decision to not look for the non AC bus stop when i had first arrived here today. I got the last available seat, thankfully. and then people started getting back out and into the first bus!

apparently the bus was giving trouble but the driver "fixed" it, and it will now be leaving after all. the bus was now full, and there was no chance of a seat. i complained to the conductor that I left the previous bus because I wanted to sit, and thanks to this confusion, i have lost my seat in this bus as well. i asked for a refund of my ticket, but he refused.

a couple of other people joined in the chorus asking for a refund, but the conductor was adamant. i resigned myself to my apparent fate, and moved away from the argument. the bus started moving, and others suggested that we swap our tickets with people who haven't purchased theirs yet. I started asking around, but before I could find someone to swap with, the conductor relented and exchanged my ticket for a refund. the bus dropped the three of us at the next stop, and the couple disappeared before I could ask them how they were planning to travel.

luckily for me, the next stop was adjacent to the non-ac bus stop. and luckily, non AC buses run emptier than ac at that time. and a bus arrived in the next minute.

i got my seat.

i'm on my way to office.

that one minute and a few bad decisions cost me about an hour and a half.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

crazy lollipops

I still haven't gotten my head fully around time dilation at relativistic speeds (yeah, even though I watched interstellar for the second time last weekend), but i have noticed one thing: time seems to slow down when i'm physically moving. and it somehow seems to go faster than it should, when i'm either doing nothing, or doing something mental. (no, not mental as in crazy, but mental as in with my mind)

take yesterday evening, for example. i was working till 5:28 PM. that's when i started packing my bag to leave from office, and simultaneously realized i need to pee and am incredibly hungry. and my phone rang too.

packing done, I walked to the washroom, did my business, and paced my way to the elevator lobby. smack in the middle of rush hour, with everyone waiting to catch an elevator down... with me the only guy waiting to catch one going up. 5 minutes of wait later, i hung up and was headed to the cafeteria, wondering if I should step out and give away my precious spot, or wimp out and go back down.

a quick glance at my watch told me I have 6 minutes to get back into the elevator, or I'd miss the bus.

paced past the packaged stuff counter, the guy at the counter wasn't there (i was half contemplating buying a packet of biscuits, if he was). so u made up my mind. parceled chicken lollipops it is.

entered the cafeteria, and there was no rush anywhere. i eyed the regular snacks. nothing I could parcel (or that I'd particularly fancy eating). I confirmed that lollipops were on today's special menu, and brought the token for it. gave the token, while I fished out the bag u used to hold my breakfast on my way to work in the morning.

four generously sized, warm, crisp chicken lollipops, with chilly garlic sauce.

three minutes to go.

I dipped each lollypop into the sauce and mopped up generous quantities of it, then dropped them into the plastic bag. stuffed the top with paper napkins. stuffed the plastic bag into the paper bag.

and that's when i realized i had no way to shut the plastic bag (or the paper bag around it, for that matter). i balanced the bags as nicely as I could, vertically, inside my office bag. it was a very risky thing to do, as I had my headphones, tab, ipod and whatnot in there, with nothing to save them from the chilly garlic sauce, should it tip over. but there was no time to think now. under a minute left.

made it back to the elevator lobby. staring at my watch, watching the seconds tick.

checked my phone, because my watch is a minute and a half fast, and i was cutting it close.

when the elevator arrived, it was 5:42 PM, the absolute latest I can catch the elevator and make it for the bus. luckily, it had room for me. I nudged others aside to get in (i'm sure they saw my backpack and figured I was racing for the bus)

the elevator filled up, and started descending through the building. people getting off and on at every other floor. at one point, the elevator doors refused to close because it was overloaded, and i had to hold my composure while the last two ladies who entered last, silently debated among themselves who should get off the elevator. i opened my bag to check that everything was intact.

5:43 PM; i'm on the 9th floor (the cafeteria is on the 13th)

5:44 PM; i'm on the ground floor, and need to dash down three floors of stairs to the basement, across the parking lot, and find my bus.

except that i can't run, because it'd topple the paper bag inside my backpack.

i speed walked, found my bus. seated myself next to my friend (he leaves his desk at 5:25 PM daily, to catch a window seat with a fan).

he told me that I missed chicken lollipops in the cafeteria today, they would have been nice.

