My family loves to watch singing reality shows. It's an opportunity for me to get some focused time when I read or write. I do join in occasionally, though. This weekend was one such occasion.

For one, A. R. Rahman was going to be on the show as a guest. I love this man and his music. I won't miss a chance to watch the people contending to be good at singing attempt the maestro's brilliant tunes. The episode did not disappoint -- a contestant attempted one of the trickiest songs ever composed by Rahman, Satrangi Re.

As the performance came to an end (and the director decided to stuff it with unnecessary stuff), a little dialogue happened at our home. The contestant mentioned the first album he purchased was Rahman's, and he wanted Rahman's autograph on the old audio cassette. My daughter looked on with her curiosity piqued by watching the object the guy was holding. She genuinely asked, "what's a cassette, dad?"

Boy, I had a nostalgic few minutes. I explained all about how I used to listen to songs when I was a child. I showed her the images of the audio cassettes, up close and afar. But you know what she was most interested in? Sony Walkman.

I dearly wish I had not given away my Sony Walkman to one of my cousins. Sure, I had made her day by passing on the tech I did not need. But I loved my Walkman. And pleasing to see my daughter get fascinated by the beauty. And she has owned every type of iPod -- yet the retro-tech will always hold its charm.

By the way, the contestant I mentioned above, Ashish Kulkarni, is too good a singer. Just watch him nail a track I love, Alvida from Life in a Metro.

Image Credit: Binarysequence at Wikimedia

A few guilty pleasures

1. A bowl of hot instant noodles

2. An hour of reaction videos on YouTube

3. A pack of Lays late at night

4. That episode from Seinfeld or Friends

5. Idling away morning hours in the bed

6. That planned "sick" leave

7. Right Click and Inspect Element (Q) on random sites

8. Cheap, unnecessary online buys

9. Binge-watch session on Weekdays

...and that one simple pleasure - a calming head massage with warm coconut oil.

My daughter has been reading short storybooks since she was 5. She likes to read – she would find a comfortable corner for herself and start reading her books. I was a bit cautious introducing her to a full-length novel, though. I didn’t want to dampen her interest in reading by the usual wordiness of the novels.

But recently, she asked me for some big books – “I am bored with these small stories,” she said. “I know them by heart now.

So, I did give her a couple of “big” books last week, and she hardly goes anywhere without her book since then. She carries a pencil and an eraser, underlines words she doesn’t understand well, bookmarks pages. Ah, I’m so happy to see her so engrossed while reading. I wish I had started reading sooner; I’m delighted to see my daughter has.

Oh, recently I have seen another habit of hers. She likes to copy small stories into her notebook, then read them in her handwriting and out loud in her voice. Yay!

I wish she keeps her interest in reading intact as she grows and would assist her in whichever way possible. To start with though, I need to choose the right books.

I find it curious that I often think better clear when my mind is full of thoughts. I am edgy with an empty mind.

So when I am edgy, I read more. When I read more, I tend to get my mind filled with thoughts.

When I think more, I write more - I want to analyse my thoughts, judge them. I’ve realized I do that better when I’m reading.

In short, I like to read my thoughts. So I write.

Every Diwali, I capture how Diyas enliven the colors of Rangoli – oddness of this year hasn’t dampened that interest of mine. To all those celebrating this festival of lights and togetherness, wish you a very happy Diwali!

I hate shopping for deodorant...

That sentiment is a lot stronger for me in today’s times of a pandemic that spreads by touching any of the open holes on a human’s face. I’m tensed anytime I’m to touch my own face these days, especially if I don’t have a hand wash or sanitizer around. I hate this crazy, fucking virus.

You can stop eating particular meat or can boil & reboil the water before drinking it. You can kill all the mosquitos around or have yourself bathed in repellant. But how the fuck do you not touch your own face? That’s like asking your kid to not put herself in harm’s way - she invariably will.

Anyway, with the bottled up frustration out of the way, my dislike for shopping for deodorant isn’t new. So much so that it’s no longer just a harmless dislike, it’s a feeling of extreme hate. How the hell do you decide if a deodorant is good or not? I don’t know how it’s done at other places, but here in India, trying out a fragrance from a tester pack is pretty common while shopping for a deodorant. Everybody does it. Everybody apparent can do it. Except me. I never learned how to keep the fragrances separate. Once I’ve tried two, everything smells the same to my picky nose - you might as well make me smell the water and still get a comment from me after that.

