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.


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.

It was a different day today. It was a different birthday today.

There was no late night, or early morning, cake cutting celebrations. Because I have come to prefer a time when my daughter is completely awake and can thoroughly enjoy the celebrations.

There was no partying in the night with food that my family doesn’t enjoy. Because what matters more is everyone around me has a great time.

There were no loud and over-the-top plans — just a day of togetherness with people that matter the most to me. Of course, that also meant things couldn’t just be perfect.

There was a crazy rush to get ready and cut traffic to reach theaters so that we can watch a show of movie with the whole family together. There were discussions, to the point of exasperation, over the inevitable traffic jams and the needless security checks. There were squabbles over meaningless stuff that ended with guffaws and family portraits. Even awkward at times.

But all said, it was a day well spent. Everyone decided to stay home. And everyone tried their best to make my day special.

I do not have great pictures captured of the day. But I have some wonderful memories made. It was a different, a special day today.

A Month of Bullet Journaling

It’s been around a month since I started maintaining a bullet journal (BuJo, as it is called with love). It has been an enlightening month - I have learned so much about my habits and the way my mind works.

Of course, this wasn’t my first attempt at maintaining a journal or of planning myself, my life through an organizer. There have been many failed new year resolutions that have led to me buying, keeping and planning my days and months in the traditional journals - ones with days, months written on every page. With every day that I had failed to make an entry in, I had lost my interest in writing or planning another today. I just wasn’t organized enough each day, everyday to keep myself, well, organized.

However, I love, love updating my personal bullet journal daily. I believe the analog method of doing so is one big reason behind the change. Thoughts flow freely through the pen on to the paper — a lot more so than they do digitally. There is something about the legibility (illegibility, to be fair) of the handwritten words that lowers some mental hurdles. I always wondered, and even subconsciously ridiculed, the fascination a section of my social circle had with the pen and paper - the pen addicts. But I do fathom the allure now.

The fact that I could be more organized with BuJo by being less organized at times was neat. The process of maintaining” a journal feels a lot less formal and this casualness has done wonders for my journaling/organizing attempts. The whole concept of rapid logging - capturing thoughts as bulleted lists - worked brilliantly for me. It was ok to miss bullets for a day. It was ok to not have any tasks, but only notes for a day. It was ok to not complete tasks on the day, or even in the week that it was written — just migrate it to a new page. It’s perfect for my moody, erratic, unorganized mind.

A month of habit tracking has also been delightful. This is what I was tracking when I started this habit of tracking habits - morning walk/run, publish 100 words every day, measure weight, three meals a day and regular sleep routine.

Bullet Journal Habit Tracking

And boy, have I learned stuff about what makes me carry through any habits. Some habits are easy, some are way too difficult.

  • Habits that I thought would be a cakewalk to follow, turned out to be a walk in a desert. Those I thought would need more push from my side came just naturally.
  • I had thought 100 words to be published daily would be the most difficult task for me to stick to. Three meals/morning walks would be difficult, but not so much. Nah ah. It is apparently easier for me to do things I enjoy doing (bruh, of course) - so I wrote daily more often than I jogged or controlled eating. However, I thoroughly enjoyed attempting to stick to all the three daily, so I plan to continue to track them.
  • Measuring one’s weight daily does nothing but act as a deterrent when you are trying to lose your weight. It is easier to do, but useless. Anything that I shouldn’t be doing daily doesn’t need to be on the tracker.
  • Maintaining regular sleep routine was something I did almost daily. But this tracking was also the most ineffective of the lot. I think I know the reason - I just wasn’t specific enough with my target. Regular” and routine” are subjective. So any sleep more than 7 hours was fine — didn’t matter if it was pleasant or how I felt when I woke up. I do want to sign myself up for a good sleep routine. So this particular item would need some changes.

With all the learnings, I decided to continue with my habit tracker, with some tweaking. This is what I would track as my daily habits for the next month.