I grinned at him, as I opened the bag, and told him that I didn't.

Monday, January 26, 2015

excited

the things we believe in, have power over us
-kris, many times over

it used to be funny, how everything falls into place together. but now, it's just a calm sort of beautiful. I remember the times when things going awesomely would scare me, because I would take it as a warning that everything was about to fall apart. i believed (and still believe) that everything balances itself. but I'm not scared anymore. I think I've stopped being scared of the future. not because i don't think terrible things can or will happen, but because I feel that nothing can be truly terrible anymore. I have realized that every moment prepares me for the next, and it looks like I'm being prepared for something great.

I know that the world doesn't see me like I see myself, and i'm quite sure that my idea (illusion to some, maybe) of greatness is eclipsed by the lives of the people I look up to, but I think I'm making steps in the right direction. i hope that, just like them, I stop seeing myself and those around me for what we are, but what we can be. it's not easy to break free from my boundaries of perception, into the realm of imagination.

my physical and social life is quite predictable, I think. unless something drastic is on its way, most aspects of my physical and social life seem to go on as planned, with a few blips here and there, a few unknown variables.

what I have never really tried to predict though, is my mind.

I used to think I'm slowing down, but I realize now that it's just a matter of perception. as i pile on years of thought, there is a momentum. but even though it's more difficult to be as nimble as I used to be, I have sacrificed my agility for force. and though I'm happy how it's turned out so far, I realize there's absolutely no way I can predict what's going to happen next.

i can't change the world, but i can change my world. and as I find better ways to do it, better reasons to do it, better ways to enjoy the results of change, i'm getting happier at leaving things behind. sometimes for others to find, but most of the time, just because I don't need them anymore.

life has never seemed this exciting before.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

eye2eye

travelling by public transport is much more interesting than the office bus. somehow people in the office bus inevitably end up sleeping. also, Mumbai AC buses have weird seating with plenty of rear facing seats, so there are always people to look at.

still, most people either stare vacantly or fixatedly at one or a few things, with a passive expression on. they're either blank or hiding behind a mask.

not this one lady though. her big brown eyes were constantly shifting, and she seemed to be actually focusing on her surroundings, even though I couldn't tell what it was all around us that she was constantly focusing on. her eyes would dart around, twitch, stare, follow things around that I couldn't see. there was barely a still moment with them.

but what was more startling were her expressions. she'd be constantly switching between a frown, a scowl, a little twitch of the mouth, a grimace, half a smile, and an expression that could be best described as momentary surprise. i still cannot conceive what would make someone run through the entire gamut of facial expressions in less than a minute, and keep at it for half an hour, while standing in the aisle of a bus.

it was as if she was dreaming with her eyes open.

we finally made eye contact. we stared at each other unflinchingly for a couple of seconds. she, with a scowl, and me, with my poker face. I wanted to show her what I just wrote about her eyes, but she twitched her lips, flicked her hair, and looked away momentarily, only to glance back. I shifted my gaze away.

her eyes no longer dart about. she now stares vacantly out of the bus window.

i guess she's awake again.

Friday, January 02, 2015

the long ride

there's comfort in the known, and 2014 was all about getting out of that zone.

pillion rides. there's something about them. something about having someone's complete trust for those few hundred km. something about balancing and packing their luggage. something about letting them sleep on the ride because they had a long day at work before the ride began, and we're now doing 800 km rides (my longest ride) with a pillion, because there's no point in breaking one personal record at a time. we ride on the indo-china border, battling mountain sickness because there's no point in living without risks.

and now, 2014 has closed. the joys are memories, and the regrets have been converted into philosophical milestones.

the moment we brought the year in stretches into eternity, and we wonder what forever feels like. but there was something about the last year. I burned some bridges. i let go. I changed some of what I am, towards what thought I should be.

but more than what I remember, i am reminded of how fleeting life is, and how important it is, to keep what you need permanent, and be prepared to let go of the rest. it feels both awesome and scary to see what that will do to my life and what I imagined it would have been.

2015 brings more than just dreams for me. it brings promises. it brings things I never imagined, things I feel more ready for than ever before.

phone-y dreams

I had some strange phone dreams last night. in my dream, my oneplus one (which has stopped working in real life) started working by acciden...