The way-out for me earlier was that I would only try a couple and select one from those. I can’t say it always works - I end up choosing one that smells the worst. Too strong or too mild or yuck. These are the only reactions I get from my family. I haven’t let that affect me until now - I have managed to convince myself that no one likes how the other smells. As long as I’m happy with how I smell - or there’s a complete lack of any form of smell for that matter - I was fine. So I bought whatever smelled best for me or didn’t smell at all from the two I tried.

This trial for fragrances is out of the picture in the pandemic times. There just are too many logistical problems.

What’s the other way then? You can for once judge a book by its cover or title, but there’s no way one can judge a deodorant by its canister. I mean all fucking look the same. You can’t select one because its nozzle opens up funny or the shape of the container is “different”. The content isn’t.

And what’s with naming the fragrances? Dark Temptation, Sea Drift, Thunder Bolt, Regal Burst, Voyage. When every fragrance could be named as simply as “strong”, “mild” and “mildest”, fact that marketing would spend so much time and money to come up with these names makes no sense to me. How am I supposed to select between Dark Temptation and Gold Temptation?

And the money that marketing spends on the advertisement for men’s deodorant must absolutely go down the drain. The only message they aim to deliver apparently is put this on and be a magnet for girls? Or be sensual? Or be “irresistible”? On the other hand, how can you even advertise for fragrance? The only thing you can say is it smells good.

Or simply strong, mild or mildest. I’m telling you, it is simple to solve this problem. Just use those names.

Anyway, I went shopping for deodorant today again. Looking at me struggling, toying around with all black canisters, the store owner pulled all the options away, kept one in front of me and said, “you will love this, sir, trust me”. That won’t have done it, but then he added, “you will click a picture of this and come again next time asking for this one”.

Once I returned home with that deodorant, I minutely stared at my reflection in the mirror, wondering what in the way I dressed gave that store owner the feeling that I can’t read English.

I read this heartfelt post at McSweeney’s by Jen Coleman, a high school English teacher, on children already returning to schools amidst the pandemic. It makes no sense to me that someone somewhere is making a decision that puts these budding souls at risk just so that the perception of “we, the leaders, are handling it well” can be maintained. I am happy in my developing country if that’s how a developed one handles crises.

That Sharpie tells me everything I need to know about teaching through COVID. We could have poured resources into prevention. We could’ve spent all summer enforcing mask use and social distancing. We could’ve sacrificed small pleasures for the greater good. We could’ve kept this from happening. But instead, we’re blindly barreling toward reopening even though we know teachers and students will die. We’re going to treat COVID the same way we treat school shootings.

Getting Back to Reading More Books

If there’s one positive change that the lockdown has brought into my routine, it would be that I am reading a lot more, both online essays & books. My Goodreads currently reading list is full of some wonderful books. It is a result of some intentional changes in my habit and the easy availability of a lot of free time.

I am “reading” a lot more books in their audio forms. The Audible subscription has been one of the best investments. I enjoy listening to books as I am doing other tasks. Be it the regular household choir or exercising. So if I am thoroughly involved in a book, it clearly shows in my walk/run times. I would go on long walks just to “read” more.

Additionally, I have since long stopped carrying my mobile phone with me - rather I keep my Kindle around. I always take it along as I move through my routine. This is my observation when I had first started following this habit a while back.

I take my kindle, walk to my balcony or to my terrace or to the garden and settle there. Without my phone. Or my iPad. Anyone needs my attention, they have to come and fetch me. And I realised I was back to being more earnest while reading.

This holds even today. So whenever my mind reaches out for some getaway, it’s the list of books that is accessible. Not some social media feed. Or emails. No risk of doom-scrolling.

I have also realized that I can’t read only one book at a time. What I want to read depends on a lot many external factors. My mood, the weather, what and who am surrounded by, the thoughts my mind is full of. So I have a list of 10 books that I am reading at any given time based on these factors. And I don’t hold myself to add another to the list if none of these excites me some time.