  • Rise by 6 AM
  • Morning Walk/Run
  • Morning Pages
  • Publish 100 Words
  • 3 Meals/day
  • Sleep by 11 PM

Since I started maintaining a bullet journal, I have also started carrying along a small diary that I mainly use for the morning pages. It helps me declutter my mind to a limit. Do I see benefits? I believe it is too early to say. But it is something I do want to carry on.

Bullet Journal

It has been a wonderful month of reorganizing the way I lead my life with journals. Is it worth all the effort I have to go through? Only time will tell. But it for sure has made some aspects of my life more fun.

No Planning against Unplanned

Too much has been happening for the last few weeks. I do not like this much happening.

For one, it completely ruins all the plans one has — one just doesn’t get a chance to think of anything. All he can do is to run amok trying to catch up. Plan? Bruhh! What plan? Run!

Second, the routine that you so diligently, so delicately have been following for some time now? Yeah, forget about that. Screw that. That’s going to go for a toss too. I haven’t been able to stick to a single routine. None. Nada.

And sure, I could have foreseen and planned for this spike in activity, right? Nope, not at all.

You can’t plan for events that haven’t been scheduled yet.

You can’t plan for the back to back birthdays you haven’t been invited to yet.

You can’t plan for friends and relatives remembering and visiting you after ages.

And you can’t plan for the sudden feeling of illness, of exhaustion this whole running around leaves you with.

Could I have avoided any of that? Did I not welcome any of what happened? No, of course not. But what I ended up doing is sit alone at my desk, physically and mentally sick and tired, trying to calm things down. To Breathe.

Because there’s no way to plan against the unplanned, against irregularity.

Silence Within

What is silence? Is it the lack of any sound or is it the lack of any discernible sound? What do you need to attain calmness?

Today, I sat alone, reading for around an hour - time that I was the most focused in a very long time. I felt I was alone, I physically wasn’t. I realised this only once I was out of my trance.

I was surrounded by a persistent hustle-bustle of the regularities of a working day. People chattering over a cup of coffee. Muffled, at the same time distinctly recognisable, voices of the labourers working outside the window. Rambles of the passing trains every now and then.

There was a lot of sound, a lot of noise around me. But there was silence within - I have come to realise it works way better to calm one down than the silence outside.

The Promise of “instant”

Patience is a virtue that is rapidly getting extinct within us. Everything digital has trained us to expect everything instant. You want to read, watch, listen to, learn, earn? There’s an app for that.

We were ruined, further, by the advances in efficient service distribution at scale. You need things delivered - there’s a service for that. Groceries? Yeah, those are covered. Food? Cab? Stationery? Yep, we got those covered too.

Services would reach you earlier after a week or more, if at all they could reach you. It became days. One day was a stretch goal that was soon met for many. And next was hours. For many services, it is minutes now. 30 minutes or free.

We have all been ruined by this promise of instant”. A detour of 15 minutes before the food is delivered is worthy of a lengthy rant at the service provider now. A delay of a day before one’s headphone is delivered is intolerable.

Days of patiently waiting for things we need, we want have long been lost. We are ruined by our lack of patience.

Martin Weigert has an interesting take on this - this is what he wrote while sharing this essay as part if his weekly newsletter at Meshed Soceity.

(…) there are at least 2 types of patience: Waiting for the pay offs of one’s work (whether on oneself or external projects), and waiting for things one needs. I consider the first type a virtue. The latter type however, seems to be mostly a mental hack to make a virtue out of necessity. Have to wait for 4 hours to get your 5 minutes at the doctor? Be patient! Have to wait one week to get the thing you bought online? Be patient! Have to wait one day until your bank transfer has been processed? Be patient! In these cases, there is nothing inherently virtuous or positive in waiting.

I do not disagree with any part of this. And I was indeed focused on the second type that he talked about because that’s primary what he face more often and so is what that tests us the most. It is important that we do not lose our sanity if things do go wrong while we wait for things and have to wait longer.

On Podcasts, News and Well-being

I have lately felt hindered by the time I am listening to the same repetitive thoughts from other people on podcasts. Experts talking about, dissecting, the tech news. Or blabbering about something I would not be interested in typically.

