Sunday, December 02, 2018


movember meant a little more than the usual (and I guess 4 years qualifies for some sort of usual) to me.

for the first time, I had a lot of time and the right situation to think about why I was doing it. and it was for two reasons.

first of all, I officially got involved. I created an online mo-space (sadly, didn't do much after creating it), but as part of the process, I also was exposed to others' thoughts about movember. and I grew a proper "mo", unlike my usual full beard approach (which, given my usual shaving habits, makes it hard to differentiate between making a statement and just being lazy).

but more importantly, I felt like people cared. I wasn't some freak, I was a genuine person with genuine problems which could be solved if people wanted to. and I'm glad to report, there was real, concrete progress.

I also realized that just making it externally clear that you stand for something, makes a difference.

honestly, I still feel that being a man, my problems are far lesser than what women have to deal with. and so, I remain a feminist first and foremost.

I don't even know if there's an adjective for someone who envisions a better world for men. but I do know that by my actions, I'm making it possible for more people like me to exist. and just like it's taken decades for feminism to make the slightest dent in the crap that the average woman has to go through, I'm fine with the world making its slow and steady progress towards a better life for everyone, and a greater understanding of the fact that the problems men face are both the cause and effect of the problems that make the progress of feminism so slow and difficult.

yes, I'm a proud mo-bro!

Sunday, November 18, 2018


yesterday morning, my wife woke me up, thinking i was sobbing in my sleep.

i explained to her that this guy had just won the lottery, but he lived in such a remote place, that his only means of outward communication was a crow that he had trained to deliver messages. so he sent the crow with the message, but was worried that the shop he had purchased the lottery ticket from, would toss the message away as "some trash this crow dropped outside my shop".

and i found that so funny that i was actually laughing while asleep.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

all filler, no thriller

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

I had a month to experiment with this thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 27, 2018

beyond lucid dreaming: daydreaming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natasha and Komal arrived, and we had dinner together.

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

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

But the dream continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

the boiling candle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in fact, it was all a dream!

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

belfast to mumbai in summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and that's when i woke up.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

hiking around Belfast - cavehill

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

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

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

there are 4 main routes that we saw:

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

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

the other side of the 30s

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy birthday to me!

Sunday, August 12, 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.

Sunday, August 05, 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.

Tuesday, July 17, 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 :)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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!

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

frogs need milk

we were moving out of our goregaon home. we had finished moving furiture and stuff, and all that was a divan with no mattress on it. my parents and aunt lucia had come over to ceremoniously hand over the keys back to the landlord. to commemorate the day, i ordered an earthen pot of chicken dum biryani. except that this was a sort of biryani that couldn't be eaten directly. instead, water needed to be added to it to make it ready to eat. and there was no water in the house. the only souce of water we had was the tap in the toilet. so i filled the pot with water from that tap, while nobody was around to see what i was doing. meanwhile, the landlord and his wife came over to take the keys. while everyone helped themselves to biryani, i showed the landlord through the house, to confirm that we were returning the house in the condition we got it.

once they were satisfied, i handed over the keys and told them we'd push the door shut once we were done eating and ready to leave. they left with the keys and i checked the pot of biryani to serve myself. however, there was only rice left, and the chicken was over. i complained to my parents but they said that everyone had only one piece each, so they assumed some would be left for me.

i told them it's fine, asked them to finish the rice themselves, and stepped out of the house.

but i wasn't in goregaon, on the 6th floor of the building. instead, i was on a broad street lined with cottages, and completely shaded over with huge trees. the houses and trees were so perfectly uniform and the road so clean that it didn't feel like i was in bombay, or india for that matter. i stepped onto the road and started running. the road was sloped gently downhill, and as i was running down, an old friend from a past job, rachana, passed me, running up. as we passed, we smiled, stretched our right hands out and high fived each other.

slightly ahead, the road turned sharply to the left. once i was around the bend, the tree cover ended, and it felt quite bright and sunny. a beach was up ahead at the end of the road. it was a completely deserted beach, featureless, with pale yellow sand, and no shade/trees whatsoever even where the sand ended, only bushes. as i neared the beach, i sped up till i was running flat out as fast as i could. i passed a group of people, around 5 of them, who started clapping as i ran by.