Being a completionist has been a habit that I was proud of one time; that’s not the case any more. If a book is unable to hold my attention, I will stop reading it. I will skip chapters if it is non-fiction to see if there’s any other chapter that interests me. There are more pages that we can eagerly turn than there are minutes that we can breathe. Don’t touch a book that doesn’t keep you excited to turn to the next page.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson

Small Town Diaries – Waltz of the Rain

I felt very close to the rain today. I don’t like to get drenched in a downpour. Or to get damp in a drizzle. As a child, I used to sit at the edge of the veranda and watch the rain play its games. I did that again today after a long, long time.

The clouds gave way to a slight drizzle and eventually burst into an angry downpour. I slumped into the swing chair in the veranda and grinned as the wind lead the stream of raindrops as part of their lovely waltz. I instinctively stretched out my leg to the rain in the hope that nature’s playfulness on show rubbed onto me.

It did; I felt calm, devoid of the stress that I had become so habitual to recently. I experienced a general sense of clarity within, but I wasn’t thinking about anything specific. A numbness of mind that moves you meaningfully? I wish I could better word this paradox.

My recent lifestyle of the bustling metropolis has made me ignorant. When it rained, I hid behind glass with the raindrops furiously colliding against it. But then they dejectedly glided down. Not today. I let them touch me, heal me today.

Small Town Diaries - Shopping

I went casual shopping today. I didn’t dress up as I would normally do whenever I go out in my hometown. How I look as I go outside does not matter to me much these days. Anyway, all I had to shop for was some groceries and a few ointments.

The way I looked today was fine for the larger town I have settled in. Rather the shabbier I dress up, greater the respect I gain from a store owner. Or so I believe. This theory fails royally in my comparatively smaller hometown.

As expected, I was consciously ignored by the store owners and the attendants. I, then, asked for a specific item, a Himalaya - a well-known Indian brand - face cream. I returned the Himalaya face gel asking for the cream variant. And it is then that they called me “sir”. 

This incident repeated itself at another store. My shabby attire made everyone attending in the store to ignore me. I then asked for a lip balm of from Nivea. I returned the strawberry flavoured one he hesitantly handed me and asked for a variant that’s especially for men. It is then that they called me “sir”.

I have realized over the years (and from the sheer amount of effort my dad puts in dressing up just to go out of the main door) that it matters here how you present yourself outside - especially in shops as a customer. However, if a shabby looking attire makes the store owners and attendants ignore you, the specificity of your wants makes you special.

Ever since I travelled back to my hometown, I have not been able to keep up with my routine. I’m not sure of the reasons, but things have been tricky.

One reason I believe is my mindset. For years now, I have been travelling to this place, to my other home, only on vacations. I would take long leaves, be off work and spend some relaxed time in the city where I’ve spent the majority of my early years. I feel I’ve grown accustomed to the air here and now I associate it with relaxation. Hence it has been extremely difficult to do anything else.

I’ve been sleeping a lot more. I’ve been eating a lot more. I’ve been slacking a lot more. I can do my office work, that doesn’t seem to be affected. But every other routine task is. I was waiting for things to naturally get back to normal. 2 weeks in and I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening.

So I am forcing myself now to get back into the routine. Time to bring the diaries, the journals back. Get the diet, the focus apps out. Reset those snoozed alarms again. Close eyes for those mindful 2 minutes. Stare regularly at the blinking cursor.

I need to stop treating the weekends as special. I stay up late on the night before, ergo I get up late. I am getting more lone time, I convince myself. I have now realized that’s not the case. The late nights can give me some hours when all are asleep. But I enjoy the early mornings much more.

I am fresh, I can sit and relax with calmness surrounding me. No one’s awake. Not in my house or on the outside. The only “noise” is the crickets in the dark, busy with their routine; that calms me.

I get to hear the nature wake itself up to the rising dawn. I need not plug my ears to shut out any distracting sounds. Every sound is stimulating; I read better, I write better. As someone who gets distracted by the slightest of the noises, that’s also the best time to get into a meditative state, something I am trying to do daily now.

My habit of treating weekends as different from the regular work days has been ruining the routine that keeps me freshest throughout the day.

Perfectionism Isn't Healthy

I have been closely monitoring what affects my behaviour recently. One of the aspects that I’d identified was that I was always judging myself, was always thinking, analyzing my current actions for their effect on my future. I’d decided to stop doing that. But while I wrote that, I hadn’t realized that there is deeper malady there – my subconscious quest to be a perfectionist.