I realised it had become a problem when these podcasts kept playing as static noise in the background — irrespective of whether I was working or driving or eating breakfast. In that sense, I agree with CGP Grey’s thoughts on podcasts as he dialled down his consumption on the internet.

But podcasts have taken too much ground in my mind: any moment of idleness can be instantly filled with the thoughts of others.

I firmly believe that boredom is good for brain health, and I’m banishing podcasts for the month from my phone to bring boredom back into my life.

I had cut back on my podcast subscriptions just a week before CGP Grey first talked about his experiment on Hello Internet. And the way, he worded his reasons for why giving up on podcasts was a key part of his experiment to reduction just persuaded me to go ahead with my plan.

So I have 10 subscriptions (down from 35) now, with just 3 technology related podcasts. One releases on Monday, another on Wednesday and the last one on Friday. That’s it, the week’s quota of the technology news is covered. One podcasts is a microcast, arrives on Monday. There four are the only ones that are set to auto-downloads. All the remaining 6 are released without any fixed schedule. I decide whether to listen to them only after I read what they are about and if that interests me.

I have been on this diet plan” of podcasts consumption for at least a month now and I am already observing significant differences. I am listening to music, a lot more, again. My mind has become curious again - there is space for some thought experiments. There are times when I just don’t carry my headphones with me even when I am going to places alone. Anyway, with nothing to listen to, there is no incentive to carry them along. So I either read on my phone or just talk to people around. Surprisingly, I find it a lot better, more effective use of the time.

However, this also means I have some time to fill during my drive to office or the morning/evening runs. To address that, I have renewed my Audible subscription — listening to Audiobooks would at least be better than podcasts. Or so I think, for now.

No-news Experiment

I was also on an experiment 3 months back where I had decided that the only way I would consume news would be via my morning newspaper. And my hypothesis was I would feel a lot less burdened to know what’s going on and so be a bit more focused on the work at the hand.

As an extension, I had also uninstalled all the related apps. No Twitter. No news apps. No notifications from social apps (Messages, WhatsApp). The idea was it is just better to stay away from the temptation to check what’s going on.

I am glad that I have following the set rules for 3 months now and I thought it would be right moment to update on that experiment.

It indeed is a not less burdensome to be away from the news. I do not think I have missed anything major or urgent in these last few months. Newspaper provides me with the detailed reporting and not just blurbs. Opinion pieces provide better context on the important ones. The useless news, whose whole purpose is to satisfy the need for the news website or TV channels to keep reporting” something, anything new, get filtered out by the editors. After all, there is a limited pace to fill in the pages on the printed paper.

So I am no longer bludgeoned with a constant stream of everything that’s negative. With that, I think there is a lot less crap in the world than I was made to believe.

Is it bad out there? Sure. But at least I ain’t bogged down by the insignificant drivel that the world is full of.

Simplicity of Love

There is a fascinating conversation on episode 97 of the Criminal podcast with the now 99 year old Benjamin Ferencz. He primarily talks about his experiences as an investigator of Nazi war crimes after the World War II. There are some gut-wrenching stories about the atrocities he witnessed against Jews, and against humanity. He also shares his experiences of his trial against the high-ranking members of Nazi Germany’s death squad”, a trial that he called the plea of humanity to the law”.

But towards the end of the episode, there is this heart-warming tale from Mr. Ferencz. He talks about his wife who is 5 years older than him; whom he has been married to for last 72 years; whom he had never had a quarrel with. And he believes there is a very simple reason for that.

First of all, I am not suggesting we didn’t have differences of opinion. But we never raised our voice. We never shouted. We never pounded a table. Because it’s mutual respect, and caring for each other. They have a funny word for it that I don’t like - love. I don’t like the word. Because you could love a piece of cheese, you love that lovely day. I could love to go home. I would love to finish this interview. And I say if you say caring for somebody, that reflects better. And my wife now needs my care. This is the pay back time.”

Now and again, it helps to keep things simple - I guess experience must imbue you with such clarity of thoughts. From all the myriad of swanky adulations for the word and the feeling of love”, I would prefer the simplicity of caring for somebody”.