Some days are just way more productive than what you are used it. Today’s one such day. It dawned with a possibility that things would just go downhill – there were too many unaddressed tasks and open issues. But as it turns out, the evening feels a lot more peaceful.

“Luck is near you,” reads a drawing that my daughter made and gifted me. I’ve framed it and put it at my desk. I don’t know why she felt the need to write those words. But having such a thoughtful daughter makes me the luckiest dad out there.

When my daughter requested recently if she can have her YouTube channel, I wondered if she would manage to keep her interest. She does. She reads, writes and keeps recording. Sure, not everything comes out perfect. But she does not stop. Today, her second video is out. Yay!

I spent a wonderful evening with close friends yesterday whom I met after a long period, some after more than 10 years. It’s remarkable how time can’t slacken some threads, lost possibly in the dull grinds of the life. You pick these threads from where you left them. As you remember the memories of yesteryears, you can laugh at them — or be affected by the updates from people that are not around you at this moment.

You know your bond with a few folks is strong when they can lend the present moment innate warmth. You feel a deep kinship, regardless of how much time has passed since you last met them. Yesterday evening was one such occasion, when we tickled many old memories and made a few new ones.

Why’s the colour of everything marked unisex so bland? Who decided that mens don’t like any colours other than black or grey or silver? Or who decided that women will only like pink or purple? Why can’t I go on to a street carrying any non-black coloured umbrella and not get stares that judge me?

Some might say it’s trivial, yet I find this behaviour extremely frustrating. We claim we are making progress on multiple levels, yet we continue to stick our age-old presumptions of choices among sexes. And you know what, I have a theory why the choices of colours specifically are advertised in a way they are.

Professional places are bland — colours aren’t professional. Life and playfulness is colourful. So, who do we see as a professional? Well, of course, men. And who’s all about play? Right? Right?

Do you want to test this hypothesis? Here are Google Image searches for “man with umbrella” — how many blacks do you see there? Now, here’s the results’ page for “woman with umbrella”. Same question, how many blacks do you see there? Plus, what other commonality do you see among the images that are on the page? What’s the look that men are flaunting? And what about women? The industry is infuriating. Sigh!

I have decided to stay away from all the timelines for the next two weeks. Micro.blog. YouTube1. Netflix. I am taking time off, in a way, from the discussions & chatters to give myself some space to think. It unfortunately isn’t possible with views and perspectives from others always clouding mine.

I have, of course, subscribed to the RSS feeds of many whose voices I prefer not to miss. This old medium remains the best way I can control what I read.


  1. YouTube’s homepage is a timeline, whatever YouTube calls it. [return]

I spent a few calming hours with my Kindle in the garden today. Away from the hustle bustle. Away from the tings and chimes of the technology. I need to do this often.

Kids are free, untouched by the necessities of the life. The concept of “necessary” doesn’t register itself with them.

For a kid, everything is necessary and, at the same time, nothing is. Is it necessary to eat? Sure, if he is hungry. Otherwise, it isn’t.

A kid does nothing because it is necessary to do it. He does it because he wants to do it.

In that sense, a kid always emphasises inwards, focuses on what is important to himself. As we grow, we forgot what matters. We emphasise what’s external.

The societal pressures. The fear of missing out. A kid knows none. I like this is all he cares about.

Listen to the kid in you, he sits closest to your heart. And if you can’t hear him, life’s going to a difficult journey, my friend. Be quick and wake up that kid within you.

I love these peaceful few moments every morning when I pause, sit back and relax. Looking out to the greens spread out in front of my porch. Bird chirping, cooing amongst those branches - a green maze yet untouched by the human atrocities. A cool morning breeze gliding against my body.

All I do is focus my mind to nothingness - a soft focus, no thoughts, no plans. The regularities the life serves can wait. Not for long, of course. But I breathe my calmest breaths in these short moments.

Free beer, money. Free rides to vaccination sites. And the incentives continue to pour in from the administration in US. And then there’s the struggle for vaccine slots in India & other contries.

Faulty, lethargic adminstration? Economic gap? Selfish, mindless leaders? Sure, the reasons are many. But how does one argue with a common man who is convinced it’s an unfair world? That it’s a world where the scales are always tipped towards a richer populace?

How am I doing right now? 2021 edition

It was exactly a year ago that I had posted my thoughts on a few key questions. The idea was to capture how I was doing right then. It was a welcome and much needed introspection. I didn't want to miss on the opportunity to revisit the answers from the last year and see what has changed.

It was a nice exercise. My thoughts a year back were so quite unfamiliar to what I am going through today. So, here's an update to the same set of questions. Again, I would love to hear how you are doing.

How are you taking care of yourself today?

Regular exercise and daily meditation. Reading a lot more fiction and non-fiction. I'm still listening to music and many audiobooks. Staying far away from news.

What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?

Garden at my home. The wooden swing at the top floor that overlooks the garden.

What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isn’t toilet paper)?

Biscuits. Lots of them.

What’s a story — from a book, a movie, an article, a conversation — that you’ve been gripped by recently? Why did it capture you?

Nothing grips me any more. Maybe I have grown numb?

What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?

I have stopped staying awake late into the Friday and Saturday nights. That was one habit I had, stay up late either mindlessly watching something or working on side projects.

As an effect, I am following a pretty routine. Get a calming and wholesome sleep.

Which specific place in your neighborhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?

Again, every part of the neighbourhood. Especially malls and the restaurants.

What’s the easiest part about the quarantine?

Getting bored. And getting creative.

What are some things you have realized that you don’t really need?

Cash. And fancy clothes. What I wear at home is often good enough even outside.

What’s something you own that feels useful?

Kindle. Headphones.

What is your COVID-19 nickname/alter-ego?

Calm workaholic.

What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?

Global Stupidity. Political Divisiveness. Natural Selfishness.

Music is the only time machine out there. You come across a song or an album, and a flood of memories and emotions come rushing at you. You almost relive those priceless moments. Exaggeration? I think not.

You get transported back to the time when you listened to that song the first time. Or when you spent hours and days crooning along, the album on repeat mode. You vividly feel your surrounding from that time. The place you were at. The mental state you were in. The happiness of loneliness. Or the craziness with those few, old friends. You remember the moments that matter, the moments that are tucked deep within your heart.

I am not saying anything groundbreaking here. Each one of us has experienced this ability of music. Many have worded it a lot more beautifully even.

I consider this a superpower and am reminded of this every few months. Most often, the time I hop back to is the early 2000s, the time that I cherish the most. It was a new phase of my student life. A period with a lot more independence. A period when my thoughts were moulded. Today was one such day.

A lesser-known A.R. Rahman album. It's not even among one of his best. But it's close to me, though. I can't explain why; maybe the feeling of the songs resonated with what I was going through in my life. I didn't understand a word of those lyrics; it was the first non-Hindi, non-English album I listened to. But as they say, music has no language. And good music doesn't need words to convey an emotion.

Sure, the album doesn't evoke the same feelings in me today. But I momentarily relive that unfamiliar phase of freedom every time. Just as I did today.

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.