As I was reading an essay about the downsides of perfectionism from Amanda Ruggeri at BBC, it made me aware that I’ve also been affected by the same trait she was warning about. I want things to be done perfectly.

At home. At work. With the activities that I do on my own. With my family. With my peers, my superiors.

It is that perfectionist voice within me that’s constantly judging me, judging others. Even now, am thinking and rethinking on the ways I could word this prose. This paragraph. Is it the best way to make my point?

Why? Why do I do that? It can’t be healthy.

Even on Google, the first autocomplete suggestion for “Perfectionism” is “Perfectionism is a disease”. I wouldn’t term this trait as that – I don’t want to flippantly use a word while representing any form of mental disorder – it ain’t a “disease” for sure. However, even an offhand read through the internet would convince you that perfectionism can lead to a laundry list of such disorders. Anxiety. Depression. And much more.

I am not sure if my habit of aiming for perfection in every task is affecting my mood and my mind in any alarming way yet. However, I think it does lead me to procrastinate at times. I don’t have time now, will do it later “perfectly,” I can hear my mind say every now and then.

Well, it’s believed and acknowledged to be a vicious cycle - perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis. Or thought another way, it is the paralysis by analysis. Analysis paralysis.

All this lead me to a post I wrote back in 2013, on exactly the same topic of over-analyzing, overthinking. And it was then that I had linked to this term of Analysis paralysis for the first time.

That was 7 years ago. I believe I haven’t managed to get rid of my trait yet. It might be time to think about getting rid of this habit. To not let my pursuit for things to be perfect to affect me, to paralyze me.

Buying Experience with Time

I spent the last weekend idling around; I did not do anything that I have always considered “productive”. No reading novels. Or catching up on my read later lists. Or writing. Or working on the short story in progress. Nothing. I spent the whole two days lying on my sofa, enjoying a movie marathon with my family. I did all that without judging myself, as I had recently decided.

It’s so easy to idle the whole days away. As James Clear has said, “our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient”. It’s only understandable then that it takes too much effort to break this built-up inertia of not doing anything. Time, then, is spent generously lazying around, scoring easy joys.

The thought also reminds of this exchange between Dan Buettner and James Hamblin during one of their interviews.

Buettner: In the long-term view, you’re better off buying experiences than some new gadget. Buying things does produce some spike in joy or appreciation, but that wears off over time. A good experience actually gains luster.

Hamblin: Despite knowing that, when I actually go to spend money on traveling or even just tickets to something, I think about how soon that will be over and gone. And if I buy a couch, I have it for years.

Buettner: But the joy from the couch wears out. You’ll still flop down on it, but it won’t provide that bump of joy.

With time as the most valuable currency, what is, then, the parallel in real life to the “gadget”, the thing that time can buy? Is it the worthless, hollow hours that one spends on streaming the same, old movies or TV shows? Or is that an experience?

What Buettner refers to as joy when talking about the product vs experience discourse, is satisfaction when moved over to real life. We should judge if the activity is an experience by the longevity of the satisfaction it brings.

There’s no doubt that a whole day of movie marathon can lend momentary joy. But does it do that without being a burden on your mind? If so, then it is an experience. Else you have just carelessly wasted the most valuable currency for owning a thing and it will soon stop giving you joy.

What are other examples of such experiences that time can buy?

Slow Down. Be Present.

I’m consciously slowing myself down recently while doing everything . I’ve spent too much time worrying about the small things, planning about things too far in future. I’ve realised I’m not living in the moment. That’s not healthy.

So, I’m taking time doing my regular day to day activities. Slow down. Take a pause. Be cognizant of the task am doing. Be present, doing it. Not think about 10 other things that I might have to do later in the day. That doesn’t help. Keep things simple.

I recently read this brilliant thought from Matt on Twitter.

Fed up of the western idea of self-empowerment where you have to become a better you, discover your inner billionaire, get beach bodied, work, upgrade. It fuels a resistance to the present. It’s self-loathing masquerading as empowerment. We need self-acceptance. Self-compassion.