i reached the beach, ran in a quick semicircle to turn back the way i came, and started running back. except that the road was now completely unrecognizable - instead of a broad cottage and tree lined street, it was a maze of narrow streets with houses that looked quite dilapidated and were right off the road, without even a footpath around them. confused, i started looking for those 5 people, hoping they'd be able to direct me as they were the only people i'd seen. i ran past a few lanes, looking into each one. i finally spotted them, and ran up to them.

i asked one of the guys if he knew the area and could direct me as i was lost. he told me he'd try to help, but there was something urgent they needed to do first. he said i could accompany them into the house they were about to enter, and it would only take five minutes.

i entered the house with them. they were 3 guys and 2 girls, and one of them was rather cute and petite, in a short black knit dress. as we were walking through the house, i touched her on the shoulder, and she told me i better not do that as one of the guys was her boyfriend. before anyone else noticed this, we reached a bathroom. there was a small metal basin on the floor, with a number of dark green frogs croaking. the frogs were all on their backs, wriggling their legs desperately, with their pale bellies exposed. one of the guys entered the bathroom and poured milk on them, explaining the frogs were badly dehydrated, and wouldn't survive if they didn't get milk.

and that's when i woke up.

Monday, May 07, 2018

moving out sale

I have stuff to sell! Any takers in Mumbai? Comment if interested.

Wall mounted metal dish rack (1 year old)

Price: 500
Wall mounted dish rack. 18" width x 18" height x 10.5" depth dish rack made of steel and plated. contains a top shelf, 5 partitions for big plates, 5 partitions for small plates, 1 large flat shelf and 1 smaller flat shelf, 6 hooks for mugs, 5 loops for cutlery.

1 year old, 5 shelves steel storage rack 72" x 36" x 15"

Price: 3000
1 year old, 5 shelves steel storage rack 72" x 36" x 15". Powder coated in grey colour (light grey shelves, dark grey frame). Extremely sturdy, industrial grade, and can take 100kg of load. can be used for storing items in shops/warehouses/kitchen. Can be dismantled and reassembled with minimal tools. fully adjustable shelf height makes it suitable for uses where different items are of different heights. Possible to get a dust cover made for the unit. Can give a wall mounted dish rack for free if desired.

Washbasin mirror cabinet with plenty of storage and magnetic lock.

Price: 1500
Washbasin mirror cabinet with plenty of storage and magnetic lock. Dimensions 22" height x 14" width x 6" depth

Friday, May 04, 2018

the messy dream

chilling at a friends' place, it got pretty late one night. the sofa was nice and comfy, and the music and the spot i was in made me feel a little zoned out.

and so, the inevitable happened.

i don't even remember what the dream was, but it was pretty much me in the same spot, talking to the friends in the room. except that there seemed to be some sort of glitch in the dream, and then i thought i woke up with a start. and so, i asked my friends, "was i speaking to you guys about ****?"

they unanimously answered "no!", but they were laughing about it.

i assumed it was a dream, and attempted to restart the conversation. but again, i woke up with a start with my friends laughing. and again, i asked them if i was speaking to them about the same topic. they again said "no", and i found the conversation strangely repetitive.

and then, the whole thing repeated at least a couple of times. each time, my friends found it funnier and funnier, and i was so sleepy i couldn't even think of a way to break out of the loop!

finally i decided it was pointless trying to stay awake, and literally slept off until an hour later.

i still have no idea how much of the stuff that happened that night was actual dreams and how much was my friends simply messing with me ;)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

explaining dreams

i had a strange dream last night. i dreamed i entered an elevator, and pressed the button for the floor i lived on. except that there were already two people in the elevator: sejal and her friend. they giggled to themselves and told me i pressed the wrong button. i was convinced it was the right one though. they explained they thought i was coming over to sejal's place. and that's when i realized i was in sejal's building, which was identical and adjacent to my own. and the building in my dream was completely different from my real life home.

that's when i woke up. it was about 6am, and it was beginning to get light outside. i got out of bed, shut the curtains, turned off the air conditioning, and went back to sleep.

the dream was so funny, i thought i should explain it to my wife. so i woke her up, and told her about it. except that when i was trying to narrate the dream, i couldn't remember sejal's friend's name. i figured i should be able to recall her name using my phone. so i opened google, and started wondering what to search for. i was pretty clueless.

i finally gave up, and went back to sleep.

i woke up at 9 am, as my phone's alarm was ringing.

except that my wife wasn't beside me. i wasn't even at home. i was at sunil's place, while my wife was having a sleepover at our home. that's when i realized the second part was also a dream. and sejal's friend's name was dipti. and, strangely enough, the curtains were wide open, but the air conditioner was off!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the game changer