Matt Haig

I can’t agree more with Matt. I have decided to not be too harsh on myself. It’s ok to not be “efficient” every time Not every activity needs to be done effectively. Or in the most time-effective way. Putting undue pressure on myself to plan things, multiple ones, so they can be grouped together. Nope, I am not ok to put myself through that anymore. All it does is adds to the already tall list of micro-stresses. Anyway, it’s not as if I’ve too much work, too little time at hand.

Do one thing at a time. Do it slowly. Be conscious. Be present.

Proposed Captcha for the AI Age

I recently read this brilliant comic by Zach Weinersmith at SMBC. And the first thought I had was this “has to be the most foolproof way there exists to prove yourself human”

Seriously, I am tired of proving to Google that I’m human by selecting grids with zebra crossings in them. This task has to be a lot easier for bots than it is for me because I suck at it every time.

I think, maybe, just maybe we need some other ways to test if users online are humans. Just test us for what we suck at.

  1. Keep showing us optical illusions and check how we freak out. Our eyes keep making a fool of our minds and we let them. Of course, we are already being crazies by training computers to fall for optical illusions. Why, why?
  2. Show us a street full of people coughing and sneezing around openly and ask a single question “what’s the risk that you will get coronavirus if you walk out on this street without a mask?” Apparently, no human will say 100%.
  3. Show the departure time of the flight. Show us the distance to the airport, the traffic en route. Ask us then when should we leave the house. Bots will always make us reach in time. Humans, on the other hand, will be either too early or too late, even when provided with all the data.
  4. Show us a video of people playing basketball and make us count the passes. Then just make us randomly predict when will the pandemic end. If a user selects “before August starts”, has to be Human. Yeah, and also show us next the walking, chest-thumping gorilla that we missed in the video.
  5. Just put a simple multiple-choice question, “What will you name some random street?” with one of the options as “I don’t know… name it whatever the fuck man”. Majority humans apparently will select that.

You get the idea. Don’t judge us by our smartness. If there’s anything that the last few months have proven, it is that we ain’t an intelligent species. It is our dumbness, our frailties that make us humans now.

One of my dad’s closest friend passed away today. Understandably, my dad was very sombre for the whole day. He told me he had spoken to his friend just yesterday when he was all fine.

Just last week, my aunt too had lost her father. She also told me she had spoken to her dad just a day before and even he was all fine.

They both died due to heart failure. They both shared one more truth, though. They both already had a weak heart and both said that all the news around COVID and the resultant lockdown were making them lonelier. They felt burdened – even though they had their close family and friends always around them for support.

Will we also add these deaths to the this pandemic’s toll? Because, of course, these aren’t isolated cases. The psychological fallout is far-reaching than immediately noticeable symptoms.

We should. It has curtailed many more lives than those that get reported.

What else could I do?

I am making sure I stay sane, healthy. I am spending time on, for and with myself. I am taking care of myself to the extent that I never did before.

What else could I do?

I am making sure my family stays safe. I am sharing stories, laughing a lot with them. I am playing with my daughter. All her games, without judging them. I go on an unplanned date with my wife right at home every now and then, spend a cosy morning with her in the balcony with a cup of hot tea. I am spending time with my family to the extent that I never did before.

What else could I do?

As I go outside, I always wear a mask. I do not have or present any justification to not wear one. There can’t be one. I try to enlighten others, closed ones and those that aren’t so, the importance of being responsible once outside of homes.

What else could I do?

Well, there is so much more that I could do. I do not openly express my anguish looking at the adverse situation the impoverished lots are going through. I do not stand for the rights of minorities world around as much as I should. Or contribute towards changing the clearly imbalanced societal status quo.

Or speak up openly when I see a gender bias in play. I haven’t yet told that one guy to not keep saying “guys” in a meeting with many of my female colleagues. It is wrong. I cringe every time. But I could also speak up.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Change doesn’t always need radical corrections. I could bring the minor shifts in my behaviour and make my surrounding a fair place for all.

So, what else could I do?

Well, I could not ask that question because I know there’s so much that I do not do. Let me make an effort to be a better version of myself because there’s no doubt that I can never be perfect.

I'm not going to write about...

  • Facebook and Zuckerberg. And I think even the big publications all round, the likes of Wired and NYTimes, need to stop writing about the issues inside Facebook. They call their edits “exclusive”, tag them as an inside look at what transpired behind the tall walls. But that hardly matters - nothing ever changes at the crazy place. Because the people who can bring the change, don’t want to. For some reason that is hard to fathom to outsiders, they all are conflicted within.
  • Apple and Google. Too much is said about everything big and small about these companies. It piques interests in readers and so every publication has something to report about them. I can’t add anything more to what has already been said, that too by minds a lot smarter than mine. I don’t want to add to the noise.
  • Politics. Talking about the doesn’t help my morale. It rather makes me a lot angrier than I need to be. And to no avail.
  • Meta rants about Blog. Not my writing workflow. Not the minor tweaks I keep making every now and then. Not the struggles I go through to get things exactly right. Just write and edit what I wrote. Keep the place the way I like to see it. Hear what others have to say about the place, the workflow, tweak it if needed and forget.
  • Things I need to do. Announce them when ready. Instead of writing about it, start doing it. Get started.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain

You know, ultimately, we all have to believe things we haven’t seen. As rational as we are, as committed to intellect as we are. Innovation, creativity, development come not from the ideas in our mind alone. They are also fueled by some conviction in our heart. And it’s that mind-heart connection that I believe compels us to not just be attentive to all the bright and dazzly things, but also the dark and difficult things. Vaclav Havel, the great Czech leader, said, ‘When we were in Eastern Europe and dealing with oppression, we wanted all kinds of things, but mostly what we needed was hope, an orientation of the spirit, a willingness to sometimes be in hopeless places and be a witness.’

Bryan Stevenson

Update on the no-news experiment

It was exactly a year ago that I had posted an update on my then-recently undertaken no-news experiment. It primarily involved -

  • consuming news only through the morning newspaper
  • no news related apps on my phone
  • no notifications from social apps (including messages, WhatsApp)

I am pleasantly surprised that the things begun then have more or less stayed the same. I still consume my news primarily from the morning newspaper. I still avoid visiting the news website. I still have the notifications from social apps disabled. For that matter, I have become more aggressive in disabling notification access to any app.

The only deviation has been that I have installed a few news apps on my phone. I always had that urge to open some editorial on the browser when my mind was momentarily free. This minor change has quenched that.

Of course, I am still extremely picky about which apps get installed. I have installed only a couple of news curating apps (also known for doing their job well). And The New York Times app.

Digital Detox - No YouTube

I have also recently undertaken a digital detox experiment. I want to check which additional service I can get off my routine. It should be something that I carelessly spend a lot of time on.

I had recently been consuming a lot of stupid content on YouTube. I used to open the app every time I had some free time at hand. Or for that matter even when I was busy doing something else. It garnered a subconscious tap. Such absent-minded behaviour is never healthy.

So I have planned to be off YouTube for at least a month to reset the terms of my relationship with this service. It has been 15 days now and I already feel better. I no longer have that urge to tap into YouTube any more. I have observed am following my routine a lot better.

However, YouTube has become too important a destination for all kinds of videos. That includes videos relevant to my work too. So it is difficult to completely get rid of the access to the service.

Of course, then, I plan to allow access to the app in a controlled manner. This time, however, I will set the terms again consciously. I am also planning to clear the YouTube view history before I do that. I believe this will help me reset the recommendations. I am, however, yet to decide the exact terms under which the service will be allowed back.

During this month of digital detox, I also plan to indulge myself with some analogue activities that I had never done before. I have started doodling more. Sure, am not good at it. But I hit the web for inspiration and try to simply emulate.

I am also spending dedicated time with my daughter without any digital devices around. It can be as less as 15 minutes. Involving simple talks. Or some silly games. But it has to be focused time.

It is too early to see the effects of all this. One thing is for sure, though. I feel a tad less burdened on the inside.

I recently had my wisdom teeth extracted. Boy oh boy, if I had known earlier that the road to the recovery from this procedure is not straight forward, I would have never undergone this without much thought.

There are so many precautions to be taken — from keeping the mount clean to monitoring what you eat. This is in addition to easing the swelling and the pain. I would have liked to time this better. With just a day to go to start going to the office again, it would be some difficult times ahead.

Sure, my dentist did explain all the intricacies involved before the procedure. He also mentioned what all I would have to be careful about. But it was only once the teeth were pulled and the gums stitched back that I became cognizant of the complications.