I decided to cycle to the supermarket for my groceries today, instead of taking out the motorcycle. the weather seems to have improved a bit, and there wasn't much traffic. at a traffic light, a waiting rickshaw driver decided to relieve his mouth of its contents and spew paan on the sidewalk. disgusting.

this time though, I wasn't the only disgusted person around. a motorcyclist and another cyclist joined me in giving the rickshaw driver disgusted stares. he eventually noticed, but he somehow seemed to have a problem understanding exactly what we were disgusted about. he literally asked the motorcyclist "what happened? what did I do?"

the traffic resumed moving before I could hear the rest of the exchange, but it got me thinking: wouldn't the world be a much better place if people were more aware of the consequences of their actions?

as I watched a swarm of vehicles (almost comically) jump the signal *after* an ambulance, it reinforced my thoughts. if information was more widely available and supplied more easily, we probably could have far fewer social problems. and once there is a critical mass of informed people, the rest would be forced to keep up, or look stupid. and I parked my bicycle, lost in thought: how many things could be improved with proper information? would people be lining up to buy sugary cola, or cheap snacks fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil, or food loaded with sodium and msg? would they be taking the stairs instead of the escalators?

as I unlocked my bicycle and wore my still sweaty helmet, I noticed that the SUV that was parked next to it still had the windows up and engine idling from an hour ago, with the driver napping in his seat. I felt rather silly, trying to save the atmosphere from an ounce of burned petrol which the car probably guzzled many times over while I did my purchases.

and that's when it hit me: knowledge and information are not the game changers I seek. what we need is more people who think. people who think about the bigger picture, of cause and effect. after all, information is already out there for those who seek it. it may not be well presented, and may sometimes be hidden in clear sight and otherwise buried behind commercial interests, but it's still there. it's there only for people who care.

we live in a world filled with oblivious people, people who discard information if it doesn't help them achieve their immediate goals, and sometimes even if it does. and the only way to change that is to encourage critical thought.

and that's the game changer.

so the question is, how do we get people to think?

I rode home, lost in thought again, while a helmetless biker who was riding on the wrong side of a clear road sneered at me for cycling with a helmet.

I'm still nowhere near the answer.

but the answer, I'm assured, will change the course of the human race.

Monday, March 19, 2018

incomplete records

the other day, i was reading Darwin's book "on the origin of species", which is where he postulated his theory of evolution. one of the chapters was specifically about why fossil records are so incomplete. he put forward some very sensible arguments, one of which was: when evolution is progressing rapidly, it happens in the very same environment where preservation is unlikely.

and that reminded me of the last few months.

things have been changing rapidly, under the surface. evidence of these changes are probably only buried in verbal conversations which we have no record of, and a few chats which will be quickly buried in my history. and i know that in a short period, they will all be rapidly forgotten. so anyway, this post is a reminder of sorts. a reminder that thanks have changed, and that things will change more. and once the phase of "rapid change" is over, i'll be back to recording it as usual :)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

6 years of mile-munching

carly turned 6 last week. a little battered from the last ride, but still running enthusiastically.

6 years isn't a very long time for most bikes, but it is for this one. 124k km on the odo (and around 3k km not on the odo... yes, it happens). before carly, i used to consider panvel/vasai as my "home stretch". now, my "home stretch" is a 200-odd km radius from home. i have my favourite restaurants, stops and even fuel pumps on each highway, in each direction, for each time of day. i even remember my "nap points" and the associated rides.

riding back home from goa last weekend, i was thinking about how my riding style has changed over the years. i remember my first ride to goa, with barely over 1000 km on the odo. back in those early days, it was all about pushing myself, seeing how far i could ride non-stop, how quickly i could reach my destination. now, it's all about relaxing, having fun, enjoying some good food, taking in sights on the way while sticking to a schedule when required.

and of course, now that i'm riding with my wife, i enjoy showing off the best experiences i've gleaned over the years. like sunset at amboli ghat, the last hairpin bend at gaganbawda, the pre-dawn fog on nh17, the road through yellapur, maravanthe beach, and the likes.

still, it feels like i'm slipping into my comfort zone. after over 20 mumbai-goa rides, they now feel repetitive. the only big changes over the years are that the highways get worse, traffic gets worse, and the drivers get more rash and aggressive.

still, there's a lot to explore, and making it a point to ride to new places or try new routes keeps things fun.

but finally... the most important thing is to "just ride!"

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