And all this for a set of teeth whose only purpose is to jam up the number 32. Sigh!

I recently went through an experience that put my rational mind under a scanner. After a tiring session of shopping for clothes, I stood in the queue to pay for the stuff that my family had finally decided to buy. I always hate the process of selecting clothes in the shopping malls - more so when my family’s doing it than me. I just can’t fathom the sheer number of parameters my wife, my daughter and my sister together can cobble up while deciding a piece of cloth to be selected (to be frank, rejected seems to be more apt). Anyway, it is a battle that I have lost many occasions over years - so moving on.

The billing process that follows isn’t painless either. I am always bombarded with so many questions.

Do you have membership? Why not? There are no many benefits like blah.. blah.. Why won’t you become a member?” Which card do you have? Why don’t you pay this way rather than that?” Would you need a shopping bag? 1 Large? Or 2 medium?”

It’s an unending sequence of dreadful moments till I leave the shopping mall. But this time it ended in slightly different manner. I was offered an offer which am convinced now must have been part of some psychological study. The lady behind the billing counter explained it to me somewhat like this (emphasis her and mine).

Sir, you made a purchase worth a specific, nontrivial amount, so you stand a chance to win an assured gift. This is not a lucky draw, you will win some gift1 for sure. All you have to do is pay a significant amount. That will make you eligible (wasn’t I already?) for this assured gift. And the cost of the cheapest assured gift is twice as higher than the price you pay (how can I verify). So, of course, I should include that, right?”

So, in short, it is pay (over and above what you have already paid for the shopping) to win assuredly? Like what you would do in a casino - but with some surety angle? Why not just have an aisle full of assured gift cards? Why link it to billing? I couldn’t help but think it had to do with the fact that my abilities to think rationally are depleted due to the exhaustion from the decisions made earlier during shopping. And my mind is at my most vulnerable state.

With the pressure from the people queued behind me growing, I nervously said yes. But within seconds, pushed by the pressure from my rational mind, I said no. I wasn’t ready to undergo the scrutiny of my thoughts.


  1. The gifts included bedrolls, luggages, some OLED television set, bikes and even car.

It's just some bottled clay..

I had no idea that there exists something called Nation Play-Doh Day. It does, and it is today.

Play-Doh

This toy” always fascinates me. After all, it is just clay, plain simple clay. I remember a time, as a child, when we regularly played in and with clay. At that time, it was frowned upon - playing with clay was synonymous with getting dirty. Good boys do not do that”, we were told. I was always the obedient one, but even I deferred at times.

I remember one such rainy evening — we friends neglected not one, but many such restrictions. It had been raining cats and dogs throughout the day, our playground was muddy wet. And the only game that we knew of that we could play in such conditions was football1. We only played this English game on those rare occasions when playing cricket wasn’t feasible. And today was one such day.

Ground was slippery and it continued to rain. So of course, playing wasn’t going to be easier. Running around with the ball by our legs was a big task. Especially for us occasional footballers. So it was only natural that there would be one tenderfoot who would slip and fall down. And he won’t like running around alone with the dirty clothes. So he would pull someone else around. And those two would a few others. It didn’t take long for all of us to resemble the ugly prisoners of The Longest Yard.

It was only after getting crazy laden with mud that we realized, boy oh boy, we were in big trouble. It wasn’t just our clothes that were dirty. The whole of us was. And it had already gotten dark and we had to cross a section of woods to get back home.

To add to our troubles, it had also stopped raining. So the only way for us to clean ourselves up was with the water dripping from the trees in the woods. We did try that, we shook the trees violently at times. But all the attempts were in vain. Now we were not just wet and dirty, but also itchy. That day, I quietly entered the home through the door at the back, went straight to the shower under cold water and even washed off the clothes with my hands.

The walk through the woods that day followed by that cold shower were one of the most tense moments of my childhood.

I still convince myself that my mom did not see me ugly that day.

I know the cutesy games that my daughter plays with her Play-Doh can never be compared to our ugly rolling all over in the mud. But I still haven’t succeeded in explaining my mom how someone managed to bottle some clay and make it one of the hottest selling toy in the world.


  1. English football, Soccer for the US readers.